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Northern Minnesota wild rice crop looks good this season

DULUTH, Minn.—Northern Minnesota's crop of wild rice appears to be in good shape as the annual harvest season approaches.

That was the report Tuesday from Ducks Unlimited, the wetland conservation group that monitors and manages wild-rice stands for waterfowl habitat.

Wild rice requires optimal water conditions: Too much rain and deep water floods the crop; not enough rain and shallow waters can dry rice plants out.

This year, barring any big windstorms between now and the harvest season, the crop looks good across much of region, said Rod Ustipak, Ducks Unlimited's wild-rice lake management coordinator.

A few areas of far western Minnesota had low water conditions, while a few in northeastern Minnesota had high water conditions. But even those should produce some rice, Ustipak said in Tuesday's report.

All that rice is good news for harvesters, who will wait until the crop ripens before heading out onto lakes and rivers. It's also good news for ducks and geese as well as the hunters who pursue them each fall.

"This is good news for waterfowlers and wild-rice harvesters, as they will not have to travel far to find good rice as it ripens," Ustipak said. "It also makes it unlikely that a single big storm can destroy rice throughout the whole region."

Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wildlife staff, manages the outlets of more than 100 wild-rice lakes involving more than 30,000 acres throughout central and northern Minnesota to keep them free-flowing and clear of beaver dams and other debris to assure optimal wild-rice water levels.

Minnesota's wild-rice harvesting season runs Aug. 15 to Sept. 30, with the rice usually ripe by about Sept. 1. All non-tribal harvesters need a state license, which is $15 for a single day or $25 per season. A one-day nonresident license is $30.