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Milkweed Seed Producer Symposium

Feb 21, 2014


  • Conservation Stories

By Brianna Borders, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

As part of the Xerces Society’s Project Milkweed, an initiative to increase native milkweed seed availability and promote milkweed conservation, Xerces staff Brianna Borders and Eric Lee-Mäder convened a first of its kind, full-day symposium on best management practices for large-scale milkweed seed production. The event was held in April 2013, in conjunction with a national Native Seed Conference, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This symposium brought milkweed seed producers from across the country together to discuss all aspects of the seed production process and to share information about successful production methods. To provide technical support to growers, Xerces staff gave presentations on the biology and identification of milkweed specialist insects, managing milkweed crop disease, and opportunities to expand markets for milkweed seed. (Photo: Eric Lee- Mäder, the Xerces Society’s Assistant Pollinator Program Director, gives a presentation on milkweed marketing opportunities to an audience of native seed producers.) Xerces staff also led a roundtable discussion about stand establishment strategies, maintaining crop health, and seed harvesting and processing technology. Additionally, John Anderson, Xerces’ Project Milkweed partner and founder of Hedgerow Farms, gave a presentation on Hedgerow Farms’ unparalleled effort to produce seed of four California milkweed species.

In addition to Hedgerow Farms, representatives from Native American Seed, Ernst Conservation Seeds, S&S Seeds, Allendan Seed Company, Cardno JFNew, Minnesota Native Landscapes, Shoestring Acres Seed, the Painted Lady Vineyard, Pheasants Forever, and the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program were also in attendance.

These milkweed producers, as well as others not highlighted here, are playing an indispensable role in monarch conservation efforts, by providing the plant materials that are essential for the nationwide restoration of monarch breeding habitat. With support from the Monarch Joint Venture, the Xerces Society will continue assisting milkweed growers with identifying and managing crop pests and diseases, developing effective strategies for seed harvesting and processing, and increasing demand for milkweed seed through public outreach and by providing marketing support.
With efforts in place to improve the commercial availability of milkweed seed, we must also create a higher demand for the seed! Whether you incorporate milkweed into your seed mix for a large scale restoration project, or include milkweed in your garden or landscaping, you are helping to support milkweed seed producers in their important work. The time is near for monarchs to start their journey back toward their breeding grounds throughout the U.S., so welcome them by planting milkweed!  

The Xerces Society thanks the Institute for Applied Ecology for their assistance with organizing the milkweed seed producer symposium.

Xerces’ milkweed conservation work is funded by a national USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant, Hind Foundation, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, The Elizabeth Ordway Dunn Foundation, The William H. and Mattie Wattis Harris Foundation, the Monarch Joint Venture, Turner Foundation Inc., The McCune Charitable Foundation, and Xerces Society members.