A Horde of Ducks Have Saved 140 Acres of Vineyards in South Africa 

The Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate.

The Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate. (Image: Mariagroth via Dreamstime)

Nowadays, farmers and individual crop growers have embraced pesticide-free and eco-friendly farming measures. These farms are using natural measures to boost harvests and eliminate pests. A South Africa-based vineyard has adopted a unique measure. They employ a horde of ducks to save their grapes from pests. The wine estate named Vergenoegd Löw is located outside of Cape Town.

Ducks are soldiers of the vineyard

Managing director, Corius Visser, said: “I call our ducks the soldiers of our vineyards. They will eat aphids, they will eat snails, they will eat small worms; they keep (it) completely pest-free.” (CNN). The Indian runner ducks, are a flightless species marked by a weird straight-backed walking gait and have a voracious appetite.

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The farm is now trying to sell many ducks to other vineyards and teach them the technique. They want to salvage the image of the South African wine industry.

Visser says: “The world is moving away from more conventional farming to (being) a bit more organic. For Vergenoegd, it’s a big goal… to have less influence on the Earth, the soil, and the environment.” (CNN). In Asia, farmers have used ducks for ages to eradicate pests.

A flock of Indian runner ducks
The Indian runner ducks, are a flightless species marked by a weird straight-backed walking gait and they have a voracious appetite. (Image: Mariagroth via Dreamstime)

The Vergenoegd Löw ducks are herded through grape vines covering 140 acres and they gobble up insects and pests as they move. During the harvest season, they enjoy a break and spend time swimming. It is also practical since if the ducks are not kept away from the vineyard, they will gorge on ripe grapes, too!

The Indian runner ducks run through the grapevines every day and they eat up pests like leaf hoppers, grape bud beetles, and brown marmorated stink bugs. As they walk through the vineyard, they almost resemble penguins. They are fast and slim, so moving through the vines is no hassle for them. Since the hungry ducks gobble up almost all the pests and bugs, the farm doesn’t need to use chemical pesticides. This reduces the impact on the environment and means their wines are free from chemical traces. 

Vergenoegd Löw is an industry trendsetter

Vergenoegd Löw is also keen on adopting other environment-friendly measures apart from using ducks to eradicate pests. Solar panels provide electricity for the estate all year round and use their duck’s eggs in the restaurant. However, the ducks are not killed for their meat. There are other vineyards in different places that are also using other birds. Some vineyards in California are aided by barn owls to eliminate rats and rodents. 

Their business has been operating since the 17th century and now serves as a trendsetter in adopting green practices. The estate now has almost 1,800 Indian runner ducks. They segregate the flock into 3 groups- resting, breeding, and working. They are rotated periodically. The farm also has dedicated staff to keep the duck brigade in top shape. Additionally, they look after the ducklings and eggs. Vergenoegd Löw makes quality red wine. It harvests 4 white cultivars and 8 red cultivars and they are quite popular. Estate Blend is their flagship wine. In fact, it also has a wine named after the runner ducks!

Vergenoegd Low Wine Estate
The Vergenoegd Löw ducks are herded through grape vines covering 140 acres and they gobble up insects and pests as they move. (Image: Mariagroth via Dreamstime)

Vergenoegd Löw has implemented its much talked about Vergenoegd Waterbird Habitat Project. The aim of this conservation project is to show private landowners ways to rehabilitate and change water bodies so that they can be used by indigenous water birds of varying types. If the ideal breeding grounds for waterbirds are in place, those will attract many more animals including some migrating birds. This may have a positive impact on the Western Cape of South Africa in the future.

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