Thursday, December 8, 2016

Want to see more pollinators and fewer pest? Leave the land alone says growing body of research

A growing body of research is showing what organic and sustainable growers may already know: the best way to deal with crop pests has nothing to do with pesticides.

In the article posted to the Scientific American blog, Devika Bansal reports on the research findings and farmer experiences that show how undisturbed areas near crop production can boost populations of predatory insects as well as pollinators.

Friday, April 22, 2016

City of Dallas Park and Recreation is Launching a Pollinator Conservation Program

(DALLAS) - The City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department is launching a pollinator conservation program that will help the declining population of essential pollinators, including: bees, butterflies, birds, bats and moths.

The program was developed by the department’s Urban Biologist, Brett Johnson.

“The program will incorporate native, nectar-rich plants that will attract beneficial insects in select areas of our park system,” said Johnson. “We’re going to use our existing wildflower areas to develop a diverse plant community to support a wider range of pollinators with a minimal budget impact.”

Pollinators are needed to sustain a healthy ecosystem. Plant-based foods and other food sources are produced through pollination, providing food for human consumption as well as a diverse species of wildlife. 

Johnson says you too can help in the effort by planting a pollinator garden, complete with colorful, fragrant, native flowers.

“Pollinator gardens are the perfect addition to your yard because they not only provide needed habitat for pollinators, but they help beautify your property,” said Johnson. “The best part is that you’ll be visited by beautiful hummingbirds and butterflies.

Monday, November 30, 2015

What can you grow in the winter in Texas?

Many gardeners grow spring, summer and fall veggies but are wholly unaware that Texas is a state with a year-round growing season.

Kale, broccoli, collards greens and carrots are just a few of the veggies you can reap from a cool season garden.

In this article from Edible Dallas Fort Worth, local growers share their knowledge about how they've taken advantage of Texas' cool season to fill their dinner plates throughout the winter months and into early spring, long before tomatoes and summer squash have set fruit.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Sick bees self medicate say researchers

Sick bees in the wild seek out plants with medicinal substances say researchers in a Dartmouth-led study.

Infected with a common intestinal parasite, wild bumble bees native to North America sought out plants with a group of metabolites called iridoid glycosides. In addition to deterring deer from eating plants that contain these substances, iridoid glycosides appear to reduce the number of parasites affecting bees that forage on their nectar, thus in effect treating them for their disease.

The full findings of the study conducted by researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Colorado-Boulder appear in the September edition of the scientific journal, Ecology.

In previous studies in the lab, researchers found that certain plant substances known as alkaloids, glycosides, terpenoids and phenolics, which are poisonous to humans and other animals, significantly reduced the disease load of bumble bees.  They then followed up on their exploration to see if bees foraging in the wild would seek out the plants rich in these substances.

"We found that parasitized bees preferentially visited flowers containing the highest concentrations of iridoid glycoside compounds that can reduce bee parasites, but healthy bees either made no distinction between flowers with different concentrations of nectar chemicals or avoided those with highest concentrations," says lead author Leif Richardson.

The research team specifically looked at Chelone gabra, commonly known as snake's head or white turtlehead. It grows in North American wetlands and blooms from midsummer to fall with a white, clenched flower that pollinators must pry open to reach into.

Although Chelone isn't found in Texas, Richardson says "many types of plants, including those found in Texas, produce nectar and pollen containing plant chemicals that can reduce bee parasite loads. " Two examples he gives are tobacco and Gelsemium sempervirens, also known as Carolina Jasmine.

Native bees and imported honeybees face an increasing number of threats, from widespread pesticide use to loss of habitat and forage land. Although what this study has found doesn't offset these challenges, it does offer insight into how bee populations may be helped by preserving and increasing the diversity of flowering plants in the wild.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summertime prep means no tilling in the fall

One of the least enjoyable aspects of growing food or flowers is preparing the soil.

To sow seeds or plant out transplants, the labor it takes to dig into the soil and turn it over for a clean start is intense.

Texas farmer Marshall Hinsley is slowly progressing toward never tilling again, and he shares how prepping garden beds in midsummer can ready soil for fall without the hard work.

Read about this simple, no-till technique in this article at Dallas Culture Map.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Texas farmer resorts to pot growing to ease woes over drowned crops

Now that Texas has received two months of almost daily rainfall, Marshall Hinsley's crops on his farm south of Dallas have drowned.

If not for a few experiments with growing crops in several large pots, he'd have nothing to show for his efforts this year.

Hinsley shares his experience with pot-grown tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and herbs in this article from Dallas Culture Map.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What wet weather can do to garden plants

Rain is good, and rain during a drought is never something to complain about.

But rain can saturate topsoil and cause garden crops to be stunted or even die.

Texas farmer Marshall Hinsley explains what happens when topsoil becomes waterlogged and offers a few steps he's taking to help his crops along until the sun shines again and the soil dries out a little.

Read his story at Dallas Culture Map.