We have all seen deer, wild turkeys, raccoons or even a squirrel in our own backyards and fields and thought how amazing that creature was.
That appreciative feeling can sometimes wither away when you go outside and find that something you cherish has been destroyed by one of nature's mysterious wonders. For farmers, that damage can be found in their fields and result in a loss of yield in their corn and soybeans for that year.
When damage is spotted, farmers need to look at the stage of crop development along with the part of the plant that is damaged. Those two factors are what determine the yield loss potential. For instance, a corn plant bite off at the three leaf stage (V3) will have no impact on yield since the growing point remains underground on corn plants until the V5 growth stage. However, if the entire seedling is plucked out of moist soil by a bird, then there will be complete yield loss of one ear of corn.
When comparing soybeans to corn, the growing point of soybeans is located above the ground at an earlier growth stage than corn. Yet, if a soybean is bitten off, there is still hope that you won't experience complete yield loss. Instead, the main stem will often begin to branch out assuming that at least one auxiliary bud is present. There will be a yield loss if this event occurs repeatedly.
The moment a farmer walks out into a field and sees corn knocked down, there is an instant thought that deer are to blame. Well, that might be the case, but it is important to remember that deer often like to visit areas where raccoons have damaged and ate their share of corn first. Deer do knock down corn stalks, but usually only in a small area. Often, the stalks will lay in the same direction if a deer is the real culprit.
Raccoons, however, will cause the broken corn stalks to lie in different directions. A 90-100 percent yield loss can occur when there is raccoon damage. No other animal, except beaver, will cause as high of yield loss as consistently as raccoons do. Damage from raccoons occurs most frequently in field borders located near woods.
Damage to corn from beavers can be fairly easy to identify compared to other forms of damage caused by animals.
Beavers will damage corn just prior to the tassel stage until just prior to browning/maturity of the stalk. If your field has been impacted by beaver, you will see stalks that are cleanly cut close to the ground level at approximately a 45-degree angle. Likewise, you will probably notice a conspicuous path, or "beaver run" that goes toward water where the beaver dragged the cut stalk. Occasionally, you might even see some of the stalk visible along the water's edge.
Deer and groundhog are often the culprits that will wreak havoc on soybeans. Both will nibble on soybeans from the time they emerge until they turn brown and are no longer succulent. The peak feeding time for them is throughout the evening with the majority at dusk and dawn. Deer will bite the soybean plants down to a stub. Damage from deer will occur throughout the entire field.
Groundhogs, on the other hand, will cause damage that is concentrated around burrows. Often the damage from groundhogs will appear as a semi-circle around the edge of the field where the groundhogs emerge from their burrow.
Much of the feeding done by any species of wildlife is done in areas adjacent to wooded areas.
For more wildlife information, visit www.purdue.edu/wildlife for information that is both farm and homeowner based.
A copy of FNR-267, "Identification of WILDlife Crop Depredation," can be ordered from Purdue University for roughly $5 if you contact your local Purdue Extension Office.
As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County, or reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:
* Aug. 3 -- Calf Health Program, Southern Hills Church in Salem, 6:30 p.m. Pre-register by contacting 812-883-4601,
* Aug. 6-22 -- Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis,
* Aug. 14 -- 10th annual Wild About Wildlife, McCormick's Creek State Park, and
* Aug. 16 -- Master Naturalist Course. Eight-week course on Monday nights from 6-8 p.m., in Spencer. Cost is $55. Call 812-829-5020 to register by Aug. 6. Limited space available.