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Locally adapted pollinator sanctuaries for marginal lands

Farming Smarter Project

Timeline: 2019-2020

Contact: Jamie Puchinger


Farming Smarter will establish and evaluate pollinator sanctuaries with currently available commercial flower mixes. The goal is to make recommendations on seeding rates, dates, mixes with high establishment and production and value to wildlife.  This project will identify the best performing species of varying pollinators, establishing a floral calendar of individual plant species and finding mixes that attract the highest insect diversity.

Pollinator sanctuaries could be established on roadsides, in marginal lands, on reclaimed land (drilling roads), pivot corners, low lying or saline areas to create areas for ecological goods and services. These mixes could also be used as cover crops to promote soil conservation, soil health & soil quality.


  1. Select top performing plant species and pollinator mixes
  2. Encourage use of pollinator mixes in marginal lands


A full roster of agronomic evaluations for different pollinator mixes is part of the project. Our proposed one-year pilot study site is in the dark brown soil zone of Lethbridge adjacent to an artificial waterbody that attracts local wildlife. Some grasses are included in the mixes for stand establishment, weed control, checking soil erosion & for establishing nesting sites.

The proposed one-year work flow includes seeding, stand establishment, plot maintenance, pollinator insect diversity & stand agronomic evaluations across the seasons, collecting ground data, record photos & videos, data analysis, report preparation & information dissemination to the funding agency, project stakeholders & public at large to share our knowledge acquired through this pilot study. Long term benefits of the proposed project to the concerned industry are:

  1. Establishment of sustainable, low cost, low maintenance, dynamic natural ecosystems that can cater to the nesting & foraging needs of insect pollinators like bees.
  2. Long term production benefits for local and/or regional agriculture, forestry & apiculture industries.
  3. Well established Pollinator Sanctuaries will also attract several other local invertebrates & vertebrates (like small reptiles, amphibians, birds & mammals) helping to conserve not just insect pollinators; but local biodiversity in general.
  4. Pollinator Sanctuaries, especially along roadways & water bodies would create natural pathways between various remaining natural “islands” so that species could move from one natural habitat to another and find food, nesting habitats & breeding partners to maintain healthy genetic diversity within species.
  5. Pollinator sanctuaries, integrated with wetland development can develop into suitable aquatic habitats for aquatic birds, especially if the accompanying water body is well stocked with fish.
  6. Long & short grasses in the mix can attract both small passerine (perching) & ground nesting birds, small mammals over time enriching local biodiversity.
  7. Forage species included in the proposed Pollinator Mixes could be used by ranchers as pastures for late fall grazing of animals.
  8. Pollinator Mixes could also serve as excellent diverse cover crops & used in judicious crop rotations for promoting conservation, health & productivity of soil.
  9. The forage legumes in the mix would enrich soil quality through biological nitrogen fixation.
  10. Brassica members and salt tolerant grasses used in the mix would help in phytoremediation of previously agronomically unsuitable and salinity impacted areas.


This project is currently in progress. Please check back in 2020 for detailed results and information.



This project is currently in progress. Please check back in 2020 for recommendation details and information.



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