We all know that bees and other native pollinators are essential for many crops, with approximately 75% of all fruits and vegetables producing higher yields when properly pollinated. Even so, native California bees continue to be threatened by climate change, invasive pests, loss of habitat, and harmful pesticides. It’s a dire situation, because over 100 crop plants in America depend on these pollinators. If we lose the pollinators, we’re likely to lose some of our favorite fruits, nuts, and vegetables!

Carbon farming is a set of production techniques that store carbon in the soil or woody biomass. This doesn’t just help the environment by reducing greenhouse gasses; it creates a protective habitat for pollinators, too. By boosting pollinator populations, carbon farming can help improve crop yield.

Production practices like spreading compost and reducing tilling on fields, rather than plowing or applying fertilizer, can improve soil and help pull carbon out of the atmosphere. These are common farming practices that fall under the umbrella of carbon farming. To help support pollinators, though, a handful of adaptations can be added to your existing carbon farming techniques.

Provide flowering plants for pollinators

There are 1,500 to 1,700 species of wild bees in California alone. To attract those pollinators year-round, make sure that your blooms are available during all four seasons, particularly during the early spring and late fall. A diverse range of plants that bloom across the span of a bee’s life may convince that bee to stay in the area longer, so utilize plants of different heights, flower shapes, and colors. This will create habitat structure while appealing to various kinds of pollinators. Host plants like milkweed, native bunch grasses, and oak trees are best for butterflies and specialist bees.

Manage nesting sites

Bees like to build nests in pithy stems, so consider planting elderberry or goldenrod. Preserve areas of bare soil outside your crop fields, and don’t disturb your areas of mulch, leaves, and crop residue during the winter, because they can help protect beneficial insect eggs. You can create permanent habitats for pollinators in the form of hedgerows, windbreaks, and riparian buffers, and you can preserve nesting habitats by greatly reducing (or eliminating altogether) tillage.

Protect habitat from pesticides

There’s no way around it; pesticides hurt bees! Consider Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches instead. These include only spraying pesticides at night during citrus bloom, when bees are asleep, and developing drift barriers of non-attractive plant species like conifers.

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