May is Monarch Month. May is also the perfect time to sow milkweed seeds or direct transplant a small plant. Now, before you shut down on the idea of purposely adding milkweed to your farm, hear us out. IL Corn understands that weeds impact your profitability. We also know that access to technology and chemistry is also important to your profitability. We know that you want to do the right thing for the environment on your farm. And right now, the right thing is for farmers and landowners to voluntarily establish monarch and pollinator habitat in non-crop areas. This could be in a place that you’ve already established as a wildlife habitat, for example, or down the side of your machine shed, or around your bins. Somewhere is better than nowhere, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is tasked with a decision to list the Monarch Butterfly on the Endangered Species List by June 30, 2019.
The monarch butterfly is an iconic insect, in fact, it is the Illinois State Insect. The Monarch population is in decline, due to loss of habitat at their overwintering site in Mexico, but also due to lack of habitat and feeding sites along the migratory path, and changing weather conditions. Monarchs need milkweed for summer forage and larval feeding sites, and reestablishing the plant can positively impact the population.
To assist farmers and others who are interested in being part of the Monarch solution, BASF started Living Acres, a research initiative focused on improving monarch butterfly habitats in high-production agriculture areas. The research initiative, which started at the BASF Research Farm in Holly Springs, North Carolina works to help farmers and other landowners increase biodiversity and develop best practices for establishing and maintaining milkweed plants in non-cropland areas.
IL Corn is partnering with BASF in their Living Acres work and specific to their Monarch Challenge, which encourages farmers to plant a variety of milkweed plant somewhere on the farm. BASF will even provide the plants for free. Sign-up at www.monarchchallenge.com.
Here’s what we know about Monarchs:
- Their population is in decline, due to several factors.
- The Monarch migratory path is more than 3,000 miles.
- They depend on milkweed species for their survival.
- In addition to milkweed, Monarchs need nectar-plants as a food source.
- Monarchs are already being sighted along their migratory path in Illinois this year.
- They could be listed as an Endangered Species if a considerable and committed voluntary conservation effort is not undertaken.
- You can be part of a solution to Monarch declines.