Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Integrating Apiculture in Riparian Buffers

British Columbia is replete with small private woodlots endowed with streams.  Riparian corridors can provide multiple benefits to land owners when managed with care to conserve the high watershed and biodiversity values that these zones provide.

The Murray Family Woodlot is a small, family-run woodlot located in the West Kootenay region near Slocan Lake.  Micheal Murray and family manage riparian, forest, and open-canopied land cover on their property.  This mixture provides opportunities to demonstrate novel approaches to land use, and agroforestry is their choice because of its integrative design, environmental sustainability, and long-term revenue potential.

With funding from the BC Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative, the Murray Family will use their woodlot to demonstrate the benefits of blending apiculture in an integrated riparian management system.  The shrubs in this system will benefit from honey bee pollination services, just as they, in turn, support honey production.  The riparian buffer further complements the apiary by providing both a windbreak and surface water required by bees.

With the technical assistance of the Slocan River Streamkeepers, cascara (Rhamnus purshiana), high bush cranberry (Viburnum opulus), and tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium) will be established in the riparian buffers along two small streams in the woodlot.  These shrubs will be spaced at approximately 3- x 3-m spacing, with the exact planting locations varying to match planting conditions (e.g. soil moisture, associated vegetation) along each stream.  These species have been chosen for this multi-purpose planting, as they can positively contribute to the riparian health and function, support the apiary, and in time, yield a selective harvest of flower, fruit and other plant parts for sale as raw ingredients into the natural health products markets.

Cascara will be part of a multi-purpose integrated riparian management planting demonstration in the West Kootenay

The demonstration will provide a platform for regional woodlot and agricultural producers to see how financial gains in early stages of an agroforestry operation may be achieved by incorporating honey production into the system.  Combining perpetual shrub and honey production will also demonstrate longer-term self-sufficiency.  Information collected during the set-up and early operation of this demonstration will be used to generate a cost-benefit analysis, so that other prospective agroforestry practitioners can assess the financial suitability of this agroforestry practice to their operations.

The Murray's will be hosting a field tour and will conduct presentations and a webinar related to the project, and will soon be establishing a project website.  For more information, please contact Michael Murray at 250-354-1412.

Funding for this work has been provided through the BC Agroforestry Industry Development Initiative (AGF1205)