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Bird Management in Blueberries and Grapes

Lindell, Catherine A., Hannay, Melissa B., Hawes, Benjamin C.
Agronomy 2018 v.8 no.12
birds, blueberries, forests, fruit yield, fruits, grapes, growers, vineyards, Michigan
Bird damage to fruit is a long-standing challenge for growers that imposes significant costs because of yield losses and grower efforts to manage birds. We measured bird damage in ‘Bluecrop’ blueberry fields and Pinot noir vineyards in 2012–2014 in Michigan to investigate how year, grower, and forest cover influenced the proportions of bird damage. We tested whether inflatable tubemen (2013–2014) and a methyl anthranilate spray (2015) reduced bird damage in blueberries, and tested the deterrent effect of inflatable tubemen in grapes (2014). Years when crop yield was lower tended to have a higher damage percentage; for blueberries, bird damage was highest in 2012, and in grapes, damage was highest in 2012 and 2014. Neither blueberry fields nor vineyards with inflatable tubemen showed significantly reduced bird damage, although the blueberry fields showed a non-significant trend toward lower damage in the tubemen blocks. Blueberry field halves treated with the methyl anthranilate spray had equivalent bird damage to untreated halves. Our results correspond to previous work showing that percent bird damage varies by year, which was likely because bird consumption of fruit is relatively constant over time, while fruit yield varies. Fruit growers should expect a higher proportion of bird damage in low-fruit contexts, such as low-yield years, and prepare to invest more in bird management at those times. Investigating patterns of bird damage and testing deterrent strategies remain challenges. Bird activity is spatially and temporally variable, and birds’ mobility necessitates tests at large scales.