Helping geese and farmers co-exist

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Sometimes South Dakota's wild animals have challenges co-existing with farmers and ranchers. With wetlands adjacent to cropland in eastern South Dakota, farmers know that some damage to their crop from waterfowl and wildlife is likely.

But in recent years the Giant Canada Geese in the region have been especially detrimental to soybeans. To help find a solution, the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks (GF&P) personnel have been assisting farmers by putting in electric fence to keep the geese off of their fields. The fencing has worked, but is labor intensive and expensive.

So, SDSU researchers were tasked with developing an alternative solution. Led by Chuck Dieter, a professor of wildlife science in the Natural Resource Management Department at SDSU, a spray repellent to keep geese out of the fields is being tested and showing signs of success.

Dieter explains that a foliar spray is applied to the leaves of the plant and works as a secondary deterrent. This means a goose will still eat some of the plant, but leaves sprayed with the repellent will make the goose sick, creating an aversion so they won't eat the plant again.

Dieter says, until the aversion occurs there is still some initial damage to the crop, but in preliminary trials the geese tend to stay away from the crop after they've had their first taste of the repellent.

Dieter notes that the active ingredient being used in the repellent SDSU is developing is harmless and is approved as a seed treatment on many crops. However, this is the first foliar product being developed with the ingredient.

Currently, Dieter and his colleagues are initiating a two-year study to fine tune the repellent. They are examining what concentration is most effective; how often the repellent should be applied to plants; and how deep the repellent should be applied into the field to deter the geese.

The repellent can only be used on 10 acres experimentally. Government approvals will be needed to test the repellent on a larger scale in the future.

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