story to find out more.
Adam Davis holds giant ragweed seeds, a favorite
food of rodents and birds. The cage is used to determine the annual proportion
of weed seeds eaten by various animals under a canopy of red clover, which may
increase weed seed consumption by rodents by hiding them from hawks and other
predators. Click the image for more information about it.
Sowing Clover Mats to Shelter Weed Seed Eaters
May 3, 2006
An ecologist with the
Agricultural Research Service in Urbana,
Ill., is experimenting with a novel method for enlisting nature's
seed-eatersbirds, rodents and insects, in this caseto help fight
giant ragweed, velvetleaf and giant foxtail, all major pests of Midwestern corn
and soybean crops.
Davis' approach is to create a natural ground cover of red clover in farm
fields so that the small critters will spend more time foraging for the weeds'
energy-rich seeds and less time dodging hawks or other sharp-eyed predators.
If creating such a haven for seed foragers sounds far-fetched, consider
this: A single female cricket will eat up to 50 foxtail seeds a day. Mice and
ground squirrels eat even more, according to Davis, at the ARS
Weeds Management Research Unit.
Using wire cages baited with seed, along with computer modeling, Davis is
compiling data to estimate the impact of small animals' seed foraging on annual
weed populations in wheat fields where the clover covers are used. He is also
comparing wheat-clover fields with clover-free corn and soybean crops.
In another project, Davis is conducting field surveys of weed-seed
concentrations on soil surfaces, in cracks, and on upright plants during
harvest. He plans on furnishing information gleaned from the surveys to
agricultural engineers who can build what Davis calls a
"weed-seed-predator combine kit."
As he envisions it, the kit would include a vacuum head and special hammers
for sucking up, crushing and spitting out destroyed weed seeds as the combine
moves through a field harvesting the crop. Developed commercially, the kit
could prove especially useful to organic farmers, who rank weeds as their top
production problem, according to Davis.
more about the research in the May 2006 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.