Usually insects are considered the “enemy” of the farmers. But did you know that only a small percentage of the insects are actual pests? Sometimes it is just one particular pest that is damaging your crop. If we were to deploy chemical warfare because of the pest, inadvertently we may affect the 95 percent which are benign or beneficial.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley is a very special place. With an average mean temperature of about 72 degrees and nearly 325 days of sun, the Lower RGV where our farm is located enjoys the longest growing season in the United States. Temperate and tropic climates meet here, as do the major Mississippi and Central bird flyways.
Our unique area serves as habitat to over 300 species of butterflies and 500 bird species. This is THE birding central and butterfly hot spot of USA.
According to NABA, North American Butterfly Association, over 95% of this natural habitat has been eroded and the rest endangered due to agricultural, industrial, and urban development. Planting a butterfly garden in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is one way to help restore some of the habitat that has been lost to development and provide resources for wild butterflies to thrive and grow. Another way is for a grower like us to make changes in our practices so that we can restore the lost habitat.
Over the past years since we took over the 1500 acre conventional farm in south Texas, we have slowly but surely, implemented proper restorations.
Transition over 400 acres to certified USDA organic land.
Dramatically reduced the amount of chemical inputs in the entire farm.
Increased plant diversity by moving away from monoculture.
Incorporated insectary strips to increase biodiversity and provide habitat for insects.
Restoring soil health by using cover crops.
When we made the above changes at the farm, we started to see more productivity and vigor in the plants. A plant pathologist visited our farm and told me that because different plants have varying root structures, increasing the diversity, and placing them to others, actually will improve the crop as well as the soil structure.
Whatever is the science behind it, we are happy to see that our commitment to restoration and regeneration is making changes and capturing attention of others who are also concerned for our environment and its future.
Finally, I will share with you a very beautiful wild plant that serves as a host for the migrating Monarch Butterflies. These climbing milkweed plants are native to our area. In order to encourage their growth, we leave native trees and bush hedges around the field.
You can make a difference by making your own garden into a butterfly habitat. The NABA website has valuable information. http://nababutterfly.com/ You can also contact the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for plants you can place in your area. https://www.wildflower.org/plants-main
You will be rewarded with beautiful butterflies visiting your home!