San Francisco, California – The non-profit Pollinator Partnership (P2) today released the 2013
Preliminary Report and Provisional Recommendations of
the Corn Dust Research Consortium (CDRC), a
multi-stakeholder initiative formed to fund research with the goal of reducing honey bee exposure to
fugitive dust emitted from planter fan exhaust during mechanical planting of treated corn seed. The
report can be found here with provisional
recommendations starting on page 23.
The CDRC participating organizations include the American Seed Trade Association, the American
Honey Producers Association, the American Beekeeping Federation, the Association of Equipment
Manufacturers, Bayer CropScience, the Canadian Honey
Council, the Farm Equipment Manufacturers
Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the Pollinator Partnership, Syngenta, and the
University of Maryland. These organizations came
together to fund and oversee research projects in
2013 to better understand ideas for mitigating risks to honey bees from exposure to fugitive dust emitted
from fan exhaust from machinery during corn planting.
The CDRC funded three research teams, led by Dr. R
eed Johnson of Ohio State University, Dr. Mary
Harris of Iowa State University, and Dr. Art Schaafsma, University of Guelph on behalf of the Grain
Farmers of Ontario. It is hoped that the preliminary results and provisional recommendations will inform
best practices for the 2014 planting season. Additional research in subsequent seasons will be needed to
replicate and substantiate the findings.
Two research questions were addressed by CDRC-funded research. The first question (Question 1)
sought to develop a greater understanding of the use by honey bees of floral resources in and around
cornfields during spring planting season and how this is influenced by vegetation management practices.
Native bee communities may also be affected by exposure through forage, an issue not addressed in this
The second question (Question 2) was to evaluate the effectiveness and deposition levels of pesticide
dust in and around fields when commercially available neonicotinoid-treated corn seed products are
planted using a new product in comparison to standard lubricants (talc and graphite). Aspects of the
product, BFA, developed by Bayer CropScience, had already been evaluated in other studies.
The three research teams took their own approaches to the questions. Their methods and their
observations were not identical, nor were they intended to be. The variety of landscape features and
differences in grower practices, as well as the timing of the planting, varied according to location. Only
one of the research teams, led by Dr. Art Schaafsma, studied the effectiveness of the BFA alternative
lubricant for use during treated seed planted with pneumatic planters. Despite these differences,
consistencies were observed, particularly with respect to honey bee foraging during planting.
All preliminary and provisional recommendations fr
om the report are based on small sample sizes and
one year's data; all require further testing in the coming year. However, the original goal was to be as
helpful as possible in influencing the behaviors of all stakeholders with respect to the 2014 growing
season; and several practical solutions that the research highlighted are offered.
The first significant finding of the research, with respect to the forage question (Question 1), was that
honey bees collected pollen largely from trees and woody
plants (apple, hawthorn, willow, maple, etc.)
during the time of corn planting. This was a consistent finding at the Iowa, Ohio and Guelph sites. The
second honey bee forage discovery (also Question 1) had
to do with the pesticide levels in the honey
bee-collected pollen. Across all three sites, the
highest residue levels occurred during the approximately
two-week planting period.
The second question, (Question 2), tested the effectiveness of the alternative lubricant, BFA, as a
replacement for talc or graphite to separate corn seeds in the pneumatic planters often used in corn
planting in North America. The CDRC tests showed that when the BFA lubricant was used, total dust
and pesticide load in the dust were reduced when compared to the use of conventional lubricants,
despite a higher concentration of pesticide in the dust. Further research is needed to determine the
overall effectiveness of Bayer's new lubricant in both reducing dust and dust-borne pesticide levels.
Several steps will need to be taken to achieve a reduction in exposure of honey bees to neonicotinoids
used to treat seeds. Many contributions toward th
is goal are needed from every sector involved in this
situation - farmers, beekeepers, pesticide and lubr
icant manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, seed
dealers, government agencies and regulators, extension agents, agricultural and commodity
organizations, and agricultural media all need to become involved.
"The CDRC process involved collaborative oversight of practical research through multiple institutions. It
has been complex but extremely rewarding. All stakeholders have shared the responsibility for
transparency, open deliberation, and unbiased assessment throughout 2013," said Pollinator
Partnership's Executive Director Laurie Davies Adams. (Contact
) "We feel that the
consequences of potential harm to honey bees have been
taken very seriously by every institution
involved in this collaboration. We have achieved something remarkable and rare - a consortium working
together to improve the situation for honey bees through balanced, unbiased, and cooperative
engagement in objective science."
A second year of funded research will focus on follow-up evaluation, information dissemination, and
adaptive management in 2014.
Interested institutions should contact the Pollinator Partnership at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Each of the research teams is expected to publish papers with respect to their
individual data sets either as a result of the 2013 work or in conjunction with a second year's research.
About Pollinator Partnership
Established in 1997, the Pollinator Partnership (P2) is the largest 501(c) 3
non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the heal
th, protection, and conservation of all pollinating
animals. For further information, visit