A canola farmer in Adams County, Washington has lost his entire crop after an enormous flock of horned larks decimated his fields, reports the Seattle Times.
Bill Schillinger, a professor at Washington State University who has studied the problem of larks eating canola fields has contacted other canola farmers and researchers across the country asking if others were facing the same issue, and concluded that it must be a stat-specific problem after no other incidents were reported.
The farmer, J.R. Swinger, agrees, saying that he believes that it is a problem specific to his farm and that he thinks the birds have learned to feed on his canola and have returned with their offspring.
Swinger initially thought the birds were feeding on the canola seeds, but he came to learn they were feeding on the very tip of the sprout called the cotyledon, which exists for only a matter of a few days, and which is critical for the development of the plant.
Schillinger has tried multiple tactics to deter the larks including garlic oil, netting, plastic owls, and gas powered cannons, but not has worked.
Once the plant starts photosynthesizing, the birds aren’t interested in it anymore,” Swinger said. “They must really like that tiny tip. I don’t know what else is driving them.”
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