June Floods Devastate Wild Rice Harvest
Posted at: 10/22/2012 11:42 AM
| Updated at: 10/22/2012 10:15 PM
By: Ben Dery
Normally this time of year, even after the Fall harvest, Perch Lake on the Fond Du Lac Reservation should resemble a hayfield. The lake has a depth of only three feet at its deepest, and is usually covered with wild rice. The June Flood, however, literally wiped out the majority of the aquatic life on several lakes in the Reservation. This lead to a very poor harvest.
"There was no harvest," says Natural Resources Program Manager, Thomas Howes. "This is the first year in 13 years that we didn't have a rice harvest of some kind."
The wild rice harvests are important to the community. Howes estimates 3-4 thousand pounds of wild rice is donated to community events, funerals, and the local school.
However, there is a silver lining to losing most of the aquatic plants in the lake. A competitor to the wild rice plant, known as perennials, also took a hit. Without aquatic plants such as water lilies and pickerel weed, the wild rice plant is free to grow in more abundance.
"What we're relying on for next year is what's laying in the bottom of the lake," says Howes.
A new contraption is helping to capitalize on the low weed count, and it's a technique taken straight out of a farmer's book. The actual wild rice plant may be gone, but many seeds lay dormant in the shallow, soft bottom of the lake.
Terry Perrault, a Natural Resource Technician, demonstrates a "tilling" technique by attaching rake-like pieces of metal to the back of a hovercraft.
"We put this attachment together so we can go down and drag the sediment of the lake," explains Perrault.
Before winter comes, the Natural Resources crew will till the bottom of Perch Lake helping to open up new seeds. This has been done once before on a different lake, and did show positive results. The hope is to assist in the germinating process leading to a healthier harvest next year.