Iowa farmers ripped out prairie; now some hope it can save them

by Daryl Fears

A prairie strip filled with black-eyed Susans lies next to soybeans on Smith's farm. Photo: Andrew Dickinson/The Washington Post
A prairie strip filled with black-eyed Susans lies next to soybeans on Smith’s farm.   Most farmers say the Midwestern prairie chokes crops. But, according to Iowa State University researchers, the wild thicket protects soil from erosion and serves as habitat for hundreds of species, including the threatened Monarch butterfly. Photo: ©Andrew Dickinson/The Washington Post

There’s a wild presence in Tim Smith’s corn and soybean field that most farmers kill on sight. He stopped at the edge of a Midwestern prairie, a thicket of tall flowers and grasses more frightening to farmers than any horror movie madman lurking in a barn with a chain saw.