Monarch butterfly on flower in Iowa

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association)

Consider an on-farm habitat

June 1, 2023 | Kriss Nelson

Look around your farm or field. Are there areas that aren’t attractive? Perhaps you’re tired of mowing around grain bins, outbuildings, ponds, or other areas unsuitable for crop production.

Transforming those areas into a pollinator habitat is simple and may be eligible for financial assistance.

As part of an Endangered Species Pilot Project, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), Syngenta, and other partners are working with landowners on a native prairie restoration project to restore habitat for the rusty patched bumblebee.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service categorized the insect as endangered in 2017.

Brandon Iddings, ISA field service program manager for conservation resources, is helping to facilitate the project in priority zones established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Iddings says high-priority zones include parts of Story, Boone and Jasper Counties and northeastern and east-central Iowa areas.

Iddings works with landowners to choose a site and hire a contractor to prepare the ground, which includes killing current grasses and weeds and a fall drilling of seed.

The following spring, the landowner must mow the plot. Mowing twice a year for about two years will help establish a strong habitat, he says.

“This helps the native plants compete and gives them time to grow and get established,” says Iddings. “Once they are established, there will be a thick stand of prairie grasses and prairie forbs.”

Water and soil quality benefits

Native prairie restoration projects are suitable habitats for other pollinator species, and provide food and shelter for wildlife. It also provides water and soil health benefits.

“These may not act as well as other edge-of-field practices, but the water that goes into these habitats, is typically successfully treated,” says Iddings.

If properly placed, these habitats can act as a buffer strip.

“These plants are deep-rooted and could help hold soil,” Iddings says. “So if you have concerns about an eroding stream bank, pollinator plots could help slow water movement.”

For more information on habitat restoration, in or out of the project area, contact Iddings at or call 515-729-0039.