Attract More Ducks By '˜Messy'™ Farming

Land managers who want to attract more ducks have to be "messy farmers."

So said Dr. Brian Davis of Mississippi State University. He was talking to about 60 participants in a True North Seminar Summit, Aug. 12, on Managing Wetland Soils and Habitats for Waterfowl, at the Land and Wildlife Expo.

Much of his talk was about how to plant and harvest moist-soil weeds and grasses to supplement rice or corn production and attract ducks.

When he talks about "messy" farming, he means that ducks might be put off when they see perfect geometric patterns from above.

"When you plant crops or knock down weeds, don't make patterns — no circles or rectangles. We don't want baseball diamonds," said Davis, who is called the E.F. Hutton of wetlands management. "The dirty, messier the habitat, the better. Mother Nature does not make perfect patterns all the time."

The "messiness" also applies to what you plant because you want weeds among your corn, rice or soybeans. It helps your forage diversity, which will attract ducks and protects from floods or droughts, but also to increase protein content.

Eight percent of a duck's feather is made up of protein, said Davis, and especially in the fall, when mallard drake heads are greening-up, or later, when hens are growing their camouflage feathers. They need to feed this growth. They get a lot of protein from bugs and beans. An effective way to produce more is through growing "grassy corn," which is nothing more than doing a poor job of growing corn.

Millets, like the tall Chiwapa, Japanese or browntop, and yellow grasses, are rich in protein.

To get the sun's rays to hit the grasses between rows of tall corn, Davis suggests:

--11 inches between seeds within rows.

--38 inches between rows

--16,000 to 18,0000 pounds of seed per acre.

"Do a poor job of farming, and you can really compliment your crop for ducks."

If you have questions, you can reach Dr. Davis at

Stay tuned for more from the Land and Wildlife Expo.


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