Field reportsMonarchs

Take it from a Farmer, Anyone Can Plant Pollinator Habitat

The membership of the Monarch Collaborative includes organizations representing farmers, ranchers, and land owners; businesses working along the agricultural supply chain; researchers and academic institutions; federal and state entities; and conservation organizations. Wayne Fredericks is one such member. He is a corn and soybean farmer from Osage, Iowa who has served on the Iowa Soybean Association board of directors and now currently serves on the board of the American Soybean Association. Fredericks has been farming for nearly 50 years and started planting pollinator habitat on his land because it would enhance the profitability of his farm.

“We’ve got today about seven acres of actual pollinator habitat and it’s in seven different parcels. They’re scattered here and there and of different sizes,” said Fredericks.

Fredericks conducted a profitability study on his farm in 2014 by analyzing crop yield maps spanning several years and comparing those results against the cost inputs to farm the land. The analysis helped him identify areas that did not have enough yield to justify the cost of planting. In such cases, farmers can convert low-yield cropland into pollinator habitat, which come with a multitude of benefits. Farmers can also enroll in certain federal programs that will pay them an annual rental payment for planting habitat that will improve pollinator health and have on-farm benefits such as increasing soil health.

“We tried to find maybe another option for those (low-yield) areas to improve the bottom line. And for us, it happened to coincide with a (federal) habitat initiative for monarchs,” said Fredericks. “So we put most of our (low-yield) acres into CP-42, which is the government program for monarch habitat.”

Fredericks’ farm is adjacent to I-35, the interstate dubbed the Monarch Highway because it runs along the migration corridor of the eastern monarch. According to Monarch Joint Venture, the Departments of Transportation of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas recognize the Monarch Highway and have initiated programs and partnerships to increase pollinator habitat.

Photo courtesy of Wayne Fredericks.

“When we talk about the Monarch Highway, it’s engagement I think of people that live along that path. It’s not all just farmers,” said Fredericks. “We’ve got a lot of cities and small towns all along that highway that are situated there. So, it’s a great opportunity to have engagement across a broad spectrum of people.”

Fredericks notes there are few areas where habitat cannot be planted. He stresses that it will take a comprehensive effort from not only farmers but municipalities, DOTs, and the general public to develop the habitat needed to support the monarch’s population rebound. The Monarch Collaborative has written before about planting pollinator habitat on non-cropland like roadsides and septic mounds, but just about any available land can include pollinator forage such as milkweed and wildflowers.

“People in urban areas can put habitat down in grass ways, backyards, flower beds, and urban settings like parks. There’s just tremendous opportunities for places for habitat. We like to engage in that conversation both with the farmers and with the non-farmers,” said Fredericks.

To learn more about the resources and programs available to plant monarch and pollinator forage, visit the State Resources as well as the National Information pages on our website.