Ag Instructor Vic Martin: Insects and Agriculture | Barton Community College

Ag Instructor Vic Martin: Insects and Agriculture

Great Bend Tribune
Published September 16, 2018

First as usual, a drought update is in order and it reflects the rainfall from the previous weekend.  The rains prior to 8 a.m. September 11, significantly improved drought conditions across the state.  Essentially the western two-thirds of the state is totally out of soil moisture deficit conditions.  The area of extreme and exceptional drought has retreated to the east of Manhattan towards Kansas City.  And the additional rains should help ease conditions further.  Now, although no one wants to say it too loudly, we need a dry stretch with seasonal temperatures.  Much of the corn is ready or almost ready to cut.  Soybeans should be able to finish well and much of the milo looks great.  The only fly in the ointment would an early frost, especially for the cotton crop to the south of Barton County.  Wheat farmers will have to adjust to dealing with wet soils as they prepare ground to plant the 2019 crop.  Now for today’s topic.

If you pay any attention to what’s going on in the world of agriculture, it’s hard to miss the concern over insect pollinators, their role in pollinating many of the foods we eat, and the challenges they face on a variety of fronts.  These challenges include climate change, loss of habitat, pesticide use and for bees – colony collapse disorder.  Pollinators are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars of fruits and vegetables every year.  This isn’t just certain insecticides but also it seems for bees, fungicides.  K-State Research and Extension has just released a new publication entitled “Pesticides and Bees.”  The publication may be downloaded for free here as am Adobe file and contains valuable information: https://www.bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/Item.aspx?catId=236&pubId=21298.  It provides information on minimizing the possible damage to bees through proper pesticide use. 

Other problems include loss of specific plants for specific pollinators, for example milkweed species and the Monarch butterfly.  Here again, information can and is helping, but not just for Monarch butterflies.  To that end, The Kansas Wetlands Education Center hosted a butterfly festival yesterday.  And it included a stop on bees.  The Kansas State Fair has a new butterfly exhibit and features Monarch butterflies.  The Great Bend Zoo also has a butterfly enclosure.  Kansas 4-H is actively involved in education regarding pollinators. The list could go on and on.  Many state agencies across the country, including the KDWPT, are working to improve pollinator habitat. 

You may be wondering why this is featured in an ag column.  Simply put, where we produce crops and livestock is an interconnected ecosystem between the managed and natural world.  Complicating the problem is a changing climate which is having a significant negative impact on pollinators.  We risk much by ignoring one for the other and the unintended consequences of ignoring or eradicating something as simple as a butterfly species can have a cascade of unintended and irreversible consequences.  

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