Encouraging bird populations on farmland could increase yield by more than 10 per cent, according to an Albury researcher.
A recent study by Charles Sturt University's Rebecca Peisley showed native birds bring more benefits than damage to crops, orchards and grazing land.
"A lot of farmers are really keen to find ways to reduce bird damage on their crops, but I was really interested in the other side of things — what birds can provide for farmers," Dr Peisley said.
Dr Peisley observed the impact of birds on apple orchards, vineyards and grazing land during 2015 and 2016.
"In most cases, there was an average of 10 to 15 per cent increase in yield.”
The study showed native bushland and predatory birds helped with animal and insect management, removed animal waste, reduced the spread of disease, and discouraged pests like foxes.
In orchards, the study found birds reduced the impact of insects by about 20 per cent while causing only 2 per cent damage.
In vineyards, predatory birds reduced damage by 50 per cent.
Dr Peisley said farmers responded well to her findings presented at industry workshops held by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Farmers across the region put the research to the test by installing perches in vineyards and maintaining and replanting native vegetation to help encourage birdlife.
Trees For Life’s Tree Scheme offers a wide range of native plant species that provide food, homes and roosts for native birds.
Revegetation Services Manager Vicki-Jo Russell says native birds give a helping hand to the land and the best way to sustain them is to plant native vegetation.
“Birds of prey rely on tall trees with strong horizontal branches to roost and perch and our local parrots rely on trees that develop hollows for nests and provide nectar for food. Many of our local bush birds hide in [them] and feed on insects amongst the leaves of native trees and shrubs and hunt from their lower branches.
“Robins, wrens, honeyeaters, pardalotes, willy wagtails (and other fantails), thornbills, flycatchers, warblers and tree-creepers are all insect eaters found in agricultural regions across SA that do pest control - particularly of aphids, scale, caterpillars and grasshoppers,” Vicki-Jo said.
“Our Tree Scheme is designed to make it simple for people to order low cost native seedlings tailored to their specific needs. Our staff can help you with advice on what to plant to attract birds to your property and achieve other on farm benefits. You can grow your own plants, or we will assign one of our volunteer growers to grow your order. Your plants are then ready to go in time for winter 2020.”
You can order native seedlings through the Tree Scheme until 31 August 2019.
For more information or advice please phone Trees For Life on 08 8406 0500 or email [email protected]. Species lists for different South Australian regions can be downloaded here.
‘The benefits and costs of bird activity in agroecosystems’ by Rebecca Peisley, Charles Sturt University, 2017.
‘Native birds bring more benefits than damage to crops, orchards and grazing land, research finds.’ ABC Goulburn Murray by Ben Nielsen, 5 February 2018.