Pollination Celebration highlights pollinator importance to food supply

Tobie Blanchard  |  9/21/2017 6:44:44 PM

(09/20/17) HAMMOND, La. — The LSU AgCenter and Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners hosted a Pollination Celebration on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the AgCenter Hammond Research Station.

The event included tours, talks, honey tasting, hummingbird banding and children’s activities.

Whitney Wallace, LSU AgCenter extension agent in Tangipahoa Parish, helped coordinated the event with the Tangipahoa Parish Master Gardeners Association and said it brings awareness to the problem of pollinator loss.

“The problem is severe and calls for immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems,” Wallace said. “This event is aimed at individuals, corporations, small businesses and schools to significantly increase public awareness of the importance of pollinators and the steps that can be taken to protect them.”

Wallace led a discussion about trees and how they are an important source of food for bees and other pollinators. She highlighted native trees such as oaks, magnolias and yellow poplar, which provide nectar and pollen.

J Stevens, LSU AgCenter soil fertility specialist, discussed the importance of soil fertility for pollinators. He said healthy soil makes for healthy plants that attract pollinators such as birds, butterflies, beetles and bees. He stressed the importance of getting a soil test to attain the adequate pH of soil before planting pollinator-attracting plants.

“A soil test is like a road map. If you don’t have a soil test, you don’t know where you are, and you don’t know where you are going,” Stevens said.

LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kathryn Fontenot spoke about how vegetables are pollinated and the differences between hybrid vegetables and genetically modified vegetables.

Fontenot said some people have the misconception that hybrid varieties of vegetables are genetically modified.

“Hybrid plants are derived from cross pollination of two different plants,” Fontenot said. “Hybrids are hand-pollinated. Someone with a paint brush or cotton swab did the same thing as bees or the wind.”

Retired LSU AgCenter professor Charlie Johnson said pollinators are important for many Louisiana fruit crops.

“Some fruit crops would be void of fruit if they didn't have pollinators,” Johnson said.

Honeybee pollination adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States, Wallace said.

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Nathan Tompkins, an eighth-grader at Ponchatoula High School, releases a hummingbird that was banded as part of the activities at the Pollination Celebration at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Sept. 17. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

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Retired LSU AgCenter professor Charlie Johnson talks about the importance of pollinators to fruit and nut crops at the at the Pollination Celebration at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station on Sept. 17. Photo by Tobie Blanchard/LSU AgCenter

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