The first season of bittern-friendly rice growing incentives in the Riverina’s rice fields has been successful, with incentive sites attracting four times as many bitterns as the control sites. Successful breeding was also recorded. It’s all thanks to the efforts of rice growers and Riverina Local Land Services, supported by funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. The ultimate aim is to develop a program funded by consumers that pay a premium at the supermarket to support wildlife-friendly rice farming.
The incentive program focuses on encouraging early nesting and maximising breeding success. Early permanent water is central and needs to involve ponding by the end of October, with a minimum period of inundation of 130-150 days, depending on the incentive level. It’s all about providing a sufficient ponding period to facilitate successful bittern breeding. We suspect the early ponding is also important because the invertebrates, frogs, fish and other bittern prey have time to establish for two or three months before nesting commences.
The design of the incentive program has drawn on Matt Herring’s research at Charles Darwin University with Professors Kerstin Zander and Stephen Garnett, supported by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, as well as all that has been learnt over the past eight years with The Bitterns in Rice Project. It was a rough start to the incentive program, with another record low Riverina rice crop, but the results are certainly encouraging. Thanks to everyone for their support.
Saving the Bittern: Watch the new 4-minute video below from SunRice about bittern-friendly rice