Globally, pollinators play a critical role in the success of more than 1,200 agricultural crops, and roughly 80% to 95% of plant species need pollinators. Simply put, we can’t live without them.
For Iowa’s farmers and landowners, embracing the state’s slogan — Fields of Opportunities— could include establishing habitat on private land to support the health of pollinators. There are also options for those who do not own land.
Dana Schweitzer, coordinator of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium at Iowa State University, and colleagues will highlight the many options for helping pollinators at this year’s Farm Progress Show on Sept. 1-3 at Boone.
“We’re excited for 2020, the fifth year of the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium,” Schweitzer says. “We have some excellent resources to share with farmers who have habitat questions.”
In honor of the consortium’s fifth anniversary, the ISU Extension and Outreach publication Five ways to help the monarchs offers tips such as following state and federal pesticide labels, considering monarch-friendly weed management, and establishing a monarch waystation— a garden with both nectar plants and milkweeds, where monarchs can find nectar and reproduce.
The Prairie Strips conservation practice, pioneered at ISU, is another option for integrating pollinator-friendly perennials on the land. Farmers and landowners can now apply for cost share to install prairie strips with the Conservation Reserve Program. With a width of 30 to120 feet, prairie strips can reduce erosion, improve water quality, and provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. There are more than 250 sites with prairie strips nationwide. Costs for this practice, known as CP43, may be as little as $7 per acre.
“Prairie strips are the all-purpose buffer,” says Omar de Kok-Mercado, program coordinator in the Department of Natural Resources Ecology and Management at ISU, and coordinator for the prairie strips team. “They can be installed through or around a crop field, alongside waterways, or in a terrace channel.”
A similar approach, Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers, is highlighted in a four-page resource from ISU Extension that explains options, benefits and costs associated with enhancing riparian buffers with pollinator-friendly native plants.
For a digital connection to pollinators, check out the HabiTally mobile phone app. It’s designed to record basic information about voluntary habitat improvement to help the monarch butterfly. The app allows people to record their efforts on plots of all sizes, and it can also be used to record community projects, including locations such as churches and parks.
“You can enter your own plot and also see data aggregated by state, including the number of habitat acres other states have reported,” Schweitzer says. Developed in 2019 as a collaboration between Bayer and the Climate Corporation, with support from ISU’s Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology, the app is free to download.
All of these resources will be discussed in greater detail at the 2020 Farm Progress Show, and specialists will be available to help answer your pollinator questions.
Kick is a communications specialist with Iowa State University Extension.