Annual blackbird damage to sunflower is valued at $5 to $10 million. Perhaps more importantly, the National Sunflower Association has identified blackbirds as the key reason for growers to abandon sunflower in areas of prime production. North Dakota and South Dakota together produce approximately 70% of sunflower grown in the United States. This crop adds $906 million to the regional economy. To date, cost effective and environmentally safe methods to reduce bird damage to sunflower remain elusive. In the 1980’s, scientists from the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) showed that “decoy” sunflower plots can greatly reduce bird damage to local commercial sunflower fields. At the time, this idea was abandoned due to lack of grower support. Support has increased, however, over the past 10 years due to conservation interests and new federal farm programs. In 2004, Wildlife Services (WS) along with North Dakota State University (NDSU) started the “Wildlife Conservation Sunflower Plots” (WCSP) study.
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