Roadsides working better for you

Published 8:49 pm Sunday, June 17, 2018

Did you know that one in three bites of food that you eat is the result of hard-working pollinators? There are 3,500 species of insects and birds that carry pollen that make Georgia peaches and heirloom tomatoes grow. Without pollination, most of our fruit and vegetable plants and trees simply would not produce.

The Ray is a living laboratory on 18-miles of I-85 between LaGrange and the Alabama border. We use this interstate as a testing ground for the technologies and innovations that make our roads safer, smarter and more sustainable. Those innovations are all exciting. But one of these things we’re most excited about is pollinator meadows. Why? Because pollinator meadows are a beautiful alternative to the turfgrass we are accustomed to seeing on our roadways. Turfgrass is expensive to maintain and requires a lot of mowing.

By choosing instead to plant flowering plants and grasses along our roadsides, we’re creating a win-win-win-win situation. It’s a win for the pollinators that need more habitat, more nectar and more pollen. Pollinator meadows only need to be mowed at most twice a year, and their deep root structure prevents erosion and nurtures the soil. It’s a win our Georgia farmers, who rely on pollinators for a healthy crop. And finally, it’s a win for us the drivers. Pollinators bloom throughout most of the year. Instead of turf grass, we’ll cover the ground around the solar panels with low-growing pollinator plants. Pollinators have been shown to keep the solar panels cool and prevent storm water flooding that occurs in a high-speed driving environment. But most importantly, these five acres of GDOT land will provide a habitat for at-risk species for the next 35 years. 

So are you convinced yet that pollinators and highways are natural partners? We certainly are, and we can’t wait to show you the nation’s first pollinator-friendly right-of-way solar farm.

Harriet Langford is the founder and President of The Ray