High sandhill crane populations? Don’t overlook planter box treatment with Avipel.

Consider using the powder formulation of Avipel seed treatment for last-minute application in the planter box if you are dealing with a large sandhill crane population.

Crane damage
Photo by Chris DiFonzo, MSU

With the 2019 planting season about to get underway, many growers are making final plans for managing pests on their fields. One of the most interesting pests of Michigan corn production are sandhill cranes. The birds spend most of their time foraging in fields feeding mostly on insects and slugs, arguably a benefit to production. However, cranes also have a taste for the seeds, which remain attached to the roots of emerging corn plants. Hungry cranes will walk down the row, pull up plants and remove the tiny remnants of the kernel. Of course, it takes a lot of seed to make a meal for a crane, so stands can be lost in large areas of fields in short order, particularly where there are large roving bands of juvenile birds in an area and favorable habitat (especially ponds or swamps) nearby. Farmers can attempt to manage these populations with the appropriate depredation permits obtained from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. However, there are non-lethal measures that also work to varying degrees, including seed treatment repellents, scare tactics using propane canons, flags, balloons, streamers or shotgun.

Avipel is a repellent that deters crane feeding by tasting bad and making the crane feel a bit sick. It is based on a chemical found naturally in certain plants and it does not hurt the crane. Birds start to feed on corn but usually abandon the activity once they learn the seed isn’t so tasty after all. In our experience, stand loss is generally limited to small areas where they initially feed and get their first taste of Avipel. Do not be surprised if cranes, especially mating pairs, remain in a treated field; they may simply have shifted their interest back to a better food source such as white grubs.

Avipel was newly labeled in 2019 for use in all 50 states on sandhill crane. It is available for use as a liquid seed treatment that can be applied by your dealer, a third party or as a planter box treatment in powder form that can be mixed with seed by hand at the time of planting. Its protection is more variable compared to the liquid formulation, but is still effective and can be used in conjunction any other type of seed treatment. Be sure to follow the label when mixing the product with seed. Keys suppliers in the Midwest are Helena, Wilbur-Ellis and Nutrien, and there may also be some local co-ops carrying the product. For more information on Avipel, visit the Avipel website.

Dan Propst, the Midwest sales representative at Arkion Life Sciences (makers of Avipel), gave a presentation during a webinar, “How to Keep Your Crop Field from Becoming a Wildlife Food Plot,” where speakers addressed the topic of crane damage and management, and those presentations are archived on Michigan State University Extension’s Field Crop Resources page.

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