In recent years, agriculture stakeholders including government, academia and industry have become acutely aware of the need to work together to address the many challenges facing pollinators in and around farming areas. These challenges include parasites and diseases, stress associated with commercial pollination service and changes in agricultural landscape and farming practices, including use of pesticides. Farmers are faced with a seemingly endless flow of regulations on every aspect of their operations, so it can be hard to know where to start. Valent works from the inside out to research, educate and share insight on the pesticide stewardship practices that benefit pollinator health, and make it easier for growers and applicators to make the best management choices for their operations.
Through the creation of several internal groups over the past 10 years, Valent has taken time to understand, research and provide insight on pollinators in a new and personal way to the company and its employees.
In 2010, Valent created their first internal group called the Bee Team. The group reviewed available scientific knowledge on pollinator health, as well as Valent’s product labels to ensure compliance with EPA guidelines, and to educate employees and establish measures to prevent any product misuse which could lead to harm for pollinators. “We started by learning what we could do to make our products better for the end user and mitigate misuse,” adds Carlos Granadino, Valent Product Development Manager.
In 2015, Valent created its Stewardship Council, a cross-functional group of senior managers tasked to educate employees and monitor business operations in accordance with Valent’s stewardship principles, including:
- Working to ensure that Valent employees are aware of the importance of pollinator protection and the science and regulations that make it possible for pollinators and production agriculture to co-exist.
- Educating on the best management practices so pollinators and their habitat are not harmed by proper labeled use of crop protection products.
- Helping to keep stewardship top of mind with Valent teams as they develop and launch new products.
- Ensuring clarity and consistency of all product materials including the label, technical and safety documents and collateral.
While internal understanding of product stewardship is important, sharing this information with others has become a crucial part of the process as well.
“A lot of Universities have an extension component that can share pollinator best management practices, but aid has been cut off for many. Valent is proactively attempting to fill some of the public education gaps as general knowledge on this subject is key to the sustainability of balanced discussions across growers, industry, regulators and consumers,” says Granadino. To make sure farmers are getting this critical information, Valent’s technical, regulatory and communications experts work closely with university specialists and peers in other companies to leverage its resources and increase the reach and impact of these messages on the agricultural community.
Ensuring that communication and proper training flows from the corporate level to the field technical and sales teams and then out to the growers is important to ensure consistent and ongoing education. “We place a high priority on making sure our products are used safely and correctly, so we are proactive in setting up and attending meetings with growers and industry groups to present pollinator and other stewardship information,” adds Granadino.
Fred Marmor, a Valent Field Market Development Specialist supporting sales reps with technical advice and recommendations echoes the need for this outreach. “Ag is continually changing, growers are planting earlier and earlier to capture the market and as production shifts we are seeing different pests. How we control and manage those pests needs to be re-considered each season.”
The Power of Partnerships
The relationship between Valent and pollinator groups began about 15 years ago as a way to bring different insights and solutions to the issue of pollinator health.
One of these partnerships is with FieldWatch,® a web-based program and mobile app that connects crop growers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators for easy communication about product application and pollinator habitat. Growers and beekeepers can map and share crop apiary locations and contact information as a part of ongoing stewardship activities. Around five years ago, the BeeCheck® platform was added to make the program more user-friendly to beekeepers as well, so they can now share when hives are being added or thriving.
There are several other groups that Valent supports to promote education and advancement of product stewardship and pollinator health, including:
- North American Pollinator Protection Campaign
- Project Apis m.
- Growing Matters
- Coalition for Urban Rural Environmental Stewardship (CURES)
- The Pesticide Stewardship Alliance
Through ongoing internal and external communication, partnerships and best practices, product stewardship and pollinator safety can be achieved. Growers should look to their Valent reps or any of these groups for tips, products and practices specific to each operation and its needs.