Wild Rice is a small, bushy plant that grows in shallow water and has long stems. It can be eaten fresh or cooked as part of a dish such as risotto.
It’s the seed from an annual grass native to North America. Wild rice grows best when it gets full sun, but will also tolerate partial shade. Its leaves are thick, dark green with serrated edges, which allow easy access into its seeds — they’re attached by a stalk at one end (the “husk”). The husks make harvesting easier than many other grains. This means you don’t have to peel them off by hand like regular rices. You just use your fingers to pull out the kernels inside. In general, the more mature, fully grown plants produce better-tasting grain.
The husk around each kernel protects it during germination. When planted, these kernels sprout roots along their length, eventually forming stalks above ground level. As this happens, the young wild rice pushes up through the soil. After about four weeks, the plants reach maturity. At this point, the stem separates itself from the root system. Then the plant starts producing new shoots until it dies back completely.
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So how does all of this relate to duck farming?
Well, there’s a big difference between growing wild rice for human consumption versus raising mallard drakes for meat production. If we want to eat the crop, then we need to harvest it before it reaches maturity. But if we raise ducks solely for food production purposes, then our objective is to let the plant come to fruition so that we get maximum yield per acre. To do this, we leave some plants unharvested until well after they’ve produced enough grain for ourselves. We only collect what we need and nothing else.
To understand why leaving the remainder of the crop behind helps us increase yields, consider the following scenario. Let’s say that we have 100 acres of land available for planting, 10 percent of which is devoted to wild rice. Our goal is to harvest 20 tons of grain over the course of three years. Since we know that the average weight of a single large ear of harvested wild rice is approximately 30 pounds, we calculate that we’ll need 3200 ears of grain to fill our target amount. Now imagine that we had planted half of those 100 acres toward filling that quota. That would mean that we’d only need 1600 additional ears of grain. So instead of having to work another 50 acres, we could focus exclusively on expanding our own area.
Another advantage of letting the grain ripen naturally is that it allows any weeds that may appear to take hold without competition. Also, because no chemicals are used to help the crop develop, we avoid potential contamination issues. And since wild rice doesn’t require much maintenance once it matures, we save money on labour costs. Because natural selection works against non-native species like ours, we can expect to see stronger growth and healthier crops. Finally, when people consume local foods, they feel connected to place and become less dependent upon outside sources. This makes it possible for them to appreciate where their food comes from and encourages sustainability.
If you live near marshy areas, you probably already have plenty of experience with wild rice. However, if you haven’t tried it yet, here are some tips on how to go about getting started.
Where to look for wild rice
First things first – Where should you look for wild rice? There are two main varieties that most farmers prefer: blackjack and red stem. Blackjacks were traditionally favoured by Native Americans who relied heavily on wild rice for sustenance. Red stems grew in abundance farther inland and were preferred by European settlers. Both types can withstand flooding, but red stems tend to fare slightly better under high water levels. Once you decide which type you’d like to cultivate, you can begin searching for suitable sites. A good rule of thumb is to locate places where you can find tall reeds and vegetation that provide ample cover for your plots.
Once you have settled on a location, dig holes twice as deep as the diameter of the rhizome (root) and set aside about 1/4 of your plot for cultivation. Next, chop down surrounding shrubs and cut away low hanging branches using wire cutters. Then spread wood ashes or lime across the newly cleared patch. Dig a trench perpendicular to the direction of your rows and lay down pieces of lumber (or bamboo poles), creating a raised bed. Fill in the trenches with wet burlap or shredded newspaper and tamp down firmly. For extra protection, add a layer of stones or gravel. Lastly, mix together compost and peat moss. Spread this mixture evenly over the entire surface of your beds. Note: Peat moss contains nutrients essential to healthy plant life.
Next, prepare the fields by removing existing foliage and debris. Use a tiller to loosen the topsoil, then till or hoe the soil thoroughly. Sprinkle fertilizer onto the furrows, covering the beds entirely. Cover the beds with plastic sheeting to protect them from rainwater runoff. Allow the soils to dry completely before replanting. Water carefully to prevent washing away of soil particles. During periods of drought, apply irrigation solutions directly to the beds.
Now that your beds are ready, it’s time to sow the seeds. Be sure to observe proper sowing procedures based on whether you choose blackjack or redstem. With both varieties, break open individual heads and separate the seed from the chaff. Plant the kernels according to size (smallest to largest). Set each head upright in the center of the row and space apart 5 inches. Sow multiple seeds every foot and thin laterally whenever necessary. Mix various strains of wild rice for variety and watch for signs of strong growth. Harvest regularly to ensure that the plants survive long enough to complete development.
Tips on growing wild rice
When selecting seeds, keep in mind that older plants generally produce higher quality products than younger ones. Look for kernels that aren’t shrivelled or cracked. Avoid plants that show obvious disease symptoms or are otherwise damaged. Select seeds that float freely rather than stuck within the husks.
In addition to making sure each kernel contains a germ, remember that it must contain a bran wall too. Although the outer hull might seem tough, it provides important nutritional value for developing embryos. Therefore try to remove this protective barrier. Simply pick a few kernels and rub them gently between your thumbs and forefingers. If a kernel cracks easily, chances are it won’t contain a viable embryo.
Before planting, soak the seeds overnight in warm water. Doing so releases enzymes needed for digestion and prevents bacteria build-ups. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry before setting them out.
Don’t worry if your field looks bare right after seeding! Plants usually establish themselves very quickly and start producing flowers soon afterward. Watch for tiny white blossoms called scapes to emerge from the tops of the plants. These serve as signposts indicating that the grains are ripe for picking.
Be careful not to damage the fragile seed heads while pulling the plants out of the ground. They can shatter and release their precious cargo. Gently shake loose kernels from the husks by grasping the base of the stalk and twisting counter clockwise. Don’t yank hard or risk tearing off the delicate husk.
Leave husked kernels exposed to air flow until they crack open naturally. Otherwise, they may harbour harmful microorganisms that cause spoilage.
Keep track of your progress by keeping detailed records. Monitor days remaining until harvest and record daily weights. Remember to include empty spaces in calculations to account for losses due to wind, birds, pests, etc.
After weighing final samples, compare results to expected totals. Adjust future harvests accordingly. Review past performance data to identify patterns and trends. Take note of weather conditions, pest activity, and seasonal changes.
As time goes on, you will notice that your fields turn increasingly yellowish due to excess amounts of chlorophyll. Keep monitoring this trend and adjust timing accordingly. Eventually, the grains will lose colour altogether, harvest anytime after this occurs.
Growing Rice for Ducks
If you have a pond or wetland, then there are probably all kinds of waterfowl that visit. Ducks especially love aquatic vegetation such as grasses and rushes. They also like other grains like corn (maize) and wheat, which can be grown in the same way as their native long-grasses. Wild rice is one of the best choices because it grows well, has good yields, requires little maintenance, and attracts many different types of wildlife — including ducks! This article gives tips on how to grow your own wild rice so that ducks will not only come visiting but actually stay around. It’s an easy process with minimal effort.
Wild rice must be planted during its first year after germination. The seed should be sown directly into the soil where it will eventually sprout up through the surface. If the seeds get buried under heavy soils, they won’t sprout at all. Also, if the ground dries out too much before planting, the seeds may die from drought stress. Soil moisture levels need to remain moderate throughout until the plant begins producing shoots. Once the plants start shooting above the soil level, they’ll require some protection against birds pecking away at them. Duckweed tends to cover the delicate leaves when they’re young as they mature, making them more attractive to hungry mouths. To protect the developing roots and stems, lay down floating row covers over the top of the plants. These small plastic sheets act as shields between the plants and any potential predators flying overhead. You could also try laying out strips of chicken wire along the edges of the field. When the ducklings hatch this summer, they’ll use these frames to walk across without getting stepped on by adults.
Another option would be to use scarecrows made of netting material. Scarecrow designs vary depending upon what type of animal you hope to deter. For example, don’t put sharp objects inside since they might hurt the animals’ feet. Instead, create tall cylindrical structures without openings that resemble giant bamboo stalks. Or you could make simple wooden frames about 8 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. Cover each frame with thin gauze fabric tied tightly together. Use black cloths or white bedsheets since colours aren’t very effective deterrents. In either case, be sure to leave holes near the bottom for ventilation. As soon as the chicks show interest, fill in the gaps with wood chips or shredded bark. Just remember to remove these barriers once the adult fowl begin using the area.
Once you’ve got your growing site established, it’s time to sow those wild rice seeds. First, take care to avoid crushing tiny seed heads. Then, spread the seeds evenly over the entire plot. Don’t forget to include areas right next to the shoreline where the young plants will be protected from predators who prefer to feed elsewhere. Afterward, tamp the ground lightly with your hands to help settle the loose soil. Water thoroughly with fish emulsion fertilizer or compost tea and let the fields dry completely. A few days later, apply another layer of dampened soil followed by a sprinkling of limestone. Repeat this step twice more within two weeks. Finally, wait three months before applying the last dose of nitrogen-based fertilizers. Over time, the duckweed will fall off the leaves while the new rice growth emerges. Keep checking every month or so to see whether you should add more nutrients. When you notice the first signs of green, cut back the foliage and allow sunlight to reach the emerging stem bases. By late July, the plants will produce enough sheaths that you can harvest the grain. Now comes the fun part: harvesting.
Do Ducks Eat Wild Rice?
Ducks and geese really enjoy eating wild rice, and they do so most often during migration periods when food sources become scarce. Their appetite helps maintain breeding populations, especially during wintertime lean times. One reason why ducks favour wild rice so much is because it contains carbohydrates that provide energy. Another factor contributing to their preference is that the grain becomes covered with insects. However, unlike most varieties of cultivated rice, wild rice doesn’t contain gluten. Gluten plays a critical role in forming strong bread products. Thus, people allergic to gluten shouldn’t consume wild rice even though it does taste similar to regular rice.
To collect the grain, simply pick over the stalks with your fingers.
Remove any remaining weeds and bits of dirt. Be careful to keep bugs off of the freshly harvested crop. And finally, store it carefully in paper bags or baskets indoors for safekeeping.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages farmers to experiment with intercropping systems. Intercropping means combining multiple crops in the same space at the same time. There are several benefits associated with this practice, including increased yield, improved nutrient cycling, pest control, and reduced costs. In terms of bird feeding, it’s important to understand that certain species of ducks tend to thrive better than others based on habitat preferences. Some breeds, such as drakes and teal, are partial to wetlands, whereas mallards, widgeons, pintails, and shovellers prefer shallow lakeshore habitats. Therefore, if you want to attract ducks to your property, consider planting different wild rice cultivars in combination. Here are just a couple ideas: combine short-, medium-, and long-grain rice for a variety of tastes and textures. Mix red and cream-colored rice with purple, blue, or pink ones. Plant red rice alongside pale yellow ones. Try mixing brown rice with golden ones. Lastly, mix dark rice with light ones.
Here’s a final tip: plan ahead for future harvests, and save some rice straw to toss onto newly-planted fields. Straw serves as an excellent mulch that enhances soil structure, promotes healthy root development, improves drainage, prevents weeds, and keeps moisture locked in.
So now you know everything you need to know about attracting ducks to your wild rice patch. Enjoy watching and listening to the resident flock feast on tasty treats provided courtesy of Mother Nature herself.