Riparian Buffers Can Make Good Pollinator Habitat

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Dana Schweitzer

Program Coordinator, Iowa Monarch Conservation Consortium

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach



Farmers and landowners who want to increase pollinator habitat while also improving water quality should consider the benefits of saturated riparian buffers enhanced with native wildflowers. Establishing pollinator habitat within riparian zones, where the agricultural value is lower and where the conservation and wildlife benefits are likely to be high can be a win-win.

As part of a four-year field demonstration, Schweitzer, Tom Isenhart and Steve Bradbury co-authored a new publication in September that helps landowners identify the best sites for buffers, the steps to establish a buffer with pollinator habitat and the programs available to help with funding and technical information. “Establishing and Managing Pollinator Habitat on Saturated Riparian Buffers” is a four-page publication available on the ISU Extension and Outreach Store.

Seeding a new or existing buffer with native perennials takes planning, and Schweitzer said landowners should plan at least a year ahead of putting native seed in the soil. Some areas, such as those that have been in a corn-soybean rotation for several years, typically have less weed pressure and are easier to transition. Other areas, including those with cool-season grasses require more upfront weed management prior to planting a native seed mix. The publication also outlines the anticipated costs for establishing pollinator habitat over a buffer by comparing different types of site locations, seed and labor costs. 

The publication provides multiple resources, including ISU Extension and Outreach’s Questions and Answers about Saturated Buffers for the Midwest, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Working Lands for Monarch Butterflies fact sheet. County-level resources are also available on the ISU Extension and Outreach’s Wildlife Habitat Programs and Consultation website.

Date of Publication: 
November, 2019