Establishing Sustainable Milkweed Populations and Expanding Capacity to Collect and Propogate Local Ecotype Seed or Public Lands in Central Missouri

Principal Investigators: Eric Kurzejeski, Dr. Larry Vangilder

Institution and/or Affiliation: University of Missouri

Project Description:

Objective 1: Ensuring sustainable populations of milkweeds exist within the restored prairie to benefit monarchs and other pollinators.
Objective 2: Using the infrastructure, land base, and skills of the PFCA partners to produce and collect local source milkweed seed and propagate plants.

We propose to establish a minimum of 200 milkweed plants per acre, or 8,000 plants, across PFCA. Establishing and sustaining 200 milkweed plants per acre is the current goal defined in the draft Missouri Monarch and Pollinator Conservation Plan (Missourians for Monarchs Collaborative Steering Committee 2016). The draft plan clearly identifies the importance of public land to the sustainable propagation of milkweed. The plan establishes a goal of planting and preserving 19,000 acres annually with at least 200 milkweed stems per acre for the next 20 years. Sustainability has the greatest chance for success on lands devoted to conservation, and priority is placed on milkweed plantings on public lands.

To be successful, we need to increase the capacity for 1) the collection of local ecotype milkweed seed and 2) for growing milkweed plants/plugs. Half of the seed propagation (4,000 plants) will occur at the MDC-owned George O. White State Nursery (bare root plant production), and the other half through the use of local commercial growers to produce 4,000 milkweed plugs. Planting of plugs and bare root plants will occur in the spring of 2017. Planting will be done by hand using modified dibble bars for bare root stock and plugs.

Milkweed plant survival, by species and overall, will be monitored annually on 10 1 m2 plots randomly located within each 1-acre planting. Survival will be correlated with management practice (burning, herbicide, or both) and age of prairie planting (range = 1-12 years) to assess the best management strategies for incorporating milkweed into the restored prairie.

The benefit of the milkweed plantings to monarch populations will be assessed by monitoring the monarch egg masses on milkweed plants from July-October in both 2017 and 2018. Plants will be sampled in 10 1 m2 plots randomly located in the 1-acre nursery patches. We will use this metric as a surrogate to assess local monarch use of plantings and the potential impact on monarch abundance. Data on egg masses will be incorporated into the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project.