We evaluated the effects of free-range chickens and geese on insect pests and weeds in an experimental, nonchemical agroecosystem consisting of an apple orchard with intercropped potatoes. The objective was to assess the potential of these domestic bird species as biological control agents. Four insect pests were studied: plum curculio, apple maggot, Japanese beetle, and Colorado potato beetle. Chickens fed on several potential crop pests, including Japanese beetle. Although Japanese beetles were less abundant on apple trees when chickens were present, the proportion of damaged fruit was not reduced. Furthermore, chickens did not affect weed abundance or crop productivity. In contrast, geese were effective weeders. Their activities reduced weed abundance and increased potato plant growth and yields compared with a minimally weeded control. In addition, the activities of geese indirectly reduced apple fruit damage by plum curculio and increased the proportion of pest-free fruit, possibly because removal of vegetation by the geese reduced humidity at the soil surface and therefore reduced the activity of plum curculio.
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"Integrated farms also provide efficient and inexpensive ways of controlling pests. Infestation with Japanese beetles was reduced in an apple orchard when freerange chicken and geese were present in the orchard (Clark and Gage, 1996). Apple sawflies (Hoplocampa testudinea) and pear midges (Contarinia pyrivora), causative agents of crop damage to apples and pears, respectively, were reduced when the fruits and poultry were grown in a MCLF system (Pedersen et al., 2002). "
"Selection of animal type depends on the desired goals of the growers. For example, poultry are often selected for weed/pest control (Ako and Tamaru, 2007; Clark and Gage, 1996; Tanaka et al., 2008); ruminants can convert forage to fertilizing manure (Weller and Bowling, 2007); and bison, elk, or goats may be desired for specialty markets. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: U.S. agriculture has become increasingly specialized over the last century with attendant benefits to food production and affordability. At the same time, specialized agricultural production has led to concerns for animal welfare, environmental degradation, and loss of biodiversity. An alternative to specialized agriculture is the integration of crops and livestock at the farm scale. Integrated crop/livestock agriculture could improve soil quality, increase yield, produce a diversity of foods, augment pollinator populations, aid pest management, and improve land use efficiency. Crop/livestock agriculture is not without challenges, however, as farmers must confront a history of specialization in agriculture along with loss of animal husbandry knowledge, erosion of genetic diversity, limited meat processing infrastructure, a regulatory framework more suited to specialization, and challenges inherent to animal agriculture.
"Since very few artificial pesticides are allowed in organic fruit production, the need for an alternative pest control is considerable. It has been demonstrated that the co-rearing of chickens in an orchard is an opportunity to control weeds and pests (Clark & Gage, 1996; Pedersen et al, 2004). The chickens are, however, most efficient as pest controllers in the orchard when they reach the normal slaughter weight for organic broiler chickens at the age of approximately 81 days. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The effects of strain, sex and age on live weight, slaughter weight and sensory characteristics of organically reared broilers in orchards are presented. A total of 450 broilers of three different strains (I 657, Light Sussex, New Hampshire) were reared in an organic research orchard. Half of each strain was slaughtered at 91 days and the other half at 120 days. All broilers were weighed and a clinical welfare assessment was made at slaughter. A trained sensory panel evaluated the breast meat in relation to flavour, smell and texture characteristics defined by the panel. At both 91 and 120 days of age the commercial breed I 657 was significantly heavier than the slower growing strains. Males were significantly heavier than the females across strains. Weight ratios between males and females were nearly the same at both slaughter ages in I 657, whereas weight ratios increased significantly at 120 days in Light Sussex and New Hampshire. No overall effect of strain was found on the flavour and smell of the breast meat. However, the age-related changes in tenderness and toughness differed significantly between strains, since the commercial strain tended towards a tougher and less tender consistency with age, whereas the opposite was the case for the slower growing pure breeds. The positive flavour of salt was significantly improved at 120 days across strains with females having a saltier flavour than the males with age. The positive flavour of sweet corn was improved in the meat from the males, whereas the positive smell of sweet corn was significantly improved in both males and females. No negative effects of age were found.In conclusion, broilers were tastier when slaughtered at 120 days compared with 91 days. The development in meat tenderness was related to strain, and weights at slaughter were related to both strain and sex.