Seed News

Tracking Avian Corn Crop Damage in Three States

Date Posted: March 22, 2010

Editor's note: This article provided by Arkion.

If you've ever been forced to replant because birds have damaged or destroyed large sections of your newly planted fields, then it's no news to you that birds are becoming a significant problem for farmers in some areas of the country. The “problem” birds include a wide variety of species, depending on a farm's location.

Pheasant damage in South Dakota corn field.

Avipel® seed treatment is proving to be a successful solution to the problem of bird damage. Since 2006, Avipel® has been used to protect seed in over a million acres in 8 states. During that time, the makers of Avipel® have worked closely with Ag agents, farmers, and several private organizations to study crop predation by several bird species. This report summarizes field experience during 2008 and 2009 for the states of Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Mississippi. Although the “problem” bird in each of these states is different, they are all experiencing economic losses greater than 20% in planted corn. On a per acre basis, the loss is between $60 and $80, depending on the state.

Wisconsin observed a direct correlation between increased corn field damage from cranes and removal of seed treatment products containing the insecticide lindane. Another reason crane populations continue to grow is aggressive restoration of breeding flocks and habitat. Within one mile of a Wisconsin wetland where cranes feed in newly planted corn fields, 20% or more of the crop is being destroyed. Of the 3.5 million acres of corn planted in Wisconsin, 2.7 million acres are within the potential feeding range of cranes.

South Dakota is dealing with a pheasant population that continues to grow with successful habitat restoration. The cropland reserve program (CRP) has set aside significant land areas adjacent to corn fields. Cover and nesting sites have been provided in the process and with the removal of products containing Lindane, Furadan® and Measurol, crop loss has increased. Early spring does not offer birds much dietary diversity, and the liquid starch found in corn seed is essential to birds' reproductive health. In 2008, around 20% of the corn fields in South Dakota had noticeable bird damage that could vary from 5% stand loss to over 50%. Replanting in the Dakotas is a risky venture due to the short season. The economic impact of reduced stand is compounded by the necessity of additional weed control as well as yield loss. Using Avipel® is an effective way to keep planted corn seed off the pheasant's menu.

Mississippi has increased corn acreage substantially in the last two years. With over 750,000 acres in corn, migrating blackbirds, grackles, crows and cowbirds have found corn seed to be an attractive source of starch for the energy needed during the migration north. The narrow planting window in the delta region happens to coincide perfectly with spring migration, and the state now estimates that losses to birds have been high. Twenty-five percent of the planted corn is experiencing from 10-15% stand loss and 5% of the corn is experiencing greater than 25% stand loss. Tillage practices plus narrow planting time work against any replanting in Mississippi, so crop yield is directly affected. As in South Dakota, increased weed control adds to the input cost of fields experiencing bird depredation.

Avipel® — The Safe Solution Seed treated with Avipel® becomes undesirable to birds, because the active ingredient, 9,10 anthraquinone, causes an unpleasant gut reaction. After sampling the seed, birds quickly learn to avoid it. This behavior is observed and imitated by other birds in the flock, minimizing crop damage. Their presence may then actually become beneficial as birds remain in the field eating other foods that may be detrimental to the crop while avoiding the treated seed.

Anthraquinone occurs naturally in many plants. It is environmentally friendly, will not build up in the soil, and is nontoxic. Avipel® is currently under emergency exemption Section 18 use in certain states, and research toward gaining a full Section 3 label is continuing. Last year a similar product, AV-1011, was introduced for rice. In 2010, plans are for data collection to be expanded to include other cereal grains and oils seed crops.

Field experience with Avipel® shows it effectively combats bird predation of crops without harm to humans, birds, or the environment. More information can be found at:

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