Waterfowl will find more winter wheat on the landscape this spring when they return to North Dakota's prairie pothole country. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, North Dakota
growers planted 700,000 acres of winter wheat last fall, a 75 percent increase over the previous year's acreage.
Jason Riopel, a DU agronomist in Minot, attributed the increase in winter wheat acres to the extremely wet conditions faced by farmers last spring and summer. "Some areas finally dried out in the fall to the point that farmers were able to get into their fields,” Riopel said. "Winter wheat was a good fit for many farmers, and they are hoping last year's excess moisture will help produce a good crop this spring.”
Winter wheat, which is planted in the fall, often provides more secure nesting habitat for pintails and other waterfowl than spring-seeded crops. Winter Cereals Sustainability in Action (WCSIA), a collaborative effort between Ducks Unlimited and Bayer CropScience, is funding research examining waterfowl use and nesting success in winter wheat.
"Preliminary results from 2010 and 2011 field research show that waterfowl nest densities appear to be about the same in winter wheat and perennial cover,” said Dr. Johann Walker, DU's director of conservation planning in the Great Plains region.
This research will continue this spring and summer. WCSIA also provides agronomic research and extension services to winter wheat producers in the Dakotas. For more information on winter wheat or WCSIA, visit www.wintercereals.us