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Posts tagged: NRCS

The Mississippi River: Mending the Mighty from North to the Gulf

Brian Parkinson working with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land

Brian Parkinson grows cereal rye and other varieties of cover crops near Milan, Ill. Parkinson works with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

The mighty Mississippi – it’s a river with a history of romance and enchantment. Native Americans depended on the Mississippi River for food and water, and world explorers came in search of its riches.

Over time, farmsteads dotted the land, and small towns grew to large cities. Today, we see the fruits of our labor as industry, commerce and agriculture continue to thrive in the basin. But those successes come with environmental challenges. Many of the basin’s waterways suffer from poor water quality. Read more »

Updated USDA Program Enables Farmers and Ranchers to Help Monarch Butterflies

A monarch butterfly on a flower

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 »

Wisconsin: Pollinator Week Highlights Addition of Bee-Friendly Prairie Habitat

Thriving prairie with black-eyed susans

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 »

Wisconsin: Pollinator Week Highlights Buzzing Success of Local Beekeeper

A honey bee on a plant

Implementing conservation practices on lands will help provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees, like the one pictured.

Pam Gasper, of Chaseburg, Wisconsin, has been a bee keeper for the past three years. She recently restored 2 acres on her property to include natural habitat for bees through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). A dry summer and harsh winter in 2014 caused Pam to lose two of her three honey bee hives. She’s done her research, received technical and financial assistance from NRCS, and made some proactive changes for 2015. Pam is expecting a good harvest and “sweet reward” due to financial and technical assistance through EQIP from NRCS. She’s a strong advocate for the program and said the sign-up process was smooth and worth it.

NRCS staff provided financial assistance through EQIP and also the technical assistance Pam needed, including, site visits, a planting plan, providing options for obtaining seeds, and completing the final inspection of the successful planting just last week. Technical and financial assistance from agencies such as USDA−NRCS and programs like EQIP work to assist land users in accomplishing their goals. Read more »

Celebrating a World of Benefits from a Dwindling Resource

A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gathering nectar from a showy milkweed

A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo: John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

Tomorrow, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is joining the festivities at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival in honor of National Pollinator Week. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles and other animals play a critical role in the production of fruit or seeds, including plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine.

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. But despite their value, pollinator populations are dwindling due to threats of habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants. That’s why farmers and ranchers are doing their part to improve the health of pollinators while providing benefits to the environment. Producers have worked with NRCS to voluntarily apply conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land because they know people and pollinators depend on each other for survival. Read more »

Protecting Pollinators through Habitat Conservation is Critical to Preserving Food Supply

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen

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 »