Recently I attended the ground breaking of a significant expansion of Syngenta's North America Seedcare Institute, and part of that event was a short presentation about pollinators by Caydee Savinelli. It stands out in my mind because this is the second time I've heard Dr. Savinelli speak and both times I've been impressed by her passion for the health and sustainability of the population of pollinators.
Savinelli has what she calls the best job at Syngenta - from her perspective. She's an entomologist who is now the Pollinator and IPM Stewardship Lead who also works in regulatory policy at Syngenta. "I get to work with pollinators," she smiles. "And I work with farmers on ways to get more pollinators in and around their fields."
Her passion shines through. On a short walk the other day to take the photo you see here, Caydee had to show me a beautiful photo of a Monarch butterfly on her phone. "I took that photo," she says. "It was in our Operation Pollinator plot in Greensboro." Syngenta's largest North American facility is in Greensboro and at the site they have an Operation Pollinator plot that Savinelli says draws all kinds of different insects.
The idea of boosting pollinators may sound new to many of my ag readers as companies turn their attention to ways they can help what many see as a bee population injured by crop protection issues. The facts, by the way, say the science is much more complicated than that, given that key pests in bees - such as varroa mites - have been devastating to the industry.
"We've had Operation Pollinator for more than 10 years," says Savinelli. "It's an important area for us." And while Syngenta does market a neonicotinoid product, their work goes far beyond honey bees.
"We look at all pollinators, including butterflies, wild bees and others," Savinelli says.
Take the critical milkweed, for example. "A lot of people believe that the milkweed is just a place for the Monarch butterfly," she says. "We have two varieties of milkweed in our Operation Pollinator plot in Greensboro flowering now. I've seen butterflies, but I've also seen bees around those flowers too - the milkweed helps more than Monarchs."
From my standpoint as someone who covers technology regularly, this area of work can sometimes feel outside the box. In fact, proper stewardship of land, and the product technology you use, is very important. "Having the right habitat for pollinators will be important for the future," she says.
Syngenta's Operation Pollinator program is an international biodiversity program that works with a range of groups including universities, non-governmental organizations, beekeepers' associations and more. Syngenta has had solid success working with golf courses in the program - "we have more than 100 that are involved and have Operation Pollinator plots," Savinelli notes. "The golfers have to hit around them, or if they don't they just lose their ball."
In Minnesota, the state legislature has passed a law requiring 50-foot buffers for land from streams and waterways. While the final rules are still being worked out, those non-crop buffers might make solid locations for planting pollinator friendly varieties. Savinelli notes that there is USDA help for pollinator planting areas under the Conservation Stewardship Program, which farmers can learn more about at the local Farm Service Agency office.
And you can learn more about Operation Pollinator at the website devoted to the program.
Concerns about pollinators continue, as agriculture reaches out in positive ways to provide habitat in out-of-the-way areas that are not productive for crops, there's a win-win for all involved. And that would make Savinelli very happy.
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