Growing Produce: Fruit growers across the country may lose sleep while worrying about insects, diseases, and weeds. But according to the American Fruit GrowerSM 2022 State of Industry survey, the pest category that really takes a bite out of their peace of mind is wildlife.
Just under 300 survey respondents single out myriad examples of wildlife — from chipmunks to turkeys to voles — that plagued them in 2021. By comparison, insects are cited by 273 respondents, disease by 248, and weeds by 234.
Among all animals, deer elicit the most complaints. Eighty-five growers cite damage to their orchards, particularly to young trees.
One grower notes the limited effectiveness of deer repellent. Others have built 8-foot fences around their farms to protect apple, pluot, and plum trees. Some farmers legally shoot deer. Others encourage coyote predation…
When combined, all types of field rodents, such as rats, mice, moles, and other vertebrate pest species, outnumber deer and birds in terms of grower complaints. Squirrels (48 survey mentions), groundhogs and gophers (34), rabbits and racoons (20), rats, mice, and chipmunks (19), and voles and moles (12) are all troublesome.
“Gophers are a continuous battle,” a California nut grower says. They damaged first-year vines, a grape grower from the state adds.
Rabbits chew on canes, according to an Indiana berry grower. Racoons are a “major problem,” a grape grower in Florida adds, “but are kept at bay with electric fencing.”
In California, “voles eat the nuts,” a grower says.
Wild hogs are cited a dozen times by survey respondents. “Hogs are a constant problem,” a citrus grower in Florida says.
Coyotes, while favored by some in the battle against deer, create problems themselves. Growers from California and Florida lament the animals chewing up their irrigation lines.