Monday, September 06, 2010

Enlist an army of chickens to fight the locust plague

There seems to be a level of panic in Victoria about the possibility of a locust plague and farmers are being urged to dump tonnes of insecticides on them - chemicals which are just about guaranteed to get into our food chain.

A far better control method is chickens. Chickens love eating locusts and grasshoppers – so if all the millions of chickens in this State are let out of their cages and sheds they could clean up the problem. As each chicken could eat 100 locusts a day, 6 million chickens could account for 600,000,000 locusts every day.

But unfortunately that wouldn't work because the birds have been de-beaked – in fact even the birds on most so-called 'free range' farms have been de-beaked (or beak trimmed is the term the industry prefers to use) and they are unable to graze properly and pick up things like insects or even eat grass.

So its yet another argument not to beak trim chickens.

Locusts tend to lay their eggs in damp, alkaline soils so ducks could also help to eradicate the problem because both chooks and ducks love to eat locust eggs.

Chickens as a method of locust control is not a new idea.  The BBC had this up on their website in 2006:
Pest control officials in North-West China have resorted to desperate measures to tackle a plague of locusts which is infesting a huge area of grassland.

They have brought in an army of 10,000 chickens - backed by air support from thousands of starlings - to gobble up some of the millions of locusts which have descended on Xinjiang in the Uygur autonomous region.
According to Xinhua newsagency, the elite fowl undergo 60 days training shortly after they hatch to prepare them for battle with the locusts.
Worst infestation
And battle it is, because this year's infestation is said to be the worst in the region for a decade, with a quarter of Xinjiang's grasslands affected.
There were no details given of the chicken training programme.
The newspaper China Youth Daily said the chickens had succeeded in taking on the pests where all else failed.
But the insect-eating chickens are only one prong in the region's assault on the swarms of locusts.
Xinjiang pest control officials are also encouraging starlings to settle in the area by placing nests in the grassland area.
Pesticide alternative
Last month environmentalists in the port city of Tianjin released five million wasps to attack insects which had been damaging crops.
The BBC Correspondent in Beijing, Colin Blane, says it is thought Chinese scientists are being encouraged to find ways of reducing the use of chemical pesticides.
The introduction of chickens and starlings as instruments of pest control is a reverse of the disastrous experiment of the 1950s when the whole nation was urged to scare sparrows away from crops by beating drums for hours on end.
Unable to land, the sparrows died from exhaustion and the crops were then destroyed by a booming insect population.

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