The Pollinator Connection: Hemp offers little to pollinators
By Kristina Lefever for the Tidings July 30, 2019 ~
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the hemp fields that are taking over Southern Oregon. With almost 13,000 acres planted in hemp in Jackson and Josephine Counties alone, people are noticing. Not only the number of acres — but the plastic! (some organic vegetable growers also use plastic).
I appreciate the concerns expressed by our Jackson County Extension office (https://bit.ly/2YzMc5M) and the opportunities for conversation offered by the Rogue Valley Food Network System regarding this new mono-crop and the challenges it brings regarding land and water use and, yes, plastic.
I’d like to add another concern — there isn’t anything else other than hemp in these fields. Remember “fence row to fence row?” It’s back again. For a fascinating review of how this Nixon-era policy caused the economic crisis of the ’80s, read this article from The Grist. (https://bit.ly/2GCZUud)
How are these acres supporting pollinating insects that are so important for your survival and mine? Hemp is a wind-pollinated crop, and is not usually allowed to flower, so it offers little in terms of sustenance for bees and butterflies.
Native/wild bees, honey bees and hoverflies are the primary pollinators of our food crops, and yes, we still grow food in our Valley! What would our Valley look like without the native/wild bees, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, and wasps that pollinate our native trees and bushes? Not only does hemp not provide nutrition for pollinators, little else is growing in many of these fields. Consider the habitat (trees, shrubs, ground nests, native plants, weeds, etc.) that disappeared when these fields were planted.
There are better ways to grow. For instance, the family farm OM Extracts grows hemp among other crops in a polyculture system that supports a biodiversity of plants, insects and other wildlife. The companion plants growing alongside the hemp plants deter the pest insects while attracting pollinators and predatory insects.