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Researchers working to find duck nests in winter wheat fields

Winter Cereals: Sustainability in Action nesting research underway
Photo caption: Research crews search for duck nests using ATVs with a rope tied between them. 

GARRISON, ND, June 21, 2010 – Residents near Garrison and Minot, N.D. may wonder what people on All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are doing driving around in winter wheat fields. Crews of research technicians, employed by Ducks Unlimited (DU), this summer are searching the fields for duck nests. They will monitor the nests to determine whether the hens successfully hatch their eggs.

“This study will show us how beneficial winter wheat is to nesting waterfowl,” said Dr. Scott Stephens, DU director of conservation planning. “With the knowledge we gain from this research, DU and its conservation partners can design programs that provide economic benefits for landowners while maintaining healthy duck populations.”

Earlier research by Ducks Unlimited Canada found that nests in winter wheat were 24 times more likely to hatch than nests in spring-planted crops. This new research effort looks to confirm similar nesting success in the United States. The project is part of the Winter Cereals: Sustainability in Action initiative, a comprehensive effort between DU and Bayer CropScience to promote planting winter wheat in the Dakotas.

“Because winter wheat is planted in the fall, it is more beneficial to waterfowl than spring-seeded crops because there is less disruption during peak nesting times,” Stephens said.

Research crews will monitor a sample of duck nests in Mountrail, Ward and McLean counties in winter wheat, spring wheat and perennial grass fields. The research will assess and compare duck nest density and survival among the cover types. Crews are also monitoring predator activity on the study sites using trail cameras that automatically take photos of animals as they pass by the camera.

To find nests, researchers make passes across fields with a length of rope stretched between two ATVs. The rope rides on top of the wheat or grass, and when it passes over a duck sitting on a nest, the hen flushes and the nest can be located. Researchers record the species of duck, the number and age of the eggs and habitat characteristics at each nest. The nest is then inconspicuously marked so the researchers can revisit the nest every four to five days to determine whether the eggs have hatched or been destroyed.

“Many private landowners in the area have graciously provided access to their land for this research,” Stephens said. “Without their assistance, this work would not be possible.”

Winter Cereals:Sustainability in Action is a program of Ducks Unlimited and Bayer CropScience.

About Ducks Unlimited
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved in North America. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres important to waterfowl each year. In Canada, up to 70 percent of wetlands have disappeared in settled areas and wetland loss continues at an alarming rate.
Additional information about Ducks Unlimited U.S. is available at: www.ducks.org.

About Bayer CropScience
Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer CropScience AG, a subsidiary of Bayer AG with annual sales of about EUR 5.8 billion (2007), is one of the world’s leading innovative crop science companies in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and plant biotechnology. The company offers an outstanding range of products and extensive service backup for modern, sustainable agriculture and for non-agricultural applications. Bayer Crop¬Science has a global workforce of about 17,800 and is represented in more than 120 countries.
Further information on Bayer CropScience Canada is available at: www.bayercropscience.ca
Further information on Bayer CropScience US is available at: www.bayercropscienceus.com
Related:  north dakota

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