Article

Effects of free-range chickens and geese on insect pests and weeds in an agroecosystem

American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 02/1996; 11(01):39 - 47. DOI: 10.1017/S0889189300006718

ABSTRACT 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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Available from: Sean Clark, Jul 28, 2015
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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). "
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    • "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. "
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    • "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. "
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