University of DC’s Rooftop Garden hosts celebration of Pollinator Week

from USDA

A garden in the sky. That’s the best way to describe the Green Roof, a rooftop garden at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), the nation’s only urban land grant university. This living laboratory is one of the latest features at UDC’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), which is also home to The Center for 4-H & Youth Development. 4-H is the nation’s premiere youth development program, managed by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

UDC 4-H students were among the Green Roof guests at an event to highlight National Pollinator Week and the White House Pollinator Health Initiative, a multi-agency partnership to promote pollinator health, reduce honey bee colony loss, and restore pollinator habitat.

The event’s special guest was Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, USDA. Bartuska addressed the importance of pollinators and food security.

“As part of the White House Pollinator Health Initiative, the USDA is investing in pollinator health through its Research, Education, and Economics mission area. Between FY 2008 and 2014, NIFA invested approximately $40 million in pollinator health research and education,” said Bartuska.

Bartuska was joined by Dr. Thomas Bewick, National Program Leader, Division of Plant Systems-Production, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, and UDC CAUSES Director Dwane Jones. Sandy Farber Bandier, UDC Green Roof Master Gardner Coordinator and UDC extension agent, led the tour of the 40,000 square foot oasis filled with a variety of insect-pollinated crops such as strawberries, cherries, apples, and peaches.

“This is the nation’s only urban agricultural garden,” Farber noted, as she explained importance of the green roof, and the pollinator’s role in helping provide nutritious food for the community.  She also noted that the creation of this pollinator garden jump-started reliable fruit production at UDC. As a sweet finale, beekeepers from Capital Bee CARE brought an exhibit hive of honey bees, and guests sampled locally produced honey from neighborhoods in Washington, DC and Northern Virginia.

From a rooftop garden in Washington, DC, to farmlands across the country, pollinator health is a critical issue for the nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health.

According to USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service, there are approximately 1,000 plants grown, worldwide, for food, beverages, spices and medicine that depend on pollinators. Honey bees alone are responsible for pollinating $15 billion worth of vegetable and fruit crops, making them critical to the nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health.

Along with honey bees, other pollinators include bats, butterflies, birds, native bees, and other insects. They all play a vital role in the production of healthy crops for food, fiber and other agricultural uses.  Without them, our diets would be less diverse. Recently, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released a survey that reported an eight percent drop in honey bee colonies from the previous year. Declining numbers are linked to multiple stressors, such as pests, disease, reduced habitat, nutrition, and pesticides.

NIFA is addressing those concerns through various research, education, and extension projects. The Integrated Pest Management program at Lincoln University teaches local farmers effective and environmentally friendly methods to control pests and minimize pesticide use. Scientists at the University of Nevada recently completed a trial study on American foulbrood disease, a rampant, serious bacterial disease that affects honeybees.

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