Wheat, Wildlife Lessons in Sustainability

February 11, 2012 04:56 AM

Take a crop that’s relatively new to an area and throw in some genetic variation and a pair of Mallard ducks. What do you get? Profits and duck eggs, if Bayer CropScience and Ducks Unlimited (DU) have anything to do with it.

Green winter wheat makes an ideal springtime nesting habitat for ducks, since the fields remain undisturbed compared with tractor and planter activity in spring wheat fields.

Bayer and DU’s Winter Cereals: Sustainability in Action initiative spans the eastern halves of South and North Dakota and parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, Canada.

The difference for the ducks is drastic: Nest hatching success is up to 24 times greater in winter wheat fields, according to Blake Vander Vorst, senior agronomist for DU in Bismarck, N.D. In an area where 70% of all North American waterfowl nest, the collective benefits for Bayer, Northern Plains farmers and the ducks could be huge.

That’s not all. The partnership is also a working model for agricultural sustainability. Using new measurement tools such as return on investment ratios and cost-benefit, risk and life cycle analysis, tweaked with natural resource values, the Winter Cereals program might become the template for determining the sustainability of an activity or business.

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