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Blackbirds causing problems for rice farmers - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Blackbirds causing problems for rice farmers

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Acadia Parish -

In Acadiana, blackbirds are causing problems for rice farmers and their harvests. Those farmers are teaming up with the LSU AgCenter and the USDA to combat that problem.

Every year, millions of blackbirds settle in Acadiana after flying south for winter.

"They form into huge flocks, and for a little while, it's a good thing because they're eating weed seeds, but once we start planting rice, they can attack and eat the rice in the rice fields," explained LSU Ag Rice Research Center Coordinator Don Groth.

"They'll start as soon as the seed is put out into the field and go all the way through actually pulling the growing plant," said GF&P Zaunbrecher Farms Co-Owner Fred Zaunbrecher. 

Farmers say huge flocks of blackbirds can take out a whole field in days. 

Their solution is treating rice seeds with the chemical Starlicide.

Farmers say that the chemical is specifically made to target blackbirds and is safe for the crops and the environment.

"Only about one percent of the seed is treated, and it's put out at the specific roosting areas about the time we start planting rice," said Zaunbrecher.

For farmers, this program is saving them time and money.

"We're looking at millions of dollars potentially because it costs $80 to $300 per acre to plant a rice field for just the seed," explained Groth. 

LSU Ag agents also say the program helps local songbird species who have to compete against the invasive blackbirds for resources.  

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