wild rice - duck candy
HOW TO MOVE A FLYWAY
So, here we were in 1990 with a newly purchased run down farm. My wife Kathy wanted a house in the woods and I wanted a duck marsh. We settled on this 160 acres of land on the east side of the Willamette Valley near Brownsville, Oregon. It had a 20 acre hillside covered with mature Douglas firs and Big Leaf maples and 140 acres of poorly drained farm ground (6’’ of clayey top soil with blue clay extending for a few feet below that). I could visualize duck ponds extending for a quarter mile below the cabin in the woods.
Tom Isom, in his late 80's, had a little house across the road. He told me stories of thousands of ducks and geese flying over his fields each winter in the old days.
We had a seasonal creek running through our new property. That first winter I was so excited to see one flight of 14 Mallards fly up that creek.
The following summer I accepted the challenge and built my first pond. I planted wild millet and waited for the rains to come and the creek to run. In December the rains came and the pond filled. Lo and behold, DUCKS. Not tons, but over the next weeks, first a few, then 30 or 40 and then a hundred. I hunted that pond 7 or 8 times that winter. I didn't get limits, but always got at least a few.
Within the next 3 to 4 years I constructed half a dozen ponds from a couple of acres in size to 10 acres each. AND THEN, I DISCOVERED WILD RICE. By year 6, I had built a dozen ponds, had planted Wild Rice in all and began to move our local flyway. At the peak of the migration during our waterfowl season, I now had 4,000 to 5,000 ducks and hundreds of Canada geese frequenting my ponds.
The traditional local flyway was located 20 miles west of our property. It was on the west side of the Willamette Valley across three major highways and the Willamette River and home to 5 large waterfowl refuges. For 50 to 75 years ducks and geese used this and the surrounding farmland as they migrated south. Now with 50 acres of flooded WILD RICE lots of birds had changed course and we now had some of the best shooting in the valley.
POND OF BLOOMING WILD RICE
WHERE TO GROW IT, HOW TO GROW IT AND HOW NOT TO GROW IT
Wild Rice is in the grass family, not a grain like white rice. It grows naturally in the northern tier of states but Wild Rice is native to the USA and can be grown anywhere in the USA.
WILD RICE FACTS
The seed needs to remain wet or at least damp from harvest to planting.
The seed cannot be held in storage for multiple years.
The seed requires a dormant period where it must remain cold and wet (mid 30's) for a few months to be able to sprout in the spring.
It will begin sprouting at 42 degrees.
In most of the US it will sprout, mature and make hard seed in 120 days or less.
Water is your weed control. The optimum water depth is 12'' to 18''.
Generally, north of a line drawn from North Carolina through Oklahoma to Northern California, Wild Rice seed, if kept wet or damp, will break dormancy if planted in the fall and will volunteer for multiple years.
South of this line you will need to plant seed in the spring. Fall planted seed will not get cold enough for long enough to allow it to germinate in the spring. We keep the seed wet and in cold storage for the winter so it will be ready for ''southerners'' to plant in the spring. Also, it will probably not volunteer for multiple years.
In the northern tier of mid west states (Mi, Mn, Wi) there may be a need to plant in moving water because of the high levels of tannic acid present. This is caused by trees, particularly oaks, in the watershed. You can generally recognize if this is an issue by dark color of the water.
We grow some of our Wild Rice at an elevation of 4,400 ft. Even though the growing season is only 59 days (frost to frost), it still has its 120 days to mature because the plant spends its first 30 to 40 days under water and its last 30 days in or surrounded by water that keeps the rice warmer during the cold nights.
The higher the elevation, the more important it is that water in spring and summer be under 24''.
Wild Rice will shatter and fall from the plant when ripe. In the North this is your volunteer seed for next year. It will break dormancy on its own and sprout in spring. Once you have a crop that the ducks feed in, they WON'T eat it all. Generally when feeding in the fall crop they ''walk in'' plenty for next spring. Also, you will generally have a better crop in the 2nd year than the 1st year planting.
Because in the south it is too warm in the winter for Wild Rice seed to break dormancy naturally, you will need to plant seed each spring. Generally, the earlier the better.
A sloped field is best as you can control where birds feed. They prefer to feed in shallowly flooded crop. You can make feed last for most of the season by adjusting the water levels.
Be patient, in water 42 to 50 degrees, it will be slow to sprout. It may be 2 or 3 weeks before you see the first sprouts under water. When water reaches mid 60's rice will grow rapidly. You should begin to see the first floating leaves after 30 to 40 days, as the warmer temps are reached.
It will not grow in water or soil with high salinity or high alkalinity.
Wild Rice grows best in slightly acid soil.
WILD RICE IN BOTH THE
FLOATING AND AERIAL STAGE.
WHERE AND HOW TO GROW WILD RICE
Methods listed in order of best success.
We don't list any likely to fail procedures but may have missed other likely successful methods.
Method #1- The best conditions for growing Wild Rice would be in an impoundment or pond where you can control the water level. The ideal situation would be to dry it out in late summer, work the ground, spin spread 50 to 100 lbs of seed on, cultipack it in and roll with a sprocket roller. Optimum seeding depth is 1'' to 2'' inches and no more than 3''. Now flood the pond to a depth of 12'' to 18''. The following spring the seed sprouts. Around the 4th of July you have a beautiful solid stand of Wild Rice that is blooming and going to produce about 2,500 lbs of seed per acre by Sept. Method #1 will only be successful north of that parallel mentioned earlier. This fall planted seed must get cold during the winter to break dormancy before it will sprout in the spring.
If the best way isn't possible, that doesn't mean you can't grow a great crop.
Method #2- If you don't have good water access but the ground dries by summer's end, use the same method as method #1 and let the rains or high water fill area. Generally, even when the soil appears very dry, as long as the seed remains in good contact with the soil, the ambient moisture content of the soil is high enough to keep seed viable. (Rolling after planting really helps keep it in contact with the soil.)
Method #3- If you are south of the parallel and have water control and can work the ground in the spring, you can use plan #1. Order Wild Rice seed in the spring. We will have stored it wet and cold for the winter to break dormancy, so it's ready to sprout.
#1 #2 & #3- When prepping soil work in 50 to 100 lbs of fertilizer 46-0-0.
FERTILIZING THE FIELD BEFORE WORKING UP GROUND. DISKING UP THE WILD RICE FIELD.
SPIN SPREADING WILD RICE SEED ONTO SURFACE. CULTIPAKING THE WILD RICE SEED INTO THE GROUND.
Method #4- If you have a pond that never goes dry but is 8'' to 36'' deep or has portions of it that are that depth during the critical growing season, you can spread Wild Rice seed right on the water. It will sink to the bottom and will begin to sprout when water temp reaches 42 degrees. If in the north you can plant in the fall or winter even in deep water, as long as the water shallows during the prime growing season, you should have success. When planting in the fall in the north it is advisable to plant just before freeze-up. This insures less bird depredation.
In the south, the same applies, but you must let us break dormancy. Order your Wild Rice seed to be delivered as early as January.
If you don't see your particular situation listed, call Chris at 541-466-5309. He is loaded with great information and advice.
GRIFFEN ROGERS SPIN SPREADING WILD RICE SEED INTO POND.
HERE ARE SOME PITFALLS TO WATCH FOR
A – If your pond bottom is sand, the seed may have trouble rooting or holding the plants down.
B – If you have planted by broadcasting the seed on the water and your pond is shallow and clear, one pair of mallards can eat a half acre of rice seed in two weeks. If planted, cultipacked, and rolled, even with clear water, this shouldn't be an issue
C – If there are carp in the water where you plant, they will root out sprouting rice plants and muddy the water.
D – Too much other aquatic vegetation can crowd out Wild Rice.
E - As mentioned earlier, alkalinity or too high a salinity can stunt or kill your crop.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS AND INFORMATION
We've worked on our wildlife area for 30 years. I've purchased more land, mostly adjacent to our starter 160 acres. Over the years I've constructed over 150 ¼ acre to 30 acre ponds. We now have a neighbor who purchased 340 acres next to us. His mission is to create a wetland and upland wildlife area of his entire property. Also, an avid duck hunter, his passion is as great as mine. In the past months my neighbor and now friend Scott and I have leased another 600 acre wetland reserve project. This acreage has over 300 acres of winter ponds and no hot food. Our plan is to keep this as a resting area and a waterfowl refuge. Scott, after watching thousands of birds feeding on our Wild Rice last season, has decided to plant 14 acres of rice on his hunting area. Good news, the more feed available, the more fat ducks.
DUCK FOODS WE NOW PLANT
These plants are listed in order of duck attracting ability and nutrition.
WILD RICE (Visit our website to view an instructional planting video)
SMARTWEED (These first 3 species-- ducks will come back multiple times, maybe weeks apart, to forage for more seed.)
AND MANY, MANY MORE
Ducks like a variety of food. The more varieties you can plant in or adjacent to your ponds the more waterfowl you will attract.
My passion continues for duck hunting and wetland conservation. My super supportive wife, Kathy, and I are passing this onto our son, grandchildren (they all grew up participating in the development of River Refuge Wildlife Area and the seed business) and now our great grandchildren.
WILD RICE WAS THE START AND THE KEY TO OUR SUCCESS
- Dave Rogers
A SUCCESSFUL HUNT OVER FLOODED WILD RICE