While out squirrel hunting or just assessing crop fields and finding wildlife injury, publication FNR-267 entitled "Identification of Wildlife Crop Depredation," and a DVD entitled, "Wildlife CSI: Unraveling the Mysteries of Wildlife Crop Damage," are good referrals when corn and soybean crops are attacked by wildlife.
The 28-page full-color guide fully provides damage descriptions associated with various wildlife species and projects expected yield potential losses depending upon the growth stage of the corn or soybean plant.
A study including thousands of hours surveying 160 corn and soybean fields during 2002 through 2005 by Purdue in partnership with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the National Wild Turkey Federation provided the data to develop the information found in the publication.
A total of 92 turkeys, 83 raccoons and 20 white-tailed deer were captured during the study. Each animal was fitted with a radio transmitter and tracked throughout the study period to assess daily and seasonal habitat use and movements.
The stage of crop development and the part of the plant damaged are the key factors in determining losses of yield potential. A corn plant bitten off at the V3 (three leaf stage) will have no impact on yield as the growing point remains underground on corn plants until the V5 growth stage.
However, a Canada goose or wild turkey plucking the entire seedling out of soft, moist soil results in the loss of an ear of corn in the field.
Alternatively, deer biting off corn silks can result in anywhere from zero to 100 percent yield loss of a particular plant depending when and how much is bitten off the ear.
While soybean plants have the growing point exposed above ground early on relative to corn, they may compensate when bitten off the main stem as branching occurs if the damage occurs above at least one axillary bud. However, repeated damage on a soybean plant significantly affects yield.
Typically, when one finds corn knocked down, deer are instantly blamed. This is because there are often deer hoof prints in the area of the damage. Fact is, deer like to visit areas where raccoons have damaged and fed in corn crops. Indeed, deer do knock down stocks of corn, though relatively few in number and plants tend to lay in the same direction.
Raccoon feeding patterns result in a haphazard array of broken corn stalks that typically lie in different directions. Raccoon damage is usually a 90-100 percent yield loss for the affected area.
With the exception of beaver, no other species of wildlife will cause damage to corn that consistently approaches as complete a loss in yield as will raccoons. Characteristic of Owen and Clay County fields, raccoon damages occur most frequently in field borders edged with woodlots.
Much of the feeding done by any species of wildlife that is most damaging to yield potential is done in areas adjacent to wooded areas. Light, water, and nutrient competition from trees result in minimal production adjacent to wooded areas despite input costs being the same.
With record in input costs and the need to perform scouting activity, it makes the most dollars and sense to leave a 20-40 foot distance between row crops and wooded areas. These areas can be mowed periodically to keep the woods from creeping out into the field.
Some areas that are riparian in nature, may even qualify for filter strips in the continuous CRP program where cost share and soil lease payments are available. Wildlife is more hesitant to cross an unsheltered distance when going from the woods to the crop field. For more wildlife information, visit www.purdue.edu/wildlife for info that is both farm and homeowner based.
You may contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 Ext. 14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events.
It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.
Sept. 4-6 -- Farm World Expo, Lebanon
Sept. 5-6 -- Grazing 102, Rochester
Sept. 13 -- Nature Daze, Brown County, 9 a.m.
Oct. 8-9 -- Indiana Flower Growers Association Annual Conference
Oct. 11 -- Adventures in Gardening, Danville, 8:30 a.m.