Duck alla Pest Control—These Snail-Eating Ducks Protect 140 Acres of South African Vineyards
An antique vineyard in South Africa is ditching toxic pesticides for a horde of hungry ducks, as they attempt to make their wines more sustainable.
In reality, Vergenoegd Löw, the wine estate outside Cape Town, South Africa, has been running ducks through their grape vines since the 1970s, but recently they’re trying to introduce this method of pest control to their industry allies.
The idea first came from east Asia where ducks are used to clear harmful invertebrates out of rice paddies, and it’s become so successful on the estate, that a quacking 1,600 ducks are used.
“I call our ducks the soldiers of our vineyards,” managing director Corius Visser told CNN. “They will eat aphids, they will eat snails, they will eat small worms; they keep (it) completely pest-free.”
Vergenoegd Löw use a species called Indian runner ducks, a flightless variety that have a peculiar straight-backed walking gait, a strong sense of smell, and a voracious appetite for pests.
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Now he’s eager to sell 750 ducks to other vineyards in order to create a more sustainable reputation for the South African wine industry.
5 days a week they are herded through 140 acres of grape vines eating as they go, and leaving behind fertilizer in the form of their droppings. Once work is done, they take an annual leave during the harvest season when they enjoy open farm pasture and a lake to swim in. If they stayed year-round, they would eat the grapes as well.
“The world is moving away from more conventional farming to (being) a bit more organic,” Visser explains. “For Vergenoegd, it’s a big goal… to have less influence on the Earth, the soil and the environment.”
Visser hopes they can increase the price point of their wines resulting from the work that goes into caring for the ducks. The estate even sells a line of wines called “Runner Duck.”
The increased margin, it’s hoped, can then be put back into yet more sustainable options. As of now Vergenoegd Löw uses the duck eggs in their restaurant, manages a 34-acre wetland as a carbon sink, and generates electricity using solar panels.
READ ALSO: California Vineyards That Once Used Only Toxic Chemicals to Protect Vines Now Use Nesting Owls
Vineyards in California are using owl boxes to encourage barn owls to make their homes in the middle of the grapes as a way to control rodent populations. Owls can eat a stunning number of individual vermin per day, and it’s just another example of a nature-based solution that allows farms to fit more snugly into a natural environment.
WATCH Africa News 2016 report on the ducks…
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