Hog farmers are collaborating with Iowa State University to provide more habitat for monarch butterflies through on-farm research projects.
Since 2015, farmer members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association have worked with researchers from Iowa State and the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium to plant and survey monarch habitat plots on their land. One of the many challenges monarch butterflies face is the loss of milkweed and nectar plant habitat throughout the upper Midwest.
When the project was proposed three years ago, it seemed like a unique approach, according to Ben Crawford, Iowa pork producer and environmental services director for Prestage Farms of Iowa.
“The diversity of blooming plants in the plot is really remarkable,” said Crawford, who farms in Hamilton and Hardin counties. “Getting started takes a lot of patience but, by year two or three, the plants have filled in and you can really see the benefits.”
In this video Crawford describes his three-year experience with the habitat project — and explains why patience was the key to success.
The habitat plantings include milkweed and a diverse array of blooming species to provide nectar for adult monarchs throughout their life cycle and seasonal migrations. Female monarchs lay eggs exclusively on milkweed plants. National and state efforts focus on establishment of new milkweed habitat to reach conservation goals. The Iowa Monarch Conservation Strategy seeks to establish 480,000 to 830,000 acres of monarch habitat by 2038.
Findings from the research collaboration are helping refine practical recommendations for establishing monarch habitat across Iowa’s landscape.
“Iowa’s pig farmers are committed to continuous improvement with Iowa’s environment,” said Trent Thiele, a pork producer from Elma, Iowa, and president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. “We became involved in this project to help find answers about monarch habitat establishment. Now we can provide information about that research for producers who are interested in putting monarch habitat near their building sites.”
Voluntary efforts to establish monarch habitat are intended to complement existing environmental stewardship and conservation programs for farmers, while still adhering to best practices for livestock production.
Farmers who want technical or financial assistance to start a monarch habitat project on their land across the country can call or visit their local USDA service center. To search in Iowa by county for local habitat experts and more, visit the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.
Article modified from a Press Release by the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium. The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration. The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners. Header photo provided by the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium.