An adult spotted lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Bugwood)
Last year, an invasive pest known as the spotted lanternfly was found in the United States for the first time ever in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Tucked away in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Berks County may seem an unlikely location to find a foreign pest, but with today’s global economy unwanted pests can show up almost anywhere.
In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to stop this pest from spreading. APHIS has already contributed more than $1 million in Farm Bill funding to support the response effort in Pennsylvania, and PDA quickly established a quarantine area and regulated the movement of potential host material to help protect other communities. Read more »
NRCS has updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to enable farmers and ranchers to plant milkweed and other plants to help monarch butterflies. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.
An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Read more »
Thriving prairie with pollinator-friendly flowering plants, such as black-eyed susans, blooming.
James MacDonald owns 120 acres of rural land in Green County, Wisconsin. Through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), James expanded relic prairie on his land, including planting 3 acres of native pollinator mix through EQIP financial assistance. His prairie is in blossom all summer, with plants blooming at different times. “There are hundreds of prairie plants and they sort of pass off who’s in bloom, so from the end of the snow until the snow falls again there’s always something in bloom,” said James.
MacDonald says between his neighbors, there are about 100 hives within two miles of his property, so many bees use his prairie for food. James had a good idea of what bee-friendly mixes he wanted to plant so NRCS provided financial assistance, as well as technical assistance in site visits and checking to ensure his seed mix was adequate. Read more »
Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Photo: Ashton Ebarb.
“They’re in a happy mood today,” Jim Pratt, a local apiarist, said.
At a comfortable 62 degrees, honeybees buzz with a clear objective: collect nectar and pollen, for honey and pollination.
“Pollinators, like honeybees, support food crops,” Pratt said, explaining why for 20 years he’s raised honeybees.
Pratt’s Farm annually produces about 120 pounds of honey per colony. He maintains 100 colonies, collecting honey from them each spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the bees eat stored honey until warmer weather arrives. Read more »
A breadfruit tree owner poses in her home garden with ornamental plants (Photo by Diane Ragone, Breadfruit Institute)
Do you grow fruits and vegetables in your backyard or community garden? Do some of them come from trees?
Breadfruit, or ‘ulu, is an easy-to-grow, productive, nutritious, and starchy staple crop grown in many Pacific Islands, including Hawaii. It can be roasted, baked, boiled, fried or pounded into poi. In the past, many people grew breadfruit at home and in community gardens. However, many breadfruit trees have been cut down, especially in urban areas. Products such as breadfruit can have a helpful impact on Pacific islands such as Hawaii, imports about 85 percent of its food. Read more »
Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.
By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS
On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »