“Agriculture not only gives riches to a nation, but the only riches she can call her own”
Agriculture, one of the oldest occupations practiced- worldwide has a paramount importance in our lives. When our nomadic ancestors began to settle and grow their own food, human society was forever changed. Human communities, no matter how sophisticated, could not ignore the importance of agriculture. To be far from dependable sources of food was to risk malnutrition and starvation.
Owing to the advent of industrial revolution, there was modernization in agriculture which led to increase in production. Despite the increased production, agriculture is under as great a threat as ever from its age old enemy i.e. pests. Apart from this agriculture has to suffer due to activities of wild stock and other animals like deer and raccoons. Wildlife damage to field crops is a widespread concern in the United States, especially in Midwestern states, and the assessment and control of wildlife damage to crops has become an important component of wildlife management. It was estimated that wildlife-related economic losses to agricultural producers (farmers and ranchers) in the United States exceed $4.5 billion annually.
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) which was once considered an endangered species has now flourished to great lengths. The increase in deer population has been accompanied by a decrease in crop acreage. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are thought to be the most common wildlife species that routinely damage agricultural crops. White-tailed deer damage agricultural crops, often leading to significant economic losses for farmers. Early in the growing season, deer will sometimes feed on the whorls or tops of young plants in mid- to late June when the immature tassel down in the whorl is 4 to 6 inches long. Rather than actually eating the whorl leaves, the deer are apparently drawn to the succulent, moist immature tassel. The result is decapitated plants whose young whorl leaves have simply been pulled out and the tassel somehow chewed out and eaten. The mostly intact whorl leaves are left behind on the ground along with the tell-tale evidence of hoof prints and deer scat.
Deer have a soft spot for corn and soybeans in particular!!
Deer feed on corn sparingly after the milk stage until the crop matures. Stalks are more easily knocked down during this period and deer will feed readily on kernels, on the cob and those on the ground. While stalks are on the ground deer may scrape the ear along its length using its bottom incisors. At maturity, some corn plants have reddening of leaves and/or the stalk.
Corn plants with purple-colored stalks in August –September often are indicative of damage caused by deer. Deer will readily scrape kernels off the cobs of mature corn plants, generally causing little or no physical damage to the corn stalk. Removal of kernels after maturity results in red cobs. Damage caused earlier in the growing season results in dirty brown cobs. Complaints from farmers whose crops are eaten by deer have been increasing steadily.
The common symptoms resulting from deer feeding on corn at this stage of development are “topless” plants and decapitated ears. The ear symptoms are sometimes mistaken for bird damage, but differ because of the distinct appearance of “cut” husks and missing ends of cobs resulting from the deer chomping” off the ends of the ears.Deer damage to plants or ears of corn during the grain filling period often encourages disease infection of the damaged plant tissue by common smut spores. This disease eventually develops into the ugly mass of fungal tissue on damaged plant parts.
Deer relish young soybeans almost as much as kids love ice cream. And with deer populations exploding in many states, that’s no small problem. In fact, some Southern states farmers have thrown in the towel and quit raising soybeans on fields that were hardest hit. There has been severe deer pressure on soybeans in some parts of the state because soybeans are a preferred food by deer.
In a statewide survey conducted by Clemson University, crop producers reported that 70% of their 1991 soybean acreage was damaged to some extent by deer. Based on the reported acreage and degree of damage, it was estimated that deer damage cost soybean producers in South Carolina more than $7.8 million in 1991.
As reported by this article researchers have gone to the extent of calling soybean as the “perfect deer food”!!
Farmer fear: soybeans called ‘perfect deer food’
BY RALPH LOOS EDITOR
Posted on May 2, 2013
As the state’s farmers prepare for spring planting, an ongoing research project is taking a look at how deer affect soybean crops in agricultural states like Illinois. It is already known that deer eat millions of pounds of crops – and soybeans tend to be the most popular entree on a deer’s menu.
Soybeans mean big antlers on deer, one researcher pointed out.
“It’s no coincidence that in Illinois, Iowa or other states with huge soybean acreages they grow a lot of big deer,” Bronson Strickland, associate extension professor with the Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, said.
“It’s no secret that deer love soybeans,” Strickland added. “Soybeans are the perfect deer food – there’s nothing better than soybean plants from the standpoint of palatability, digestibility and food protein.
If there is any plant that’s designed for deer to love and to thrive on, it’s soybeans. For those who want to cultivate a deer population, there’s nothing better for food plots than soybeans.”
The soybean-deer relationship is all too familiar with Illinois farmers. As the state’s deer population exploded in the 1990s and 2000s, more and more farmers experienced extensive crop damage caused by feeding and grazing deer.
For that reason, farmers became big fans of the state’s deer hunters.
When soybean prices began to rise at the end of the last decade – pushing up over the $12 per bushel range, where they currently remain – and farmers began to realize the value of the commodity deer were eating, they became even bigger fans of hunters.
All of this followed a study commissioned by the Illinois Natural History Survey about the relationship between deer hunters and farmers.
Mark Alessi, Human Dimensions research coordinator for the INHS, teamed with other researchers to compile a study on Illinois farmers’ perceptions of deer and their relationship with deer hunters.
The study was conducted in 2011 and followed similar studies in 1982 and 1990.
Among the findings was the fact that a majority of hunters enjoy having deer on their property – until they start to notice damage to their crops caused by those deer.
“About 70 percent say, ‘yes, we love deer’ but that changes when the corn gets eaten,” Alessi noted.
Perceptions have changed since the 1982 study, mostly because the state’s deer herd has grown over the 30-year period.
In the research under way at Mississippi State, the goal is to estimate where in fields deer damage is occurring and how it changes over time.
“We want to quantify the relationship between soybean damage and the number of deer eating beans in a particular field,” Strickland said. “Secondarily, we want to determine how the number of deer relates to the size of the field, how far into the field damage occurs, and how much damage occurs at various spots.”
Strickland said researchers on the project are actually counting the number of deer browsing in each field, using infrared devices that detect the deer heat signature. Student technicians sit in the study fields from sundown until midnight, continually sweeping the fields with the infrared devices and counting the number of deer.
“The deer stand out like a sore thumb,” he said. “It’s also easy to distinguish the difference between deer and feral pigs, which also cause significant soybean damage in the south.”
The study also is examining how deer impact varies from the field border to the middle of the field. Timing of the deer “soybean buffet” is also part of the study.
The Illinois Farm Bureau keeps a close eye on wildlife issues as they affect the state’s farmers.
“The Farm Bureau supports hunting and trapping, and we have policies on wildlife management,” Nancy Erickson, natural resources director for the IFB, said in response to the INHS study’s release last year. “Our members do enjoy wildlife. But they are also trying to make a living and help feed the world. It gets to a point, when crops and property are damaged, something has to be done.”
Farmers in the INHS survey estimated deer caused about $1,500 per capita worth of damage to their property. That damage estimate was formulated before the spike in market prices for soybeans.
Given the extent of damage these apparently harmless creatures cause economically, there is a need for urgent action to be taken in this regards. Killing these creatures should not be the solution that we are looking for. C Tech Corporation has come up with a unique solution to this problem. Rodrepel™ a product of C Tech Corporation is a non-toxic, non-hazardous animal and rodent aversive. It works by the mechanism of repellence and is thus effective in driving deer and such animals away from our precious corn and soybeans. Rodrepel®™ can be applied in the form of lacquer on wooden fences surrounding the fields. It can also be incorporated in irrigation piping and hosing in the form of polymer masterbatch at the time of processing.