Corn Dust Research Consortium Formed to Address
Unique Stakeholder Consortium Sponsors
San Francisco, California – The non-profit Pollinator Partnership (P2) today announced the formation of the Corn Dust Research Consortium (CDRC), a multi-stakeholder initiative they are coordinating to invest research dollars in reducing honey bee exposure to dust emitted during planting of treated corn seeds. Pollinator Partnership is coordinating the Corn Dust Research Consortium and has invited stakeholders from crop protection, seed production, farm equipment, corn growing, beekeeping, academic, governmental, and conservation organizations to fund and oversee two proposed research projects to better understand ideas for mitigating risks to honey bees from exposure to planter-emitted dust during corn planting.
“It is truly rare to see this kind of large-scale collaboration between disparate stakeholders – each of whom shares equally in the supervision of the project,” said Executive Director Laurie Davies Adams, emphasizing her organization’s enthusiasm for the consortium approach to problem solving. “Public-private partnerships that seek practical solutions for cooperative conservation and commerce represent an improved model. Industry participants are to be commended for providing major funding while sharing responsibility and authority with all CDRC partners.”
Seed lubricant powders such as talc and graphite that are commonly added to facilitate an even flow of seeds through the planter can increase the total amount of dust inside the planter. Modern pneumatic planters, which use air pressure to deliver seeds precisely to the seed furrow, may exhaust this dust into the air, and the emitted particles may in turn be carried some distance downwind. Honey bees may potentially contact seed dust particles when the planter-emitted dust is airborne (i.e., if bees fly through the exhaust plume of a planter), or after deposition on vegetation or other surfaces.
Greater potential for exposure of honey bees seems likely for dust particles deposited on flowers that may be present along the perimeter of fields or even within the fields themselves in some cases (e.g., no-till fields containing flowering weeds or a cover crop). Dust particles on flowers may be available to visiting honey bees for a period of days over a broad area inside and downwind of planted fields. When honey bees visit these flowers, the particles may become attached to their body hairs and transported back to the hive in the same way that natural pollen grains are transported. Whether such exposures result in adverse effects is probably a function of (1) the chemical load of the dust deposits, (2) the intrinsic toxicity of the chemical, (3) the frequency that forager honey bees visit dusted flowers and (4) the degree to which dust particles act like pollen grains in their size, electrostatic activity, etc.
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