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Iowa Soybean Farmers Can Sweeten Honeybee Survival

More than 80 percent of soybeans are cultivated in the upper Midwest. (
More than 80 percent of soybeans are cultivated in the upper Midwest. (
March 14, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa – A major endeavor is underway in the U.S. to educate soybean farmers about helping save honeybees.

The Honey Bee Health Coalition has unveiled a management plan for growers.

Adam Dolezal, assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, did the research for the report. He says several factors have led to massive bee die-offs, including pesticide use and loss of habitat, but farmers can help reverse that.

"Certainly, there's no question that farming huge amounts of land with one or two crops throughout areas that, you know, used to not be cropland has an impact on pollinators, but I think that farmers are interested in seeing recommendations to try to reduce any impacts that they might have," Dolezal states.

Recommendations for farmers include spraying fields at night when bees are less active, avoiding pesticide application during bloom time and determining where hives are located around the farm.

Only Illinois grows more soybeans than Iowa.

Soybeans are one of the top U.S. crops, second only to corn. In 2017, Iowa farmers planted 10-million acres of the world's most economically important bean.

Because 75 percent of the nation's bees spend their summers in the upper Midwest, Chris Hiatt, vice president of the American Honey Producers Association, recommends commonsense guidelines to keep bees healthy.

"An almond grower here is enjoying strong hives that came from North Dakota in the summer, where a guy didn't spray his weeds or his sunflowers at the wrong time and killed the bees,” he points out. “It's all, you know, one big system."

The decline in honeybee populations is linked to pests and disease, poor nutrition, hive management and exposure to pesticides.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - IA