Pollination provides a direct link between ecosystems and agricultural production systems, and is critical in the process of cultivating natural foods such as apples, bananas, berries, watermelon, and even chocolate. Without the aid of pollinators, such as butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other insects, a majority of our food sources would disappear and our environment would begin to falter.
One important member of the pollinator family, the Monarch butterfly, has seen a steep population decline over several years. In an effort to help repopulate this species, Durham College (DC) has partnered with General Motors of Canada Company (GM) to support the Milkweed for Monarchs Program, a project launched to increase milkweed plants, the main food source for Monarchs.
On Monday, March 21, DC students and employees as well as General Motors Oshawa Assembly Plant employees made quick work of potting about 500 milkweed seedlings in the greenhouse located at DC’s Centre for Food (CFF) in Whitby.
“We are so pleased to partner with GM, and offer both space and volunteers to grow milkweed in our greenhouse,” said Shane Jones, professor, Centre for Food. “It’s also an excellent hands-on learning opportunity for students as they work with the plants, while understanding the importance of pollination.”
The plants will remain at DC’s greenhouse until late-April when they will be re-potted in larger four-inch pots. In May, they will be transferred to several locations throughout Durham Region where they will provide a safe habitat for endangered Monarch butterflies.
“The Milkweed for Monarchs Program is an example of GM’s commitment to environmental education and conservation through community partnerships,” said Bill Craig, senior environmental officer, Environmental Compliance & Sustainability, GM. “Our employees are proud to partner with Durham College staff and students to enhance the Monarch butterfly habitat. The level of enthusiasm and engagement demonstrated by the students and staff was inspiring and reflects on the depth of commitment required to be effective environmental stewards.”
Some of the milkweed will be planted in DC’s own pollinator garden, which received a boost last summer with a large donation of plants from Dutchmaster Nurseries, including serviceberry, winterberry and butterfly bush. Students began populating the garden with the donated plants, and added in St. John’s wart and barrier foliage to create a semi-enclosed sanctuary for the bees and butterflies.
The pollinator garden does more than provide a safe haven for pollinators. It also provides learning opportunities for students in the Horticulture – Food and Farming and Horticulture Technician programs, where they can hone their horticulture and pruning skills and practice plant identification.