Operation Pollinator is set to rescue the fortunes of the humble bumblebee across UK golf courses. Up to 500 golf courses are being sought to join the new national scheme over the next three years, with each committed to establishing at least a half a hectare (5,000 sq m) of specific Operation Pollinator seed mix, rich in pollen and nectar food sources especially designed to encourage bumblebees and pollinating insects.
Syngenta Turf & Landscape Manager, Simon Elsworth, believes golf courses could provide essential sanctuaries for bumblebees and other beneficial insect species.
Speaking at the launch of Operation Pollinator, at the UKs national golf turf management show, BTME in Harrogate (18 – 20 January 2011), he said: “Bumblebees play a crucial role as natures’ pollinator, but they are in serious decline and need our help now. Helping to resurrect bumblebee populations will help to prove that golf courses can be managed in harmony with the environment and give both the players and managers immense pride in their club.”
Golf courses cover 150,000 hectares of UK land area, and creating specialist habitat on less than 0.25% of the area would still make a hugely significant impact on bumblebee numbers, according to Mr. Elsworth: “Golf courses provide ideal locations for habitat creation. With the right management these areas could provide ideal habitat for bumblebees and other pollinating insects.”
He highlights that involvement in Operation Pollinator will bring significant benefits to golf courses. In addition to the immense pride generated in the course, Operation Pollinator enhances the overall playing experience. The wildflower areas improve visual appearance and it creates valuable positive publicity for the club.
“Importantly in today’s cost conscious times for golf course management, the Operation Pollinator programme it has been shown to produce beneficial results up to 60% faster than conventional management and can provide important cost savings in rough improvement programmes.”
The summer-flowering Operation Pollinator seed mixes created especially for different golf course situations can be expected to attract:
Operation Pollinator is the culmination of more than 10 years research by Syngenta Crop Protection into the environmental management of habitats for bumblebees, butterflies, spiders, beetles and other insects.
Syngenta has invested over £500,000 in Operation Pollinator and The Buzz Project – a five-year scientific evaluation of environmental habitats that highlighted the pollen & nectar mix as the best practical option to restore bumblebee and pollinating insect numbers. To develop a proven golf specific programme this has been backed by a four years of trials by the STRI (Sports Turf Research Institute) at its Yorkshire research centre and on commercial golf courses across the UK.
Mr Elsworth added: “The STRI trials and working with leading UK ecologists has developed the knowledge, experience and expertise in the practical management techniques to successfully establish and develop wildflower areas in out of play rough. With this approach, golf courses can deliver a net gain in biodiversity in out of play areas, whilst maintaining the level of inputs required to consistently produce top quality playing surfaces.”
He believes that even the most intensively of played golf courses can find space for environmental habitat creation, including out of play rough, behind tees and greens, on rough carries and alongside woodland or water features, for example.
Results from the Operation Pollinator trials should prove extremely valuable to help other courses establish and manage wildlife rich habitats, according to Bob Taylor, Head of Ecology and Environment at STRI. He reports the management practices developed to deliver pollen and nectar rich habitat for bumblebees will be hugely beneficial for other flora and fauna on the golf course.
“Improving habitat conditions for bumblebees will represent an important environmental gain with little or no detriment to the playing of the game. It is hoped that this work will generate a wider acceptance and awareness of golf’s positive environmental role within the wider landscape.
“The Operation Pollinator programme will provide information and practical expertise on how best to create, improve and manage quality habitats for bumblebees in out of play areas on the golf course,” he added.
Further Operation Pollinator training, development and ongoing support for UK greenkeepers and club managers will be provided by the STRI and Syngenta at training events at locations around the UK.
Support that is available free to help clubs and greenkeepers to get the most from Operation Pollinator includes:
To get involved with Operation Pollinator greenkeepers and club managers can sign up for more information and details of local training initiatives at www.operationpollinator.com/golf