A canola farmer in Adams County has been left without his whole crop thanks to hundreds of birds that have decided to use his field for a buffet.
LIND — A canola farmer in Adams County has been left without his whole crop thanks to hundreds of birds that have decided to use his field for a buffet.
J.R. Swinger told the Spokesman-Review that he first thought the horned larks were eating the seeds, but on second inspection he saw they were snapping up the very tip of the sprout, without which his canola plants cannot grow.
Swinger said the sprout, called a cotyledon, exists for only a few days, and once it grew slightly, the birds didn’t want to eat it anymore.
“We are looking at a two- or three-day window. Once the plant starts photosynthesizing, the birds aren’t interested in it anymore,” Swinger said. “They must really like that tiny tip. I don’t know what else is driving them.”
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Washington State University professor Bill Schillinger said he too has faced the lark issue and can’t find a solution. While tending to canola research plots over the past 10 years, Shillinger said he’s tried a variety of things to deter the determined birds including plastic owls, propane-powered cannons, garlic oil and netting, but nothing has worked.
Shillinger has called canola farmers and experts in other parts of the country and they don’t see the birds, leading him to believe it’s a sites-specific problem. Swinger said he also thinks it’s a local problem, that the birds have learned to feed on the canola and bring their offspring back to the field.
Even though Shillinger hadn’t found a solution to the lark problem, he decided to submit a scientific paper that was published in Industrial Crops and Products earlier this year.
“Most of the time, I submit scientific papers based on years and years of research,” Schillinger said. “I wrote this paper simply because it’s an interesting problem.”