Almond Board Launches Bee+ Scholarship to Promote Bee Friendly Farming
The Almond Board of California (ABC) and Pollinator Partnership are proud to announce the alignment of ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) and Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming (BFF) program to promote the importance of providing pollinators with nutritional forage. To further support almond growers in planting pollinator habitat, the Almond Board is simultaneously launching its Bee+ Scholarship, through which it will provide free cover crop seed to 100 almond growers through Project Apis m.’s Seeds for Bees program. The scholarship will also cover the cost for growers to register for the BFF program.
The CASP and BFF program alignment and Bee+ Scholarship expand on a commitment made in the Pollinator Protection Plan, announced in January, to promote pollinator health and biodiversity by encouraging almond growers to provide habitat for pollinators in or near their orchards.
“Protecting and improving honey bee health, not only during the short time that bees are in our orchards but year round, is critical to the success of every almond grower. By working with national organizations such as Pollinator Partnership and Project Apis m., we are expanding our focus to all pollinators, viewing working lands as part of biodiverse ecosystems,” said Almond Board Chief Scientific Officer Josette Lewis, Ph.D.
“Responsible farming is at the heart of what the California almond community does. ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship and the alignment between CASP and BFF allow us to increase our support to growers as they remain committed to growing almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, adding biodiversity to their farms, and improving outcomes for pollinators.”
Funding provided by ABC’s Bee+ Scholarship will allow growers to plant an estimated 3,500 acres of quality pollinator forage statewide – that’s in addition to the cover crop seed Project Apis m. typically distributes directly to almond growers through their Seeds for Bees program each year. Currently, over half of almond growers participating in ABC’s California Almond Sustainability Program report allowing native cover crops to grow in their orchards. This scholarship will help to convert more of those native cover crops to quality pollinator forage.
Partnerships Work to Best Serve Pollinators, Almond Industry
With the alignment of the CASP and BFF programs, almond growers who complete assessments in CASP specifically focused on bee health and pest management, and who meet certain BFF criteria, will qualify to register for the BFF program and become Bee Friendly certified. This certification will allow growers and their processors to use the Bee Friendly Farming logo on their product, and growers will be publicly recognized on Pollinator Partnership’s website as being a “Bee Friendly Farm” – in addition to receiving a BFF metal sign to display on their property.
The criteria to become Bee Friendly certified are as follows:
- provide cover crop forage in or near orchards
- provide bloom of different flowering plants throughout the growing season
- offer clean water for pollinators
- provide habitat for nesting via hedgerows, natural brush and more
- practice integrated pest management
“Pollinator Partnership’s Bee Friendly Farming program is a perfect conduit to increase pollinator benefits and to ensure protection and sustainability within the almond industry. Almond growers are terrific partners in best management practices, and we look forward to a close and growing relationship in support of pollinators and producers,” said Laurie Adams, president and CEO of Pollinator Partnership.
Because the CASP and BFF program alignment focuses on providing nutritional forage to supplement the diets of native pollinators in addition to honey bees, the decision to launch the Bee+ Scholarship and encourage greater forage planting among growers was a natural complement to the industry’s broader pollinator health initiatives.
“With a crop that relies primarily on honey bees for pollination, it is in almond growers’ best interest to ensure their orchards are a safe place for bees each spring,” said Billy Synk, director of Pollination Programs for Project Apis m.
Seeds for Bees aims to provide California farmers with a variety of seed mixes that bloom at critical times of the year when natural forage is scarce, but managed and native bees are active. While the mixes are designed to meet the nutritional needs of honey bees, they also provide habitat and nutrition for other pollinators and beneficial insects. Research supported by Project Apis m. and the Almond Board has shown that pollinator habitat is fully compatible with typical almond production practices and does not interfere with important growing activities like harvest.
“Working together with organizations like the Almond Board of California, Pollinator Partnership and many more, along with many researchers, almond growers and beekeepers, we can achieve far more collectively than we can separately,” said Project Apis m. Executive Director Danielle Downey. “These collaborations, focused on research and data, communication and forage, are a critical component to the long-term sustainability of beekeeping and almonds.”