A new on-line wildflower guide has been designed to highlight the most suitable species to attract bumblebees and pollinators in different golf course situations. The Operation Pollinator Wildflower ID Guide is available free on the Syngenta GreenCast website.
Operation Pollinator manager, Caroline Carroll, advised specialist seed mixtures have been created by independent ecologists and entomologists, in conjunction with golf course designers and agronomists.
"The aim is to create a season-long supply of pollen and nectar to enable pollinating insects to complete their life cycles, as well as providing a prolonged period of colour for the enjoyment of golfers," she said. "Species have also been selected to be relatively easy to establish and sufficiently robust to survive under golf course management regimes."
She added that these wildflower species will provide a key core of essential nutrition, but can easily be supplemented by other natural flora that is known to perform well in specific area.
Operation Pollinator is successfully creating new habitats for struggling populations of bumblebees and native pollinating insects. It is proving to be the golf and amenity industries' positive action to put back essential food and nesting resources - and the chance to help save bees. It also creates a positive attraction for new players to the course and the chance for clubs to engage with the local community.
Bob Taylor, Head of Ecology at STRI and advisor to Operation Pollinator Champion Clubs, advocated a mix of flower species that will give a source of pollen and nectar through three seasons. Choose wildflowers that are not overly competitive, and avoid rare species as these are expensive and not suitable for the intended purpose, he said.
"If you are sowing into an existing grass sward, use a wildflower only seed mix - no additional grasses will be required," he said. "If sowing into a bare seedbed, only include Fescue species at a low seed rate, to avoid competition and create a fine wispy effect."
The further advantage of Fescue grasses in environmental areas is that invasive course grasses that threaten to overwhelm wildflowers and create a thick tangled mess, can be taken out with targeted Rescue selective herbicide treatments.
For wildflower establishment this autumn, Bob recommended to scarify the area aggressively, to thin and create gaps within the base of the turf. "Aim to create 40-60% bare ground and ensure all litter is removed as part of this process.
"Broadcast seed by hand; two or three passes has proven to be the most reliable technique on relatively small areas. Ensure that the seed is lightly brushed into the scarification grooves but take care not to bury the seed - which should not be covered," he advised.
For turf specific agronomy and product information go to www.greencast.co.uk
Syngenta turf products are distributed in the UK by Everris. www.everris.co.uk