Brussels sprout losses to pigeons put at "millions"

Santa-suited scarecrows - image:Tesco
Santa-suited scarecrows - image:Tesco

Tesco has said the cost of losses of Brussels sprouts to pigeons "could run into millions of pounds", with one of largest suppliers blaming agri-environment schemes for boosting the birds' numbers.

Most growers protect sprouts with netting but these need to be removed prior to harvesting, which peaks in December, allowing the birds into the crop.

In response the supermarket has brought in some seasonal scarecrows in Santa outfits to help one of their largest British suppliers, TH Clements of Lincolnshire.

Tesco sprout buyer Lance Canavan said: "Growers have tried all manner of deterrents from small gas bangers to kites in the shape of hawks and flags that rustle in the wind. But after a while the birds get used to them and they become less effective.

"This week we went down with some Santa scarecrows to see if they could protect our customers' Christmas sprouts and so far, so good."

TH Clements spokesman Richard Mowbray said: "We are seeing more birds in the fields because of the rise in countryside environmental schemes with farmers encouraged to create grassland, plant trees, create hedgerows in order to boost wildlife.

"While it's great to create a habitat for wildlife the downside is we have to keep a closer eye on our crops."

Though many farmland birds continue to decline in number, the UK's woodpigeon population have risen nearly 80 per cent over the past 25 years, with feral pigeon numbers also on the rise.

However growing conditions for sprouts have otherwise been much improved on last year, with sprout quality reported to be very good and yield expected to be 10-15 per cent up.

The subject of safeguarding crops from pigeons will be among those discussed at next month's Brassica Growers' Association conference at the Lincolnshire Showground.

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