The partnership was announced by GCFM President Suzanne Bushnell at the Federation's Fall Conference on October 27th in Augusta. Professor Samuel Hanes, of the University of Maine, was on hand to explain the project to the Conference attendees and also passed out copies of the project's survey form. Dr. Hanes explained that the survey is the first in the U.S. to ask gardeners about their pollinator conservation activities. As such, it will help university research and outreach not just here in Maine, but across the country. The survey is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which believes home gardeners can provide an important source of support for commercially important crop pollinators.
The survey of home gardeners is just a small part of a much larger research project initiated in 2011 to address a gap in knowledge with respect to pollinator communities in the area of northeastern cropland. Named the Pollinator Security Project, it is made up of a consortium of research institutions which includes the University of Maine, the University of Massachusetts, Cornell University, the University of Tennessee, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Reports of declining native pollinators, decreased availability of honey bee rental colonies, and general public misunderstanding led to the creation of this working group.
Researchers from these institutions are working together to come up with a sustainable pollination strategy in the areas of commercial fruit and vegetable production -- specifically for blueberries (Maine), apples (New York), cranberries (Massachusetts), and squash and pumpkins (Connecticut). Their goal is to contribute to long-term profitability of fruit and vegetable production and provide farm training and publications to increase the knowledge and the adoption of practices that protect pollinator communities.
Dr. Hanes promised the group at Fall Conference that he'd be back to update us on the results of his survey. He asked that each member fill out a survey form and return it in the postage paid envelope to the University of Maine. His team will then compile the results and share them with other researchers as well as the Federation. He also stressed that only GCFM members should fill out the survey and NOT share them with non-members. While there was no deadline given for returning the surveys, he asked that members try to return them as soon as possible so results can be compiled. For more information