Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden. “We had an agricultural specialist visit our farm operations who told us we needed more pollinators,” explained Susan Hill. “We initially added two bee hives and established a pollinator garden. It was amazing, our tomato production increased by 25 percent in the first year!”. Photo by Hill Farm
Since it’s National Pollinator Week, it seemed fitting to express my thanks to farmers Scott and Susan Hill – who run the Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, VA. Earlier, I had the chance to visit their 10-acre property former tobacco farm to see firsthand how hard they are working to grow a variety of produce for the local customers. But there are more little workers helping on the Hill Farm too. Pollinators!
In the United States, about one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. It’s clear that pollinators are important to the Hill Farm for their production of their artisan and specialty varieties of several vegetables, including lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and even golden beets. And the first year, the addition of bees increased their tomato production by 25 percent. Read more »
A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests. These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.
Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.
The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »
Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed.
A new study offers the first empirical data proving that female lesser prairie-chickens avoid grasslands when trees are present. The study, highlighted in a Science to Solutions report by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), underscores the importance of removing woody invasive plants like redcedar to restore grassland habitat. The new data will help guide USDA’s conservation efforts.
Though sometimes called the “green glacier” for its steady progress across the prairie, redcedar encroachment is far from glacial in speed. Open grasslands can become closed-canopy forest in as little as 40 years, making the land unsuitable to lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife. Read more »
U.C. Berkeley biologists Cameron Williams and Rikke Naesborg measure the trunk diameter of a giant sequoia in Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park. Photo credit: Anthony R. Ambrose
“A mature Giant Sequoia can use 500-800 gallons of water every day during the summer,” said Anthony Ambrose, a tree biologist at U.C. Berkeley. “That’s a lot of water necessary for just one tree.”
For the first time in at least 125 years, Giant Sequoias in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California are showing significant amounts of “dieback” in their foliage due to several years of drought. Read more »
Sierra Ezrre, Tlingit high school student from Juneau, Alaska, and Carrie Sykes, Haida Cultural Educator from Kasaan, Alaska, participate in the Inter-Tribal Youth Climate Change Leadership Congress, July, 2015.
Recently, ninety Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian high school students came together at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia for a week of intensive education and peer-to-peer training about the impact of climate change on tribal communities. Organized by the Inter-Tribal Youth Climate Leaders Congress and supported by a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Environmental Protection Agency, the gathering included Jadelynn Akamu, Ylliana Hanato, Alisha Keli’i, and Aaron Knell from Honolulu’s Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps and Forest Service partner KUPU, as well as a team from Juneau, Alaska, including Alaska Native student Sierra Ezrre and her mentor and culture keeper Carrie Sykes. Read more »
Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog:
From birds and bees to butterflies, bats and beetles, pollinators are a diverse group and are critically important to terrestrial life on our planet. Without our help, however, their populations will continue to decline as a result of numerous stressors including loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides.
Bees and other pollinators are essential to America’s agricultural economy and maintain the beauty of our iconic landscapes. Without them, we wouldn’t have most of our vegetables, flowers, fruits or nuts. Honey-bee pollinations alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural production each year, but beekeepers reported losing just over 23 percent of honey bee colonies last winter. Other pollinators that help sustain food production and the environment—such as native bees and bats—also are declining. Read more »