The Nature Conservancy's Farming for Wildlife project compares the agricultural and ecological benefits of flooded fields (shown at left in an undated picture of a Washington State farm) to more traditional crop rotations such as "greenchop," grass grown for animal feed (right).
The side-by-side comparisons will allow researchers to quantify the value the flooding brings to shorebirds and farmers.
Participating farmers have already benefited: Nitrogen levels in the flooded fields increased on average by 50 pounds (23 kilograms) per acre (0.4 hectare), which means farmers should be able to spend less money on fertilizer.
Participating farmer Dave Hedlin said he used the three-year flood to transition his field to organic, as fields have to sit fallow for three years for organic certification.
"We had a positive experience and didn't go backward financially," he said.
Photograph courtesy Julie Morse, the Nature Conservancy