Bird damage continues to be a persistent problem for vegetable producers, particularly in fresh market sweet corn. Wildlife damage not only leads to yield loss but the possibility of microbial contamination poses a huge food safety issue, especially in the wake of the new rules being developed from the Food Safety and Modernization Act. Many growers are attempting proactive measures to reduce damage by birds but continue to have mixed results and continued crop losses. In a survey of sweet corn growers this season, 84% reported bird damage and estimated an average loss of 16% in yield. Based on these estimates bird damage could cost a single farm with 20 acres of sweet corn greater than $10,000 in lost revenue with statewide damages amounting to over $10 million. In attempt to help our growers mitigate this pest we propose to evaluate three novel bird repellants: 1. Avian Control a chemical deterrent just recently registered for unrestricted use in NY; 2. low-cost Mylar helium filled hawk balloons currently used by some growers; and 3. A novel high-costing “air dancer” and determine their actual effectiveness and utility in sweet corn. Identifying effective ways to mitigate the increasing issues of bird damage in sweet corn will help diminish losses and increase profitability for vegetable producers.
To assess the effectiveness of new bird repellants in reducing damage in sweet corn four, on-farm demonstration trials will be set up to simulate actual farm use. The location of the sites and plot size will be determined in the spring by the number of available sweet corn acres on each farm. At each sites three treatments will be evaluated in large demonstration plots 1. Untreated check; 2. Avian Control (methyl anthranilate) 24 oz/A applied at the first migration of bird and reapplied on a 6-8 day interval up to 4 times in the season; 3. Mylar helium filled hawk balloons 3 per/acre. A fourth treatment using an air dancer will be tested at only one site, due to cost limitations of grant. We will pursue other funds to test this treatment on at least one more site. Treatments will begin at the first noted migration of bird and will be separated by at least 100 feet to eliminate border effects.
Data collection will include:
1. Monitoring bird activity starting at the silking stage of sweet corn. Three-minute observations and digital photos will be taken from truck bed, 25-50 m from field, one hour after sunrise. Counts of the total number of blackbirds, starlings or others detected will be recorded at each location.
2. Determining crop maturity. Starting in early July for six weeks, 100 ears from each sweet corn planting area will be averaged to determine crop maturity on a scale of 3< 34% silk brown, 4=34-66% silk brown, and 5=67-100% silk brown. This will help determine if certain maturity levels differentially attract birds.
3. Index bird activity–4 times in the season at each treatment in of each of four locations.
a. Counts of number of bird droppings on adjacent corn plants in 20 locations per treatment plot. Counts will be taken from plants and on the ground extending to middles of row on each side.
b. Ear damage will be recorded from 10 ears in 20 locations within each treatment plot. Number of ears damaged and number of kernels damaged will be recorded.
4. Number of ears damaged at each harvest will be determined from each plot at each location. A sub-sample of at least 3-5 harvest bags (approximately 5 dozen ears of corn per bag), if not the entire plot, will be counted per treatment plot at each harvest and used to estimate % loss of yield and/or quality.
5. Post-trial survey with cooperators (Jeffry Hurtgam, David Agle, Mark Zittel and Andy Byler) to determine their thoughts on utility of treatments, perceived effectiveness, and future uses.
Data analysis: Data analysis will use the four on-farm locations as replications to determine if any of the treatments provide consistent management option for reducing avian damage in New York. This analysis will utilize SAS statistical software (Cary, NC). Analysis will also include a cost-benefit evaluation for each of the treatments.
Results: Results will be compiled and summarized for use in educational programs. The results from this study will be used to create fact-sheets and presented to growers at field meetings or other workshops to help assist them in mitigating bird damage. Results from this project will developed into a succinct research summary in PDF form. This summary then will be disseminated through various media outlets, such as the Cornell Vegetable Program website http://cvp.cce.cornell.edu, transmitted by email to our cooperators as an article in the Cornell Vegetable Program Newsletter “VegEdge,” and handed out at field days/on-farm visits or at workshop programs. We will also make this information available to county agricultural educators. In addition the results of successful treatment may be used in presentations at grower meetings, Empire Producers Expo and professional meetings. We will also enlist our cooperators to provide their personal experiences in the project at field days or workshops.