Last month, the Rodale Institute was awarded a $15,000 Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Research Partnership Grant to begin Bat Research for Organic Insect Pest Management. The two year project titled “Investigating Bat Activity in Various Agricultural Landscapes to Develop Organic Insect Pest Management” will begin this spring. The objective of this study is to assess bat populations and activities using acoustic monitoring equipment at sites under a variety of land uses and to identify tools to enhance bat activities for Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Agriculture and wildlife have never been mutually exclusive but rather can support the vitality of each other when managed properly. Management strategies employed by farmers over large parcels of land impact both on- and off-farm ecosystems and wildlife. Regenerative organic agriculture uses natural, biological processes, such as predator-prey relationships, biological nutrient cycling, and crop diversity, to reduce weed and insect pests while saving labor, money, and natural resources. Understanding how to put these processes into practice to maximize efficiencies and their positive outcomes requires documented success, tools, and outreach. A better understanding of land use and bat presence can help farmers attract bats and use their abilities for pest management, freeing up time and money, increasing their product value, and reducing pollutants in the environment while supporting ecosystem services. In addition to acoustic monitoring, this project will also involve the installation of a variety of styles of bat boxes and the measurement of their occupancy rates. These occupancy rates can offer another tool for farmers to attract and maintain bat populations on their farms.
Kate Harms, a scientist at the Rodale Institute will be leading this research. The project also brings in partnerships with Albright College and regional farmer partners. Albright College’s Dr. Karen Campbell and biology interns will be providing assistance with this project and farmer partners Quiet Creek Farm and North Star Orchard will be providing research locations. This project is a unique combination of bat researchers, organic farming researchers, and farmers to ensure its success.
“Bats have long provided an economic service to farmers with pest management and with white-nose syndrome decimating bat populations across the US, now more than ever is research and outreach needed to show how we can better utilize the services of bats while supporting their populations. Bat conservation and organic agriculture have a mutual goal and we would like to connect them," said Kate Harms.