JUN 17, 2016 8:43 AM PDT

Duck Patrol: using ducks as pest control

At Vergenoegd Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa, people are wild for ducks. This vineyard starting using ducks as pest control to combat the snails, slugs, and other pests that eat the grape vines. This in turn decreases the vineyard’s need for pesticides – ducks after all are a much more environmentally friendly option.
 
David Badenhorst/Caters News Agency
 
But it works twofold – the ducks not only eat the pests (yummy for the ducks!), but their waste also acts as a fertilizer for the vineyard, thus reducing the need for fertilizers as well. In fact, the ducks have such an important environment impact for the vineyard, that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has awarded Vergenoegd Wine Estate a biodiversity certification!

Furthermore, the duck phenomenon has turned into quite the tourist scheme for the wine estate. Every day twice a day visitors can watch the duck parade, which consists of a flock of 700-900 Indian Runner ducks, migrate from their pens to the fields where the spend the days eating the pests away. Guests can also visit the heat-controlled nursery to see the ducklings, a tour which is very popular with children and adults alike. The nursery has kept the flock at an appropriate population size since 1984, when the vineyard started using ducks for pest control.
 
David Badenhorst/ Caters News Agency
 
On Vergenoegd’s Meet Our Ducks page, the wine estate explains what makes their ducks so special. “Indian runner ducks are an unusual breed. They stand upright like penguins and instead of waddling, they run. The Indian Runner Ducks don’t lie fly and instead of making nests, they normally lay their eggs as they walk. They hardly make any noise, with only the females quacking. They are the perfect breed to use in the vines, since they are mostly preoccupied with foraging snails and slugs and love to spend their days snacking away. One man’s pest is another duck’s snack.”

Nicole Arnold, a staff member at the estate, summed up the ducks’ work, saying the ducks act as living pesticides, helping harvest the best grapes for the Runner Duck wine company. “They are working ducks who contribute towards our aim to implement more environmentally friendly farming practices. They also contribute towards the fertilization of the vineyards.”
 

Sources: Vergenoegd Wine Estate, Mother Nature Network, Daily Mail UK
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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