24 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018 PROTECTINGPOLLINATORS ThisseriesissponsoredbyOperationPollinator, aSyngentaglobalinitiative. EFFORTS TO EXPAND pollinator habitats on farms have brought about thousands of acres of forage for bees and butterflies. But, pollinators don’t just live on farms. Suburban and even urban areas provide valuable landscape oppor- tunities that might otherwise be over- looked. And the need is still there. Monarch butterflies have seen a 90 percent decline, while butterflies in gen- eral have seen a 40 percent decline. So, while beekeepers, agribusinesses and conservation groups continue to lead pollinator stewardship efforts, individu- als in various niche disciplines, such as golf course superintendents, commercial farmers and ag retailers, are also jumping in, with great success. Christine Kane, executive director of Audubon International, has seen pollina- tor projects bring people together in new ways. “Our ability to focus on golf courses has involved a whole new sector in the pollinator discussion,” she says. Audubon International’s mission is to provide high-quality environmental edu- cation to facilitate the sustainable man- agement of land, water, wildlife and other natural resources in all places people live, work and play. They are uniquely posi- tioned to support pollinator habitat crea- tion on golf courses. Audubon International and the Environmental Defense Fund have teamed up with North America’s golf courses to reverse the decline with their Monarchs in the Rough program. In the United States alone, there are approximately 15,000 golf courses. According to Marcus Gray, director of Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program, about 26 percent of the property owned by golf courses is comprised of natural areas and available for habitat projects. Creating pollinator habitat in these out-of-play areas is ideal because they are typically insulated from pesticide applications that might be used on the greens. “We’ve been really excited about the level of participation. The Monarchs in the Rough program is specifically focused on creating new habitat for monarchs, but we also know these plantings will benefit other pollinators as well,” Kane says. A Natural Next Step “These partnerships may be unconventional, but they are not unexpected,” says Walt Osborne, key account manager–golf, Syngenta Turf & Landscape. In fact, from the superintendent’s per- spective, managing a golf course is similar to managing a farm. It’s their job to be good stewards of the land while balancing a budget, environmental conditions and the needs of the organization. Pollinator habitat creation builds unique partnerships. Melissa Shipman melissanshipman@gmail.com ONTHERIGHTCOURSE “They are there to manage the turf and all the landscaping, and Operation Pollinator caught their attention as some- thing more they could be doing to make a difference,” Osborne says. It is more work, but there are signifi- cant benefits. “Superintendents are very busy, but they have made the effort to add an addi- tional project to their worklist, because they believe in the mission,” Osborne says. The effort began through research at the University of Kentucky and six original course sites were created. Those super- intendents shared what they were doing, and now the program has really grown with more than 250 sites now involved. “These superintendents have a strong network amongst themselves and were able to share the idea,” Osborne says. The goal is to create valuable new habitats in out of play areas of golf courses, and the response has been great so far. “One of the keys to that success has been involving the management team from the beginning. This has worked best when the superintendent has commu- nicated with the front office early on,” Osborne says. The only pushback has been in regard to signage, but even that is uncommon. “We had one club that didn’t want the Operation Pollinator signage on the course, but the plot is still there doing its job,” Osborne says. Adding hives for honeybees elevates the participation even more. In one case, the superintendent involved the food and beverage management by providing honey for drinks in the lounge. “It gives the project an immediate boost and engages the entire organization from the beginning, which leads to excite- ment and support,” Osborne says. Walt Osborne is a Syngenta Turf & Landscape key account manager for golf.