The conservation group Ducks Unlimited reports that summer stands of wild rice in northern Minnesota are surprisingly widespread and abundant, although they wont reach the level of last years bumper crop, according to preliminary field reports.
DU works closely with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to maintain good wild rice habitat on shallow lakes in northern Minnesota.
The size of the crop is great news for both human rice harvesters and waterfowl, according to the DU news release. Providing good food and habitat for migrating ducks is an important part of the DU Living Lakes initiative and the DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan.
"We are enhancing wild rice stands for ducks and humans in the fall, as well as benefiting migrating ducks in the spring," Jon Schneider, DUs manager of conservation programs in Minnesota, said in a prepared statement. "Wild rice lakes provide important seed and invertebrate food resources ducks need as they migrate through Minnesota to northern breeding areas. Wild rice also improves the quality of breeding habitat in Minnesotas our forest shallow lakes."
Wild rice got off to a good start this spring due to favorable low water conditions, DU reports. However, an extended cool, wet weather period in May delayed germination and growth by about two weeks. As a result, many plants appear shorter than normal and seed production in the north will be about two weeks later than average.
"I was concerned about wild rice in spring, but Im quite pleased with what I see so far, at least for the ducks, which should have plenty of rice again this fall," Perry Loegering, Minnesota DNR area wildlife manager in Grand Rapids, said in a prepared statement.
But the late germination may leave rice plants shorter than usual and with reduced yield, according to Rod Ustipak, contract coordinator for the cooperative wild rice lake management program.
"People interested in harvesting wild rice will have to scout harder than usual to find good picking conditions in Minnesota this year," Ustipak said in a prepared statement.