It may be hard to initially wrap your head around planting milkweed next to your fields, but it may just be the key to attracting some of nature’s best pollinators.
“When we start talking about it, the initial discussion might be a little challenging, because we are talking about what many people consider a weed, but when we start thinking about controlling it in fields and thinking about outside field boundaries, that conversation really shifts,” said Chip Shilling, BASF Sustainability Strategy Manager.
In 2015, BASF kicked off its Monarch Challenge seeking to restore the monarch population, by planting milkweed habitats in non-crop areas of a farmer’s land. Milkweed is an important part of the monarch’s life cycle, as it is the only plant where adult monarchs will lay their eggs. The leaves of the milkweed serve as a main food source for monarch larvae.
“That’s what they need to eat before they turn into a butterfly and continue on their migration,” Shilling said.
Since BASF started its challenge, Shilling estimates the company has sent out almost 40,000 seedlings to farmers to create their own milkweed plots.
While the. U.S. Fish and Wildlife is currently evaluating whether to list the monarch on the endangered species list, Shilling said for BASF it’s really been encouraging farmers and farm families to understand what they can do on their land that is practicable.
“When we were at Commodity Classic earlier this year, a lot of farmers came up and said ‘how can I help?’” Shilling said. “So that has been a really great mindset shift we have seen.”
Shilling encourages farm families to visit the Monarch Challenge site and sign up for milkweed kits.
He also says farmers should think about areas outside of fields where they may be able to incorporate this type of habitat.
“We find, especially relative to milkweed, it is not just plant it one year and you are done. It’s plant it one year and you will see the benefits in the second year and it will continue to grow in the third year,” Shilling said. “Again, what we are encouraging is to think about areas outside fields, areas that you may not want to mow anymore or that you may be mowing that you don’t need to, which are perfect places to reestablish milkweed.”