Supporting crops and wildlife
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://pozible.com/project/ water-for-wildlife-and-rice.
The project will highlight the importance of rice crops in supporting wildlife.