The Use of Ducks in Rice Fields in the Control of Weed and Pest
Various communities have used ducks and geese as a weed and pest control strategy. Indeed, there exist studies that have been conducted looking into the efficiency of the strategy in terms of yield, weed control and also pest control. Ducks and geese offer an organic method of controlling pests and weeds. Ducks have a high affinity of consuming seeds made by weeds, snails, a variety of bugs and also the slugs. This is the main foundation of the system. In addition, as the ducks work on the weeds and pest, their waste is released into the fields thus improving soil fertility resulting in higher yields and decreased costs.
Weeds and pests are a serious threat in any crop production. They directly affect the quality of a produce. Pests have the ability to cause extensive crop damage during any growth cycle of the crop. Different pest attack crops at different stages and the effects are varied. Some pests attack crops during the early growth stages where stems may be cut leading to premature crop death or later on during flowering causing decreased and sub-standard yields. Weeds on the other hand lead to decreased nutrient availability as they compete with crops to get a share of the available nutrients. The decreased availability of nutrients has subsequent effects on the yield.
A system that advances an alternative to pesticides and herbicides in an effective and sustainable manner would be an ideal choice for organic crop production. It’s widely known that the increased use of synthetically based chemicals towards the control of pests and weeds has increasingly led to the pollution of water sources and has also destroyed vital ecosystems. This has also altered the soil PH making the environmental not conducive for vital species needed to maintain high quality soils. The opportunity to have multiple benefits that is self-sustaining like the use of ducks in pest and weed control and at the same time providing nutrients to the soil and raising ducks is an ideal sustainable farming practice.
This system has a myriad of benefits to the ecosystem and in the preservation of biodiversity. The system also provides a means for less labor and other alternatives that have varied effects on the soil such as compacting and disruption that would arise when heavy machines or humans increasingly tread on the soil. This would prevent proper aeration of the soil.
Farmers more so in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam have used this technology especially in the rice plantations. Data on the use of ducks in rice field from several nations across Asia shows successful outcomes. These communities raise ducks in high numbers in a system that can be called rice-duck farming system. A past experimental study published by the Livestock Research for Rural Development1 has outlined the effectiveness of using ducks as a pest and weed control system.
The study was carried out in Omon district, Mekong Delta and was geared towards evaluating the effectiveness of using ducks as a pest and weed control method. The study findings were diverse. One of the findings stated that the introduction of ducks into the rice fields during the early stages of rice growth was effective in causing a significant decrease or total removal of pests within one-two weeks. On the control of weeds, the ducks proved effective against major weeds observed in the fields after two weeks of introduction as compared to the control unit where weeds were seen to grow and multiply rapidly. In the control unit, the adverse effects of weeds were seen namely; thin and week rice crops with decreased yields.
For greater effectiveness, ducks were made to forage on the fields throughout. On the yields, the chemical group had the highest yields followed by the duck-rice group that had 50% Nitrogen fertilizer availed. The resulting difference between these two groups was found to be only 8%. However, the duck-rice group with no fertilizer had yields lower translating almost to 50% yield reduction. A recent article we did pointed out the challenges that organic food production faces. One of these challenges is the continued lack of nitrogen which is vital in yield maximization.
In conclusion, this study found out that the ducks were highly effective in controlling weeds and pests. This in turn can have the benefit of decreased costs as less labor and chemical inputs would be needed.
Another study done by Practical Action2 concluded that the duck-rice farming technology led to several socio-economic and environmental benefits. The ducks were introduced into the rice fields 10-20 days after rice was planted until the flowering stages. The study also found out that this form of farming was better in rice production than others as it led to decreased production costs, high yields achievement, had benefits for the environment and led to increased income. Further, it’s stated that 20% higher yields can be achieved with the use of this system, 50% increase in income can be achieved as well as enhanced food security through the consumption of duck meat.
1. Men B X, Tinh T K, Preston T R, Ogle B and Lindberg J E 1999: Use of local ducklings to control insect pests and weeds in the growing rice field. Livestock Research for Rural Development. Volume 11, Article #15. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from http://www.lrrd.org/lrrd11/2/men112.htm