Turkey numbers tumble

wildturkeyStarting this spring, researchers are taking a closer look at why wild turkey numbers are decreasing in Missouri. They believe poor production is mainly to blame, with turkey hens raising fewer poults each year.When spring turkey season opens in Missouri on April 19, hunters may find the gobblers to be more elusive than ever.

The state’s wild turkey population is in decline, dropping more than 60% since 2004, and production of young turkeys is at near-record lows. The Missouri Department of Conservation’s statewide poult-to-hen ratio in 2020 was 1.0, which means each female is only producing one baby turkey per year on average.

This poor production—not poor survival or overharvest by hunters—appears to be the greatest contributor to the decrease in turkey population, according to MDC. Multi­ple factors influence turkey production, including weather, habitat, predators and food.

Researchers at the University of Missouri and MDC are launching new studies to pinpoint possible reasons for the decline. This spring, two MU researchers will start tracking wild turkey movements by attaching GPS backpacks to 45 hens and their poults in Putnam County, Mo. The backpacks, which are fitted with radio transmitters and accelerometers that sense motion and velocity, will help them gather behavioral information. Trail cameras also will take images of poult predators in the landscape.

With the help of technicians and two doctoral students, the team plans to tag 150 tur­key hens with GPS transmitters over the next four years. The project is funded through a $1.3 million MDC grant with support from the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Even with the downward trend, Missouri still boasts one of the largest wild turkey populations in the nation, with somewhere between 350,000 and 400,000 statewide. About 10% of that population is harvested through hunting each year.

For more information, visit huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/turkey.

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Schad is new CEO of Missouri Corn

Schad 6772 V2Bradley SchadFor the first time in nearly 35 years, a new chief executive officer is at the helm of the Missouri Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council (MCMC).

Bradley Schad of Versailles, Mo., assumed his role as the organizations' CEO and executive director on March 15. He succeeds Gary Marshall, who retired after leading the state’s corn industry since the mid-1980s. Schad had been serving as senior director of market development and grower engagement for Missouri Corn. In his new position, Schad will be responsible for managing the day-to-day and long-range approach of MCMC and MCGA, working in cooperation with the board, staff and industry stakeholders.

“This was not an easy decision, nor one that was made lightly,” said MCGA Presi­dent Jay Fischer of Jefferson City. “After an extensive and thorough national search, it was unanimous Bradley has the heart and drive to continue Missouri Corn’s proud leg­acy. We firmly believe he has the deep industry experience and strong commitment to take our organization into the next chapter.”

Schad started with Missouri Corn in 2008, managing programs focused on ethanol and other market opportunities. He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Missouri, where he received a bachelor of science in agriculture systems management and minor in agricultural economics.

“It has been a great privilege to be part of such a phenomenal organization through­out my career,” Schad said. “I’m honored to continue the long tradition of success and look forward to working to move the industry forward.”

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Attentive action can help prevent spread of unwanted, non-native plants

Though once used widely in landscape design, the Bradford (Callery) pear tree is now considered by many to be a nuisance plant.Though once used widely in landscape design, the Bradford (Callery) pear tree is now considered by many to be a nuisance plant.Last year, when people across the U.S. and Canada re­ceived unsolicited packets of seed believed to originate in China, the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) was among those to raise the alarm and say the seeds shouldn’t be planted. Authorities had discovered some packets contained noxious weed seeds that could threaten both agricultural and natural areas.

Jacob Barney, an associate professor at Virginia Tech who spe­cializes in invasive plants, said the caution is well warranted.

“The decisions each of us make can have long-lasting results that impact future generations,” he said. “When we intention­ally or unintentionally plant species that originate outside the region where we live, we run the risk of introducing weedy invaders that can harm our environment, our economy and even human health.”

In fact, some of North America’s most troublesome invasive weeds owe their origins to poor decisions, inattention or a lack of understanding of the potential risks that non-native plants can represent. For example, the Bradford pear tree, a variant of the callery pear, was once in high demand in the horticultural industry. Unfortunately, they’ve proven to be a real pest when growing outside their native environment, crowding out native species and creating dense thickets that are virtually impassable.

 

Cheatgrass, also known as downy brome in the eastern U.S., is believed to have been introduced to the United States from Europe in the 1800s via contaminated grain and packing materials. At one point it was even purposefully planted by the USDA to remediate degraded rangelands. Today cheatgrass infests every region of the U.S. It overtakes native plant species and is a common pest in crop fields, nurseries and orchards.

Another example is hydrilla, which made its way to the U.S. a half century ago when a Missouri tropical fish dealer imported the plant from Sri Lanka for aquariums. The aggressive aquatic weed is now among the most widespread of the 112 weeds on the Federal Noxious Weed list. It clogs waterways, displaces native vegetation, and contributes to harmful algae blooms.

Here are tips to help protect against new invasive species and to avoid spreading those that are already entrenched:

1. Don’t bring it back. You may fall in love with the exotic plants you spot during a tour of a foreign country. But take photos and resist the temptation to bring specimens home. Federal regulations place strict limits on any non-native plant or plant parts you hope to grow back home. You’ll need a special certification that the plant is safe for import.

2. Go native. Select plants native to your region. Unlike non-native plants, you’ll find they are well behaved and won’t crowd other beneficial native species. They also provide food and habitat for butterflies, insects, birds and other animals.

3. Make smart purchases. If you are planting from seed, buy local seeds certified to contain minimal contaminants. Read the label carefully to see what’s included so you don’t plant non-native invaders that can overrun your garden.

4. Be careful outdoors. Take commonsense measures to make certain you aren’t transporting invasive weeds as you travel and enjoy camping, boating, hiking or other outdoor activities. Carefully inspect and wash your boat, vehicle, ATV, hiking boots or other equipment to remove any plant fragments or seeds you’ve picked up along the way. And avoid carrying firewood with you from one location to an­other.

5. Become a “spotter.” Early detection of new invasive weed outbreaks can help authorities take swift action to prevent further spread. Familiarize yourself with the invasive weeds most prevalent in your area—information that is available through the Invasive Plant Council covering your state or region. In MFA territory, that organization is the Midwest Invasive Plant Network www.mipn.org. These same organizations typically have reporting protocols for new infestations you might discover.

For more information and educational resources, visit the North American Invasive Species Management Association website at naisma.org.

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