Plants and animals form the core of what comes to mind when we think about “environment.” These two resource concerns are at the heart of much of the conservation work done by NRCS to support healthy ecosystems.
Plants are the fabric which covers the soil. They hold the soil in place to reduce erosion and improve water quality. Plants provide our food, materials for shelter, fuel to warm us and replenish the air we breathe. Plants provide food for animals and habitat for wildlife.
Animals both large and small are a critical component to our environment. Domesticated animals, such as livestock, provide us food, fiber and leather. Wild animals, including birds, fish, insects and pollinators, are important to support the web of activity in a functioning ecosystem.
Healthy populations of plants and animals are critical for life. Invasive plants and pests can ruin crop fields and forests and drastically alter the natural processes of ecosystems.
NRCS develops technical information and guidance to assist conservationists and landowners with enhancing plant and animal populations and addressing invasive plant and pest concerns.
Insects and Pollinators
Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects. For more information about insects and pollinators visit: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/plantsanimals/pollinate/
The monarch is one of the most familiar butterflies in North America. The orange-and-black butterfly is known for its annual, multi-generational migration from Mexico to as far north as Canada. Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during the journey.
But 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. Agriculture and development have removed much of the native milkweed that once spanned the country.
Because monarch butterflies are always on the move, they need to have the right plants at the right time along their migration route. Caterpillars need to feed on milkweed to complete their life cycle, and adult butterflies need the right nectar producing plants in bloom for needed energy.
The Indiana NRCS Plant Materials Program is a dynamic program that addresses resource problems and concerns through the use of vegetation and vegetative techniques. The program assembles, tests, and releases plant materials for conservation materials: arranges for commercial production; and promotes the use of plant materials needed to meet the objectives and priorities established locally and nationally.