Fall is the best time to establish a pollinator habitat for a couple of key reasons, according to Peter Berthelsen, with the Bee and Butterfly Habitat Fund. So, if you are considering helping honeybees, monarchs, and other pollinator species, your time is coming soon.
The first step in the enrollment process is to complete the Seed A Legacy program application form. Make sure to read and consider the complete program guidelines here. You can apply online or email [email protected] to request an application.
Dormant seedings when the soil temperature goes below 50 degrees work extremely well, Berthelsen notes, because fall timing can offer a post-harvest planting window for farmers before things freeze. And it sure works a whole lot better than trying to carve out time during busy spring planting.
Many wildflower seeds also have a hard dormancy (a hard exterior). Freezing and thawing during the winter months crack the seed, increasing the chances to seed will germinate successfully in the spring, according to Berthelsen.
The objective in a dormant seeding is that the planted seeds do not germinate until the following spring when soil temperatures have reached 55°F or higher. Good seed-to-soil contact and planting depth is achieved with the rain and snow that occurs throughout the fall and winter, even with a broadcast seeding. If a drill is used, the goal is to make sure the seed is not planted too deep.
Another major consideration is preparing the seedbed by terminating existing vegetation. Right now, is a good time to plan this out and get it done before the combines roll. Once the combine is in the shed, you can transition to planting your pollinator habitat.
“Farmers are stewards of the land across much of the eastern monarch butterflies habitat and in several critical areas in their western flyway — placing them in a unique position to support sustainable monarch populations, as well as a variety of other pollinators, too,” said National Corn Grower Assocation’s Biotechnology and Crop Inputs Director Nicole Hasheider. “Acres that are not optimal for production make great habitat opportunities.”
The good news is you can get free technical support and seed from BBHF through their Seed a Legacy program. If you have two acres of land in their 12-state targeted area that would lend itself to habitat, this program is for you. You can get more information at [email protected] and BeeAndButterflyFund.org. Eligible states include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to release its decision on whether to list the monarch as an endangered species by the end of this year, so increasing pollinator habitat is more important than ever.
If you are looking for more technical information on how to grow corn with pollinators in mind, you can also check out the NCGA’s Best Management Practices for Pollinator Protection in Field Corn.