Using CRP to Plant Milkweed and Save the Monarch Butterfly

Establishing pollinator habitat can offer numerous benefits to farmers. Not only do native, pollinator-friendly plants protect soil, but they help pollinators thrive. In turn, these pollinators provide crucial services for local crops and plant life, improving the health of the surrounding environment. 

By enrolling in the right CRP practice, farmers and landowners can even be paid to establish pollinator habitat ohighly erodible or underperforming land. 

 If you’re considering establishing pollinator habitat, we’d encourage you to include milkweed. Monarch butterflies rely solely on milkweed to reproduce. Not only is it where they lay their eggs, but its what their larvae feed on after hatching. 

The monarch butterfly is an important pollinator that may soon be added to the endangered species list. By adding milkweed to your pollinator habitat, you can promote pollinator diversity and help save this beautiful and beneficial insect. 

Finding the Right Milkweed for Your Area 

Due to modern pesticides, farming practices, and deforestation, much of our country’s milkweed has been destroyed. In order for the monarch butterfly to make a comeback, it needs to be replaced. 

But not just any milkweed plant will do. 

In most of the country, native milkweed dies off as summer draws to a close. With no place to lay their eggs, the last generation of that year’s monarch butterflies heads south to Mexico and California. Once they arrive, they stay until summer begins and the milkweed returns. 

However, in an attempt to save monarch butterflies, some gardeners and landowners have done more harm than good. A few years ago, reports started coming in about swarms of monarch butterflies failing to migrate before winter came. In some cases, even those that did migrate died along the journey. 

What went wrong? 

It turns out that the wrong type of milkweed was being planted. Though this milkweed, known as Asclepias curassavica, is a tropical milkweed, it grows well in northern territories. A little too well, in fact. Unlike its native cousins, this tropical milkweed can persist into November, confusing the butterflies and keeping them around into winter. 

Even worse, this type of milkweed contains a parasite that covers newborn monarch caterpillars. Though it’s not immediately lethal, it does severely weaken them, killing most of them during their long migration south. 

Seed Selection Matters  

When it comes to establishing pollinator habitat of any kind, seed selection matters. Pollinators depend on plants that are native to their area. That’s one reason why programs like the Conservation Reserve Program have strict requirements for seed mixes. 

Finding and purchasing the right seed mix can be confusing for many farmers and landowners enrolling in CRP. Certain seed, such as native milkweed, can be particularly hard to find. 

That’s why we handle it for our clients. 

With FDCE, you don’t have to worry about where you can buy CRP seed mixes. We’ll help formulate and procure a seed mix that meets your practice’s requirements. Of course, that’s just one of the many steps we handle for our customers enrolled in CRP. 

Contact us today to learn how we can help you establish an effective pollinator habitat and provide a home for the monarch butterfly. 

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