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.
The 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.