Thèse, financée, à l’Agroscope en Suisse (équivalent INRA), co-encadrement au CESCO -MNHN, F Jiguet)

Sunflower and maize are often subject to bird damages at sowing or emergence, causing yield losses and cost increases due to a second sowing in some extreme situations. This could even threaten the production of sunflower, as farmers are tempted to give up this crop and choose another one with less risk of failure. Bird population control through shooting or nest destruction is poorly effective and with the ban of seed coating with repulsive substances, farmers are left without any solution to protect their crops against crows, rooks and pigeons.
In this project, we will study birds’ population dynamic and their feeding behavior in order to better understand the impact of agricultural landscape on damage risk for crops. The collaboration with agriculture and nature protection services of several Swiss regions will allow to estimate birds’ population and damages in various environments, and to develop and test new crop protection systems (frightening devices, intercropping, attractive strip, etc.) together with agriculture advisers and farmers.
The work will be organized in three main tasks:
– Studying bird population trends and potential links to damages. What are the spatial and temporal trends of crow, rook, raven and wood pigeon numbers in Switzerland? Linking bird trends and habitats, including urban, farmland and protected areas. Linking landscape, agricultural systems, and biodiversity to damages to crops.
– Studying bird food preferences and behaviours to help defining new strategies of crop damage reduction. Experimental tests with familiar and wild crows. GPS tracking of wild crows.
– Which new technical itineraries are efficient to reduce damages caused by pigeons and crows to various crops? Implementing the new strategies in the field with voluntary farmers to test their efficiency

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