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.”
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.