If you are a Monarch butterfly supporter, buckle up, because here’s some good news. The yearly count of the Eastern Monarch butterfly population that overwinters in Mexico was released recently, showing an increase of 144 percent over last year’s pollinator count.
After years of struggles with a host of challenges from bad weather to loss of habitat, the large butterfly count — the highest count since 2006 — comes as welcome news. But not too fast, because Western Monarchs continue to struggle due to drought, wildfires, pesticides, and loss of habitat.
Landowners and farmers are uniquely situated to support the Monarch and are already making a difference. Habitat plantings can fit into many niches on the agricultural landscape, including conservation lands, grazing lands, rights-of-way, field margins, field borders, pivot corners, conservation lands, ditches, buffers and other low-productive lands. Milkweed and other nectar-producing flowers planted in these areas yield multiple on-farm benefits.
In 2018, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Corn Growers Association launched a first-of-its-kind partnership between an environmental organization and commodity crop association. The partnership aims to address one of the most pressing challenges for today’s farmers, rural communities and natural resources — how to improve environmental outcomes while optimizing productivity and profitability. The partnership will elevate the importance of continuous improvements for water quality and climate resilience while strengthening yields and profitability.
There are a lot of state-specific programs out there to assist you in establishing and maintaining habitat. This ranges from incentive and cost-share programs to commercial seed providers, technical assistance, and access to decision-making tools and resources.
NCGA is working on several fronts with groups ranging from the EDF to Bayer. The joint goals are to encourage best management practices which encourage Monarch survival as well as the distribution of seeds to plant pollinator plots on non-crop acres.
One good example is the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange supported by EDF and NCGA. Farmers and ranchers are rewarded for the outcomes generated on their land with financial support from agribusiness, philanthropic foundations and concerned citizens.
If you need motivation, keep in mind, butterfly habitat doesn’t just attract pollinators, it also improves soil health and water quality, houses natural enemies of crop pests and increases wildlife diversity.