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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Helping Protect the Monarch Butterfly

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Fall’s approaching and as summer leaves the American Midwest, so will thousands of monarch butterflies.

Many studying monarchs think a number of factors are contributing to fluctuations in population like logging in Mexico, weather at overwintering sites, land use changes and the loss of habitat.  The declining availability of milkweed plants for butterfly habitat in the U.S. is certainly a contributing factor.

monarch-butterfly-on-flower-1304729431HbUThe challenge is complicated.  Monarchs need milkweed to survive.  It is the only plant monarch caterpillars will eat.  But for farmers, weeds in the field compete with crops in the field for water, soil and nutrients, reducing yield. Farmers have battled weeds since the first grower ploughed a field. They target hundreds of difficult-to-control weeds that unfortunately for the monarchs include any milkweeds that are present. And agricultural innovation has helped farmers grow crops more sustainably.  By controlling weeds with less tillage, farmers are seeing important environmental benefits – less soil erosion, more efficient use of water, less runoff into streams and rivers, lower energy use, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

Effective control of weeds in their fields, however, doesn’t prevent farmers from contributing to a conservation effort aimed at finding places outside farm fields for monarchs to thrive.  There is growing interest in conservation and collaborative programs that contribute to restoring lost habitat and supporting monarch recovery.

At Monsanto, we’re committed to doing our part to protect these amazing butterflies.  That’s why we are collaborating with experts from universities, nonprofits, and government agencies to help the monarch by restoring their habitat in Conservation Reserve Program land, on-farm buffer strips, roadsides, utility rights-of way and government-owned land.

We are proud to be working with a diverse group of stakeholders from across the country to find solutions to the challenges facing monarchs.  The Keystone Center in Colorado is attempting to convene a group of conservationists, farmers and scientists who are passionate about making a difference for natural wonders like the monarch butterfly.

Saying a species is closing in on extinction when most disagree or calling on government to list monarchs as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act makes for a great news headline.  It doesn’t do anything to help solve the problem.  We believe new projects, partnerships and public education initiatives are needed. Regardless of how these processes unfold, we know there is a lot to be done, and we’re committed to working with others to put more monarchs in flight.

Photo by David Wagner via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

19 Responses to "Helping Protect the Monarch Butterfly"

    • I am a professional gardener. Milkweed is a beautiful plant,although hard to control. I understand that it has potential uses as an industrial plant for latex production as well. When living on this planet, it is essential that we learn to make room for the life forms which make up the web of life. Choosing certain species as “pests” and trying to eradicate them is a short-sighted and ultimately will cause ecosystem failure! Instead, we should learn more about the “pests” and use our human intelligence to keep things in balance. This means having humility and awe for the complex web of life that sustains us too!

  1. Here is the way to get the monarch enthusiasts off your case. Create a foundation called “Monsanto Cares” and start to buy up some of the land required for the monarch corridor. Sponsor local groups that want to erect a small education centre and butterfly conservatory on the sites. Offer some of your own education materials at these places. Can you imagine the positive PR? Hey, you’ve got to put your charitable money somewhere, right?

  2. How about putting together an elementary school kit to help kids gather seedpods in the fall and plant seeds in the Spring? Or a kit to help park districts to sponsor efforts to gather seedpods in the fall and replant in the spring around community gardens and parks. Tagline/logo: ‘We’re high on Monarch butterflies!” Or a kit for FFA groups to use part of an active nature stewardship initiative. Good luck.

  3. We already know that milkweed plants will spread along roadsides on their own if the timing/frequency at which cities, countries and states mow and spray is shifted more to the early spring and mid-late fall instead of the late spring and early summer. Thus landscape scale increases in milkweed abundance along roadsides could be achieved with a simple adjustment in the timing/frequency of roadside mowing and spraying.

  4. Thanks for pursuing the restoration of native milkweed to recover the monarch population. I know you’re sincere in your efforts and the process is underway. I hope you’ve begun growing lots of plugs of native milkweed.
    I know you know it’s going to take 2-300 native milkweeds growing in non-crop areas to substantially increase the monarch population 🙂

  5. To anyone interested in the recovery of monarch butterfly numbers;

    Monsanto has already committed themselves and committed to the public to aid in the monarch recovery. Their blogpost on “Beyond The Rows” 9/12/14 explains their involvement as of that date and they express their opinion on listing the monarch as an endangered species. http://monsantoblog.com/2014/09/12/helping-protect-the-monarch-butterfly/ For those unaware , Monsanto has more resources and facilities available to them to replenish the native milkweed needed by monarchs to breed on than all other entities combined pursuing the regeneration of monarchs. Monsanto owns most seed companies, thousands of acres, and is contracted with thousands of farmers across the country to buy their crop seeds. As part of their contract with farmers to buy seeds, they can require their farmers to help in restoration of non-crop areas of their farms by planting native milkweed. Please read Monsanto’s blogpost carefully. Monsanto’s products have created a lot of controversy. We believe Monsanto’s efforts to restore habitat for insects in non-crop areas is a positive action. We all know weeds are a constant problem in crop areas. Milkweed is just that. Pursuing the planting of milkweed in non-crop areas by Monsanto should be applauded. Please encourage Monsanto in the comment area below the blogpost.
    http://monsantoblog.com/2014/09/12/helping-protect-the-monarch-butterfly/ Please pass this along to your mailing lists.
    Thank you !

  6. Monsanto, you have a responsibility with all of your profits and facilities to. Make a major contribution and incentive to farmers to put up with the milkweed to save the monarch. Saying and doing this are two different things. Please be a part of a grand solution that you can facilitate hugely. Make milkweed plants available to conservation groups through your web site. Begin a mail order planting program for Departments of transportation and gardeners everywhere. Raise larva and caterpillars on a large scale and release them into the wild. You can do all of this.

  7. Oh please please pleeeeeeeeease may this really be happening! I have never wanted more to be wrong! Monsanto, if you truly are committed to helping our beloved Monarchs, I know you guys can do more than anyone else!!!!!

  8. You have the opportunity to gain great publicity and goodwill if you use some of your profits, influence, and knowledge to help bring milkweed back in the areas mentioned in your blog. I can imagine some of your older executives are pooh-poohing all of this fuss over a few butterflies. Don’t listen to them. Get a good public relations firm hired to get the message out and let the world know what you plan on doing. Monarch butterflies need help and Monsanto is in a great position to make a huge difference.

  9. A good place to grow milkweed “outside the farm” is on the millions of acres of backyard butterfly gardens found in communities across the country. While a “newly-formed coalition” sounds pretty cool, I don’t see that as being as good of a solution as everyone taking $10 down to their native plant nursery and putting a native milkweed plant in their backyard (or front yard). That’s why I took action last summer to self finance and start http://www.GrowMilkweedPlants.com and I have launched a new podcast to talk about how the native milkweed in my yard is so amazing. http://www.GrowMilkweedPlants.com/podcast I sent out hundreds of free seeds in a giveaway. If Monsanto would like to grow milkweed seed to distribute to growers then Monsanto may contact me at growmilkweedplants@gmail.com where I will be happy to distribute the seed in small batches to anyone looking to support monarch habitat.

      • You most mean tropical MW . It’s not toxic to the monarch . In the Midwest it is not native and will not survive the winter. It is not a good choice for the Midwest .

      • If you are referring to Asclepious curassavica you are making a false statement. If you read the single research project that suggests a problem it has to do with overwintering and vectoring OE. Please check your facts even before posting in a blog.

  10. I believe the Crop Reserve Program you cite should be the Conservation Reserve Program. It’s been around since 1985 but acres have declined due to reductions in the 2014 farm bill. If you were that familiar with conservation efforts, you’d know which program it was.

  11. Pingback: New initiative announced to save the monarch butterfly | Medill on the Hill

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