With a blanket of blackbirds often covering fields last winter, Arkansas rice farmers will be pleased to know AV-1011 Bird Repellent for rice seed has received a Section 18 emergency exemption for use until June 15, 2015.
According to an Arkansas Extension alert, “Rice seed treated with AV-1011 is approved for use in drill, water, and broadcast systems. The use-rate for AV-1011 is 18.3 fluid ounces per 100 pounds of seed. With that rate structure, cost of the product on a per acre basis will be dependent on seeding rate (the higher the seeding rate, the higher the cost).
“The AV-1011 product is a bird repellent,” says Jarrod Hardke, Arkansas rice Extension agronomist. “We applied for the exemption in mid-February.
“Primarily, for our purpose, it’s to stop blackbirds from feeding on newly-planted or seedling rice. Given the way the past couple of winters have developed, and the populations of blackbirds we’ve observed this winter, this Section 18 is absolutely necessary.”
Hardke says the blackbird populations have soared over the last several years. “When I say the populations have been high, it’s no joke. I’ve driven by old rice fields a couple of times and, driving up, I thought they’d been burned off. Well, get closer and the fields weren’t burned but were covered solid with blackbirds.
“We realized there was going to be a ton of pressure brought by the blackbirds for us to need this product. The real problem areas involve not only high blackbird populations but fields where someone is water-seeding or broadcasting seed. Seed on the soil surface really entices the birds into the field.”
The product doesn’t do any harm to the birds but is strictly a feeding deterrent, says Hardke. “They pick up a few kernels, don’t like the way they taste and then move on.”
How much damage do the blackbirds actually cause?
“It’s extremely difficult with a problem of this type – and pursuing an emergency exemption – when you don’t have a way to get a firm handle on how much damage is being done. You really like to have a large set of baseline data. You know, ‘here’s how much yield loss we have if the problem isn’t addressed and goes unchecked.’
“The issue with that in this case is simple: there’s either rice seed there, or not. It isn’t a case of the plant being established and then being damaged leading to some yield loss like with insect problems. The birds just take away the potential for the plant to emerge. Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some early-planted, isolated rice fields that were wiped out. I know of an 80-acre field that was just gone.
“In less extreme cases, the field edges are harmed, sometimes resulting in complete losses of up to 20 to 30 acres. Fields that are leveed up and ready to go are difficult to go back in and attempt to replant to recover anything.”
How is planting season going?
“The producers that can get in their fields are rolling hard. The first field I heard that was planted in rice was March 23. Since Saturday (March 28), planting has really picked up speed.
“South of Jonesboro, where fields avoided the latest rains, they’re making a lot of progress. Farther south, the same is true. But the middle portion of the state seems to have caught more rain and things are still lagging a bit – that’s the case around Stuttgart.”
Obviously, soil moisture isn’t an issue right now. “The race is on to see how many acres can be planted before we run into next week when every day has rain in the forecast.”