Providing food and shelter for pollinating insects

biodiversity shown on field

Providing food and shelter for pollinating insects

Our commitment

to help biodiversity flourish

Operation Pollinator shows that there is nothing marginal about field margins

In many parts of the world, changing agricultural and horticultural practices have altered the landscapes of both cities and countryside. Viewed from the air, much of western Europe’s countryside is dominated by ever-larger fields, maximizing the use of arable land for crops and leaving little room for meadows or hedgerows. In gardens, where paving or manicured lawns have replaced less formal planting, bees and other pollinators find fewer flowers to feed on and limited natural spaces for shelter.

While researching how to improve biodiversity on farms, Geoff Coates, Senior Agronomist for Sustainable Agriculture and Stewardship at Syngenta, observed the importance of providing flowering margins on the edges of cultivated fields. “Field margins put back into the landscape the vital pollen and nectar that all bee species and pollinators need to complete their life cycles,” says Geoff. “It’s basically bed and breakfast for pollinators. It’s food for life, while we grow food for ourselves in the same field.

Expanding into Europe and the US

Operation Pollinator began in 2001 in the UK, initially as collaboration with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Drawing on existing research into biodiversity on farms, Geoff’s team trained over 700 British farmers – who sowed over 1,200 hectares of new field margins with a flowering plant seed mix developed by Syngenta. “We saw some phenomenal returns of bee species to the landscape,” says Geoff, “including some native species that had been thought to be very rare, which was tremendous.”

Today, Operation Pollinator works with farmers across 16 European countries and the US.

What’s next?

After more than a decade of Operation Pollinator, Geoff remains confident in the science and proud of farmers’ commitment to help boost the number of bees and pollinators. So what’s next? “I would like to see Operation Pollinator as a global project, accepted for any cropping situation,” he says. “Whatever the crop, we can design and develop a habitat to suit the soil type, the climatic conditions and, most critically of all, the pollinator species that are vital for it.”

hand touching crop field

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