Sup­port­ing crops and wildlife

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

A new joint project which aims to break tra­di­tional views of wa­ter use and see the pre­cious nat­u­ral re­source de­liver out­comes for both the environment and agri­cul­ture was launched in July.

Wa­ter for Wildlife and Rice was a con­cept pro­posed by Cald­well farmer Peter McDon­ald af­ter see­ing once thriv­ing rice crop habi­tats re­duced to bare, life­less pad­docks.

Mr McDon­ald teamed up with West­ern Mur­ray Land Im­prove­ment Group, Rice­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia and oth­ers to for­mu­late the project.

It has since at­tracted part­ners in­clud­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s Farm­ing To­gether ini­tia­tive.

A crowd­fund­ing cam­paign seek­ing to raise $12,000 was also launched, in or­der to lease gen­eral se­cu­rity wa­ter and grow rice crops that sus­tain the habi­tat of over 50 bird, frog and rep­tile species.

Rice crops have long acted as sur­ro­gate wet­lands which species in­clud­ing ibis, brol­gas and the Aus­tralian long-necked tur­tle have utilised in their breed­ing and feed­ing cy­cles.

The crops, along with the farm dams and ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels used to de­liver the wa­ter form tem­po­rary wet­lands that sus­tain wildlife pop­u­la­tions that are not nec­es­sar­ily pro­vided for in en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter de­liv­ery pro­grams.

An in­crease in wa­ter prices along with a de­crease in the wa­ter avail­able in the district has meant that many farm­ers have adopted wa­ter-sav­ing mea­sures to grow their rice, but this has had an im­pact on the wildlife habi­tat.

With up to 75 days less days of wa­ter be­ing held in a rice crop in what is kind of like a pond, na­tive species have been forced out of crops and of­ten at cru­cial breed­ing stages.

The launch was the first stage, with the a crowd fund­ing de­signed to high­light what is pos­si­ble (en­vi­ron­men­tally and pro­duc­tively) when a small amount of ad­di­tional wa­ter is added to a rice farm­ing sys­tem.

Wa­ter for Wildlife and Rice will then use the out­comes to pro­mote the op­por­tu­nity in­vestors and wa­ter en­ti­tle­ment hold­ers have by con­nect­ing with wildlife friendly rice grow­ers.

This kind of in­vest­ment will ben­e­fit the many nat­u­ral species in the area while main­tain­ing a known in­come from the lease of the wa­ter.

It is hoped that the col­lab­o­ra­tive project will in­crease the aware­ness of the con­nect­ed­ness of pri­vate farm­ing habi­tat to the na­tional park land­scape, as well ben­e­fit farm­ers in the lo­cal re­gion and their com­mu­ni­ties.

To find about more about the pro­gram or make a pledge, head to the pro­gram’s web­site at https://poz­i­ wa­ter-for-wildlife-and-rice.

The project will high­light the im­por­tance of rice crops in sup­port­ing wildlife.

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