Farmers battle blackbirds to save rice crops

Farmers battle blackbirds to save rice crops

CRAIGHEAD COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - April showers delayed planting for Arkansas farmers, but now seeds are in the ground.

"A lot of progress has been made in the last week and a half," said Brookland farmer Scott Gibson. "The equipment we have now can catch us up in a hurry."

However, while farmers play catch up, they have a new pest to worry about: blackbirds.

Gibson said it seems these birds were waiting for this moment to arise.

During planting season, blackbirds will dig up the seeds and pull up the rice plants in their early stages.

The birds are known to destroy anywhere from 20 to 80 acres of rice fields.

Gibson said nothing can be done to stop the blackbirds once the seed is in the ground, but farmers can use bird repellent on their rice seeds.

According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, farmers can use AV-1011 bird repellent through a Section 18 emergency exemption until July 15 to battle the blackbirds. 

However, Gibson said the AV-1011, or any bird repellent for that matter, is not worth it.

"With the products available now, we feel there isn't enough scientific evidence to support the expense of using them compared to the amount of expense we feel we're getting from the damage," he said. 

Gibson said he has been fortunate enough to only see minimal damage from blackbirds. 

"It varies area to area and year to year," he said. "It could all change at a moment's notice. You never know what's gonna blow in."

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