One of the biggest issues with food today is the number of pesticides and chemicals that are treating the crops that we use. While many people try to eat healthily there is little they can do about the dangerous chemicals that treat their fruits and vegetables. Yet we must have some sympathy for the farmers. Chemicals are a requirement to remain competitive, kill pests, and produce at a scale that means they can have a good livelihood. However, some farms have found an alternative approach and it is a fun, environmentally friendly way to produce crops.
The answer to an environmentally friendly pest-free farm is ducks. There are a number of farms around the world that unleash thousands of ducks on their crops in order to fend off smaller bugs. This approach went viral late last year but the images turned out to be false. However, after some digging, we have found that it is real in many other places.
The best example of duck protection we found was in a wine vineyard in South Africa. A wine vineyard called Vergenoegd Löw in South Africa has a team of 1,200 ducks that it uses to defend its vineyards. The location of the estate is beside a large lake and this makes snails arrive in incredible numbers to the location. Left unattended their vineyards would be devoured every day by hordes of snails. To combat this the team at Vergenoegd Löw releases the ducks from their enclosure every morning. The ducks will slowly waddle through the vineyards and will finish up by about 4 pm. A full day’s work may sound pretty tough but the ducks receive fair payment, all they can eat in snails and other insects.
Since introducing the ducks the farm has successfully been pesticide-free, something that the company takes pride in, and that sets their wine apart from much of the competition. The farm uses a particular breed of duck, the Indian runner, as it is flightless, fast, and agile. This allows the duck to move nimbly between vineyards without too much disturbance and to quickly catch any bugs nearby. While some farms have used chickens in the past, we are told that ducks have a far greater appetite. A single duck could eat up to 200 insects in a day.
The South African farm has been using ducks since 1984 and pesticides are not the only benefit. Ducks also provide great fertilizer as their poo is very high in nutrients and helps the vines to grow quickly and strongly. The idea of using poultry is very common in different parts of the world. We have also found reports of duck patrols in China and Bali.
There is only one issue with using ducks on a farm and that is that after a while they may attract larger predators. It is a difficult job to interfere with a natural ecosystem and by introducing ducks that is essentially what you are doing. While you may solve the insect problem, you may create a larger predator problem. Ducks are the prey of mongoose, owls, foxes, and more. The South African team has a solution for this too. While ducks are relatively docile (we say relatively because we have all seen some crazy ducks) geese are not. The farm has a small number of geese who act as a perimeter guard for the ducks and defend them from any lurking predators. This allows the ducks to focus on the job at hand and do a great day’s work.
If you are having issues with insects on your farm you are likely tempted to use some pesticides. Instead, why not give ducks a chance to look after your crops, they are safe, cheap, and provide a lot of entertainment.