Recommended Production Practices:
Managing Your Farmland for Waterbirds
Many producers will ask the logical question – why should I consider changing what I’m doing to improve waterbird habitat?
- In these difficult economic times, that question can have many different answers. There are economic, environmental, and aesthetic benefits to be considered:
- A reduction in sediment runoff, nutrient inputs, and agrichemicals can save dollars, protect water quality, and improve the habitat value of agricultural landscapes.
- Removal of low-yielding lands from production, with or without government-program financial incentives, can improve the efficiency of your farming operation.
- An increased number and variety of shorebirds, waterfowl, and other wildlife visiting your land can increase the aesthetic value of your land, as well as create birding and hunting opportunities.
U.S. farmers cultivate approximately 400 million acres of cropland annually – many acres of which are in close proximity to wetlands and water sources that also function as habitat for waterbirds. Crop and livestock producers face an ongoing challenge to balance the productivity and profitability of their operation with stewardship of their land and natural resources.
The Waterbirds on Working Lands Agricultural Steering Committee – comprised of representatives from Audubon and Monsanto, as well as growers from across the United States – studied and identified common management practices that improve waterbird habitats while addressing productivity and profitability needs. Their assessment determined that, for most farmers, improving wildlife habitats on their farms will only require minor modifications to current management practices.
There are a number of common themes amongst the management practices identified as beneficial to waterbirds, such as reducing or eliminating plowing, winter flooding of fields, and reducing pesticide applications. Regardless of farm location or crops grown, the Steering Committee recommends the following general and crop-specific management techniques to address waterbird conservation needs:
Many farmers have been incorporating sustainable practices into their operations for years. Audubon Magazine profiled several successful approaches to balancing the running of agri-businesses and the conservation of wildlife habitat (“Green Acres,” November-December 2005).
The focus of the Waterbirds on Working Lands Project going forward is to promote the implementation of the identified recommended practices. Pilot efforts are in development in Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi, each of which have significant area under row-crop production. In these three states, detailed assessments of the status of waterbird populations and waterbird Important Bird Areas were undertaken to identify opportunities for working with the grower community in implementing recommended production practices. The resulting technical reports are available for download: