Vernon Campbell is a firm believer in the value of pollinator mixes to help promote biodiversity on his Grahams Road farm.
Pollinator mixes encompass a variety of plant species from a minimum of three and up to twelve typically. Some common plants grown in pollinator mixes include oats, vetches, alfalfa, timothy, clovers, ryegrass, pearl millet, sorghum sudangrass, beans, peas, sunflowers, radish, other mustards and phacelia (pronounced fuh-see-lee-uh). The aim is to promote biodiversity, attract bumblebees and measure potential improvements in soil health all at once?
These pollinator crops have a variety of different growth patterns, rooting characteristics and life cycles (annual, biennial or perennial), coordinating well to cover bare soil with biomass, which is valuable to help hold nutrients and improve soil structure to prevent compaction and erosion. Pollinator mixes may also help to break up or alleviate stress from pests in crop rotations by disturbing their habitat in alternative years to susceptible crops.
On Campbell’s farm, there are seven pollinator species planted including oats, timothy, alsike clover, red clover, yellow blossom sweet clover, birdsfoot trefoil and phacelia.
After the first season of establishing pollinator mixes, those including annual plants like oats will die down, but other species are biennial or perennial plants like clovers, which will survive at least a second year. There is no management of the mix intended; as it should be left undisturbed to grow for at least another year. Being low maintenance makes pollinator mixes attractive to farmers.
“When I saw a field planted in pollinator mix, it was full of bumblebees, and it inspired me to plant me as well”, said Campbell who operates Mull Na Bienne Farm Ltd. with his wife, Bertha.
There is a pollinator mix sign in the field next to his farm, which you see as you drive by Grahams Road on Highway 8. The project is done in collaboration with the PEI Potato Board, the Agronomy Initiative for Marketable Yields (AIM) and the Kensington North Watersheds Association.
Published in The County Line Courier, Vol. 27, No. 19, Pg. 06.