This year's wild rice crop is expected to be below average in most parts of central and northern Minnesota but conditions should still be good for ducks, according to Rod Ustipak, who coordinates the Cooperative Wild Rice Management Project.
The cooperative project between Ducks Unlimited and the DNR is a key component of DU's Living Lakes Initiative and DNR's Shallow Lakes Program. Each year the project monitors 150 wild rice lakes in Minnesota and actively manages 100 Minnesota wild rice lakes to improve fall and spring duck migration habitat.
Although spring was late this year, water levels were generally low due to a lack of runoff. This allowed wild rice plants in many wetlands to get off to a good start throughout the state. However, torrential spring rains in many areas uprooted rice plants and caused crop loss on several of the best producing rice lakes later in the spring. This was especially true on lakes in large watersheds and those associated with river systems that are subject to greater and more frequent water level fluctuations.
However, there still is a fair amount of "duck rice" around according to Ustipak.
"Wild rice that is too thin or short to harvest by humans still provides good waterfowl brood and migration habitat, as well as seed and aquatic invertebrate food resources for ducks," he said.
"Wild rice production is probably above average in our area overall, but the number of harvestable wild rice stands below average," said Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife manager in Tower.
A below average wild rice seed crop is not all bad for waterfowl according to Ustipak.
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