Since South Africa’s Vergenoegd Löw the Wine Estate opened in 1696, the owners have been concerned by an abundance of white dune snails in their vineyard. These snails and other pests love to feast on the buds sprouting off grapevines in spring. When this happens, the plants can’t produce fruits necessary for the vineyard’s signature shiraz, merlot, malbec and cabernet sauvignon wines.
|Credits: Portfolio Collection|
To address this problem, the vineyard started to use ducks in 1984. Through their agile bodies, long necks and sharp, quick beaks, the ducks can pluck snails from vines and trunks and eat other pests. “We try to keep a pesticide-free farm by using the ducks. They help us not to use poison on the farm,” Denzil Matthys, Vergenoegd’s duck caretaker, said. The vineyard has over 1,200 Indian runner decks to help them every day.
|Credits: Cape Town Magazine|
The ducks would start scarfing down pests at about 10 in the morning. "The Indian runner duck is the best worker in the vineyard,” Matthys said. According to Smithsonian Mag, the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the vineyard’s owners maintain a small but fierce team of geese to guard other ducks from mongoose, owls, and other predators as well as keep the birds’ concentration focused on the job.
Aside from keeping the vineyard pest-free, Gavin Moyes, the estate’s tasting room manager, stated that the ducks also help them other ways. Their nutrient-rich dung helps their vines grow. At around four in the afternoon, the ducks would get into formation and proceed back to their home: a series of small colonies, scattered around the estate’s lake.
This isn’t the first time ducks have been used to deal with such problems. In Bali, ducks are regularly dispatched to fertilize rice paddies before seeds are planted. Meanwhile, in China, officials release thousands of ducks and chickens to combat a swarm of locusts laying waste to agricultural plots.