15 Jul Bird damage an issue for rice growers too
Just when one thinks they have a lot of issues to face when growing grapes for winemaking, you learn that people on the land around the world have to worry about a lot more than if it is going to rain or if there has been too much. In the Barossa we are no different to most horticultural/viticultural regions whereby birds such as starlings, can be a constant problem during the ripening stages. It seems that birds are a problem for the ricegrowers of Asia too.
This week whilst on holiday in Bali, I got brave and hired a Honda motorbike (a whole $7 a day). After a few hours building my confidence on the massively congested, skinny roads with few signs, I ventured a couple of hours north-west into the rural rice paddy areas. I stopped to take this pic of a paddy with rice nearing harvest, wondering what the strings strung over the crops with plastic bags tied to them, and all sorts of moving objects, was about. Then I noticed a number of workers with what seemed to be sling-shots on their hips. It turns out that the sweet sap of the developing rice plant is a staple of the local Petingan (small) birds. One of them is a supposedly endangered white starling. They sit in the coconut palms awaiting their opportunity to raid the rice paddies whenever their human foe is not attentive. But wipe them out not!! The have been found to also have a diet of insect pests of the paddies! Nature at work, so perhaps the message is to allow for some losses.
At Roenfeldt Hill, we have native bush a plenty, and trees down two boundaries of our vineyard, which are the refuge of a range of the Starling, Parrot and Noisy Mynah grape robbers during Feb-March. A number of stategies are used to minimise bird damage, including shiny tape and a noisy gas gun that our neighbours must hate.
Most effective though, are the range of hawk shapes we have made up from scrap timber and ply, hung from poles placed throughout the vineyard and near to the ends of rows nearest the bush. Eagle-shaped kites are effective too, but expensive to replace after a windy night. Interestingly the Indonesian farmers also use kites, some of them massive, over three metres long. Maybe our methods are not as quirky as we thought!