Dual-purpose ducks will be intensively, rotationally grazed under an established vineyard for the purpose of pest, weed and grass management and for the added benefit of increased soil fertility. Portable housing, fencing and water will permit intensive use of the ducks’ foraging behavior and controlled application of manure. Winterized housing will make it possible to start each growing season with a sizeable flock that provides effective stocking density early in the year, preventing annual weeds from going to seed and disrupting insect pests' life cycles. Pathogen testing will help monitor for risks associated with livestock in perennial food crops. Eggs will be sold to offset costs of feed and labor; drakes in excess of stocking density will be sold for meat. Desired outcomes include reduced insect pressure and weed pressure, fewer paid labor hours and less fuel spent weeding and mowing in the vineyard, improved soil quality, and added income from duck eggs and meat. Findings will be shared through video documentary, written articles, field days and a conference presentation.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate the usefulness of ducks in controlling grass, weeds and insects and improving soil fertility in a high-trellis midwestern vineyard.
- Identify the ideal equipment for vineyard use of ducks in this climate (particularly housing, fencing and water).
- Determine whether egg and meat sales significantly offset the cost of feed and labor.
- Quantify the ideal stocking density and rotational pacing for a small-scale vineyard.
- Ascertain whether food safety issues affect the viability of this practice.
- Share our learnings through field days, social media and a conference presentation.