More Than Milkweed!

ILFHeaderFarmer Partner, Nathan Anderson, opened his farm to a pasture restoration and monarch habitat field day on Tuesday, September 10th. It was a great day to explore the hard work Nathan and his family has done to remove cedar trees and nurture the native grasses and flowering plants.

IMG_5166

“Our primary goal for this work was livestock management for profitability, but we were seeing these added benefits (to improving the pasture) to creatures needing nectar – like monarch butterflies. That keeps us motivated to keep going and provide these flowering plants in multiple areas on our farm,” stated Nathan.

IMG_5165From our initial stop in the pasture, Nathan pointed to a large cottonwood tree (pictured behind him). “In 2017, when we were just starting on improving the pasture, you couldn’t see that tree due to all the cedar trees. To date we have worked to remove cedars from about 20 acres and have plans to keep working on it.”

The native grasses and flowering plants are working to reclaim the area now that the competition from the cedar trees has been removed. Adam Janke, ISU Extension Wildlife Specialist, pointed out that this time of year is especially difficult for creatures that rely on nectar.

IMG_5178“The corn and soybeans that cover the majority of Iowa do not have nectar available this late in the season. With the rotational grazing Nathan is using on this land, resting portions while the cattle graze elsewhere in the pasture, those grasses and flowering plants can be a value nectar source,” noted Janke.

From a monarch habitat perspective, providing milkweed plants is important for them to lay eggs and access food source early in their lives. Just as important are flowering nectar sources throughout the year to assist on their migratory journey.  That journey is completed by four generations of monarchs and research has shown that the majority of third and fourth monarchs originate in Iowa and the Midwest.

IMG_5177

As you travel the state, you will notice the monarchs making their way south for the winter.  To help future generations of monarchs, consider adding a diversity of flowering plants on your property to help provide them some food on their return journeys this time of year.

For more information on monarchs, visit the Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium website. For resources on pasture restoration, visit your local Natural Resource Conservation Service office for technical and financial assistance opportunities.

Liz Juchems