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Bringing the golf course to life

Why get involved?

Why are pollinators important? Pollinating insects are a vital part of the natural ecosystem. They are responsible for the successful pollination of a wide range of plants that provide essential food sources for birds and animals, as well as the pollination of many fruit, vegetable and oilseed food crops. Bumblebee numbers have declined by 70% over the past 40 years, with three species on the verge of extinction and some disappearing altogether. Golf courses are well placed to put the essential habitat back to help prevent further decline. Bumblebees play a crucial role as one of natures’ pollinators, but they are in serious decline and need our help now. Helping to resurrect bumblebee populations and other pollinating insects will help to demonstrate that golf courses can be managed in harmony with the environment and to provide valuable wildlife habitats.

What is Operation Pollinator? Operation Pollinator is a new project designed to reverse the plight of bumblebees and pollinating insects in the UK, by creating valuable new habitats in out of play areas of golf courses. The aim is to establish a total of 250 hectares of pollen and nectar rich habitat on up to 500 golf courses across the UK and Ireland over the next three years. Research-based results Operation Pollinator is based on the experience gained from the scientifically acclaimed 5-year Buzz Project, and over four years of trials on golf courses by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI).

“Improving habitat conditions for bumblebees will represent an important environmental gain with little or no detriment to the playing of the game. It is hoped that this work will generate a wider acceptance and awareness of golf’s positive environmental role within the wider landscape. Operation Pollinator trials have provided necessary information and practical expertise on how best to create, improve and manage quality habitats for bumblebees in out of play areas on the golf course.” Bob Taylor. Head of Ecology and Environment, STRI.

It provides the knowledge and expertise to achieve the successful management of pollen and nectar habitats, alongside conventional management of the golf course to deliver the best possible playing conditions. Management practices developed to deliver pollen and nectar rich habitat for bumblebees will also be beneficial for other flora and fauna on the golf course.

Take pride in where you play Golf courses have been criticised as being ‘green deserts’ devoid of wildlife and biodiversity. Now there is a real opportunity to redress the balance and provide a positive environmental contribution, whilst enhancing the visual appearance of the course. There is immense pride in the knowledge that your club is doing something positive for the environment and providing the habitat that could help save endangered Bumblebee species. Operation Pollinator provides added interest for players, and the chance to see something new on every round. This pride and satisfaction extends to the greenkeeping team and club managers, with the knowledge they are responsible for providing a much needed environmental resource, alongside great playing conditions and an enhanced golfing experience for all players.

In this ‘green’ age our involvement with ecological projects is a great selling point for the club. If we can provide a habitat for endangered species and enhance the natural beauty of our course by planting wild flowers, which then attract members and visitors to our club, then Operation Pollinator offers a win-win situation. Julie Morris. Secretary, Fulford Heath Golf Club, Birmingham

Attractive proposition Wildflowers can provide a colourful visual enhancement for golf courses, particularly with native species selected to fit into the local environment. Operation Pollinator aims to provide a succession of flowering plants that provides a continual supply of pollen and nectar for pollinators through the season and gives an ever changing visual interest for players. Clubs involved in Operation Pollinator could attract more members, clubs, societies and visitors keen to get more out of their golfing experience. Syngenta will provide a suite of information and ideas to help participating clubs exploit the exciting marketing opportunities.

Endangered Species: Bombus ruderatus The loss of flower-rich grasslands has resulted in the disappearance of Bombus ruderatus from over 95% of its known localities nationally over the past 100 years, leaving it vulnerable to national extinction. The decline had resulted in an almost complete disappearance from Central Britain, but it has recently been found on newly created Operation Pollinator habitat in Hampshire and Worcestershire. Bombus ruderatus is classified as Nationally Scarce (Falk,1991).

Targeting endangered species Over the past 40 years bumblebee numbers have declined alarmingly across the UK. One species has been declared extinct. Three species are classified as at high risk of extinction. Seven species are endangered. Operation Pollinator aims to put back the habitat and food sources to enable endangered species to safely feed and breed. In many areas where Operation Pollinator has been instigated in the UK countryside, rare bumblebee species are now to be found. Within two years of establishment Bombus ruderatus was found on newly created Operation Pollinator habitats in Warwickshire, Hampshire and Cambridgeshire. Finding a rare or endangered bumblebee species on your course will be a significant coup for the club and a positive message to promote for the club and the golf industry.

Bombus sylvarum Bombus sylvarum was considered a common species until the early part of the 20th century. However, records since 1970 indicate that it has declined drastically in the UK, and is now only known from seven populations. This bee is an insect of areas of herb-rich grassland, including vetches, clovers, dead-nettles and the red bartsia providing essential sources of pollen and nectar throughout the bee’s flight period of April to September.Â

Delivering on environmental targets

Inspiring the community Operation Pollinator will help Clubs to engage and generate beneficial links with the local community and schools. Building goodwill with the community promotes clubs in a positive light and gets more people onto the course and experiencing the pleasure to be gained from the game.

Cost effective course management Intensive management to repeatedly cut and remove dense vegetation from thick rough areas is heavily demanding on costly manpower, machinery and fuel. Operation Pollinator management can deliver the successful establishment of pollen and nectar rich wildflowers in two to three seasons, compared to 6-7 years of conventional techniques. Once established, Operation Pollinator areas will require less time-consuming maintenance to continually cut and clear dense rough, releasing labour and machinery for more effective course maintenance - reducing the ongoing cost and carbon footprint of annual rough maintenance.

Over the past 40 years two species of Bumblebee are believed to have become extinct in the UK, and a further six species are endangered. A number of Bumblebee species are the subject of local or national Biodiversity Action Plans designed to secure their future. With Operation Pollinator golf courses can proactively lead the campaign to enhance biodiversity and save the Bumblebee. Golf courses which are implementing ecology plans or are working with local environmental groups can use Operation Pollinator habitat as a key way to deliver added biodiversity value alongside existing initiatives and projects.

Where can it fit on the course? Operation Pollinator is designed to provide an enhanced wildlife habitat and playing environment through added interest for players and an appealing visual aspect. In most instances, the areas selected will be out of play. However, the creation of a more open turf sward does mean that whilst wayward shots will be penalised, golfers will be able to find their ball more easily and continue playing. Areas of the golf course identified as having potential for Operation Pollinator habitat include: • Deep rough • Tee surrounds • Immediate carry area off tees • Around lakes and water features The same techniques used by Operation Pollinator to thin rough and encourage lighter, wispy Fescue grasses and wildflowers can be equally applied to in-play rough – improving the playing experience and providing environmental benefits with no detriment to golfers or the game.

Ecologist acclaim Rough is an extremely important area of the golf course for wildlife, according to STRI Ecological Consultant, Dr Kelly Harmar. “However, not all rough is of equal biodiversity value,” she reports. “Thick rough on nutrient rich soils tends to be dominated by coarse grass species and supports a lower proportion of wildflowers; this lack of botanical variation also limits the diversity of wildlife that the grassland can support.” She believes that the Operation Pollinator management regime, including removal of coarse and aggressive grasses with innovative techniques, can be usefully employed to create a mixed sward containing finer Fescue grass species and opening up the light to enable a greater diversity of wildflowers to flourish. “The techniques clearly have the potential to improve biodiversity in rough grassland and to raise the whole environmental potential of golf courses.”

How does Operation Pollinator work?

Trials by the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) have designed an Syngenta Operation Pollinator habitat management programme specifically for golf courses and amenity areas, to successfully thin out rough areas and establish native wildflowers. Operation Pollinator will provide practical training for greenkeepers and club managers to establish new habitat areas covering: • Site selection • Evaluating options and objectives • Seed choice and sourcing • Establishment techniques • Management options • Integrating with existing environmental features

Independent advice on implementing Operation Pollinator on the course is available from STRI ecologists and agronomists. Support material to help clubs and greenkeepers to get the most from Operation Pollinator includes: • Training • Literature • Telephone help line • On-line support • Downloadable presentations • Press release templates • Meetings

How do we get involved? For more information on Operation Pollinator and how to get involved visit the website Club managers and greenkeepers interested in attending training courses and creating Operation Pollinator habitat can visit or contact their Scotts Professional advisor or Bob Taylor, STRI at for more details.

Syngenta Crop Protection UK Ltd. Registered in England No. 849037. CPC4, Capital Park, Fulbourn, Cambridge CB21 5XE Email: Web: / Š Syngenta AG January 2010. GQ 01426.

Why get involved?  

Operation Pollinator PDF

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