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Conservation Corner

Farmers Can ‘Bee’ a Friend to Pollinators

Mon, June 25, 2018

A good article by Justin Fritscher, NRCS in Animals, Conservation, Farming   that I would like to share with you.

Did you know what’s good for bees, butterflies and other pollinators can also be good for your bottom line? Through a variety of USDA conservation programs, farmers and ranchers can manage for top-notch pollinator habitat while also improving their operations.

Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators, such as bees, bats, beetles and butterflies, to reproduce. Pollinators are critical to our food supply. More than 30 percent of the world’s food and flowering plants, including 130 fruits and vegetable plants, depend on insect pollination. Scientists credit insect pollinators for one out of every three bites of food eaten.

While pollinators are a critical foundation of our food chain, many species are in trouble. Pollinators face many challenges in the modern world. Habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants have all contributed to the decline of many species of pollinators.

Honey bees and native bees are estimated to support $18 to $27 billion in crop yields each year in the United States.

You Can Help

Agricultural producers and private landowners can use conservation practices to help pollinators by creating and enhancing habitat and protecting this habitat from exposure to pesticides. Two-thirds of the land in the United States is privately owned, and the land management decisions of producers and landowners impact pollinators.

Good for the Farm

Honey bees and native bees are estimated to support $18 to $27 billion in crop yields each year in the United States. Pollinators play a key role in healthy agricultural landscapes, helping private landowners increase and improve the quality of their crop yields and the health and vigor of their landscape – which can lead to higher profits.

Those benefits motivate landowners’ investments in conservation to support pollinators because the same efforts that help benefit their operation also combats the threats to pollinators dwindling population.

Bruce Reynolds and Julie Hoffman manage for plant diversity on their Oklahoma ranch, which provides better food for cattle and pollinators.

Available USDA Assistance

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers more than three dozen conservation practices that can benefit pollinators. While many of these practices may target improving grazing lands or reducing soil erosion, simple tweaks can yield big benefits for pollinator species.

For example, on croplands, farmers can integrate pollinator-friendly tweaks on their land, such as hedgerows and field borders. And on grazing lands, ranchers can manage for more diversity, which provides top-notch forage for livestock and habitat for pollinators.

Good pollinator habitat consists of healthy stands of high-value pollen and nectar plants. Some pollinators have additional habitat needs, including caterpillar host plants for butterflies, and nest sites and overwintering areas for native bees.

NRCS conservationists and wildlife biologists as well as conservation partners like Xerces offer technical assistance to help producers develop a conservation plan and select which conservation practices are the best fit for their land. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program can provide financial assistance to help cover the cost of implementing those practices.

Meanwhile, USDA’s Farm Service Agency – through the Conservation Reserve Program—helps farmers who want to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to native landscapes by planting native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips or riparian buffers.

USDA has a wide variety of options for landowners wanting to improve pollinator habitat on their land while improving the bottom line of their operation.

USDA has a wide variety of options for landowners wanting to improve pollinator habitat on their land while improving the bottom line of their operation.

Learn More

Applications for assistance are reviewed, ranked and funded several times per year. Contact your local USDA service center to learn more about these programs. You can also learn more by visiting as well as visiting our multimedia story, “Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies.”



Delay mowing of roadsides

Mon, June 25, 2018

In the last month, I was enjoying the tall smooth bromegrass roadsides in Elm Grove Township of Tazewell county where I live as I drove home and to work.  I enjoy seeing the unmowed roadsides as it provides nesting habitat for wildlife.  In addition I have seen black eyed Susans and milkweed emerging after mowing ceased. 

The monarch butterfly needs milkweed plants as that is it s sole food source.  I recently was doing a farm visit and pointed out the numerous milkweed growing in the grassed waterway.  The farmer had not noticed and was unaware of the monarch needing the milkweed as a food source.  Impression I got was he was going to leave that milkweed patch alone.

Back to the subject of mowing roadsides.  Recently on a Sunday a neighbor messenged me about how she was trying to get a lot of neighbors in the subdivision to call the road commissioner to complain about the unmowed roadsides in the township.  I responded that NO I would not be calling to complain, that I enjoy seeing the roadsides un mowed and saving our tax dollars on the unnecessary mowing.  Leaving the roadsides for wildlife. 

Speaking of mowing roadsides, I recently received the following article from Pheasants Forever Biologist Amber Nicole Baker.  I wanted to share it with you.

Delay mowing of roadside ditches to protect ground nesting birds, pollinators

Iowa law prohibits mowing roadside ditches each year between March 15 and July 15, to protect ground-nesting birds and to prevent nest destruction.

Roadside ditches, while not optimal habitat, can be the only grassy habitat available in certain areas of the state for ground-nesting birds. As spring progresses, ground-nesting birds, like eastern and western meadowlarks, Dickcissels, field and song sparrows, quail, gray partridge, and pheasants, will use these marginal areas to incubate eggs and rear their young. The vegetation is also important to pollinators collecting nectar and for milkweed development that is critical for monarch caterpillars.

“It would help the cause if mowing was voluntarily delayed beyond the July 15 date to protect the late nesters and monarchs,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa DNR. He said an estimated 21 percent of pheasant nests are still active on July 15; that drops to 7 percent on August 1.

“It’s not the best habitat but we need to protect it for the wildlife that does depend on it.”

There are some exceptions to the law, however.

Mowing roadside vegetation on the right of way or medians of any primary highway, interstate highway or secondary road may be allowed prior to July 15 under the following exceptions:

 Within 200 yards of an inhabited dwelling.
 On right of way within one mile of the corporate limits of a city.
 To promote native species of vegetation or other long-lived and adaptable vegetation.
 To establish control of damaging insect populations, noxious weeds, and invasive plant species.
 For visibility and safety reasons.
 Within rest areas, weigh stations and wayside parks.
 Within 50 feet of a drainage tile or tile intake.
 For access to a mailbox or for other accessibility purposes.
 On right of way adjacent to agricultural demonstration or research plots.

Violations on county or secondary roads should be reported to the county engineer or roadside manager in the country where it occurred; violations on state highways or interstate highways should be directed to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Mowing is allowed to resume after July 15.


Cover that expensive soil, don’t let it blow away.

Tue, May 01, 2018

I had a discussion with a local farmer who told me that some cropland in Tazewell County recently went for $15,000 an acre at an auction!  With land costing that much why would you allow it to erode and be subject to wind erosion?

Another farmer commented on how after the dust storms last year that he gained more top soil on his farm because he was using cover crops and no till.  However his neighbors were not so their topsoil was blowing onto his land. 

In the last couple of days, I have heard about a 20 car pile up out in Nebraska on the interstate that caused a death.  Totally unneeded, all because of the cropland being worked for planting and not being covered with no till and cover crops to hold the soil in place.

Over the weekend, there was a dirty rain overnight that carried topsoil with it from the west and covered cars from Central Illinois to Chicago.  Chicago meteorologists were talking about this coming from out west. 

How can you help hold your soil in place?  Read the attached link for more information.


NRCS is always taking applications for EQIP for cover crops, no till, strip till and other conservation practices.  CSP can also help with no till, strip till and cover crops. Contact your local USDA NRCS Service Center for more information.