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Source: Swiss Canton Zug – news in German

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Positive balance after the first attempt in the canton of Zug: Free-range pigs reduce tiger nut grass in a natural way

For the first time, free-range pigs grazed in a field infested with tiger almond grass in the canton of Zug. The practical test was accompanied by Agroscope and was intended to show whether the invasive neophyte can be decimated naturally. In fact, the tiger nutgrass infestation has decreased significantly after the pigs were used. In order to obtain even more precise data, the experiment would have to be repeated on a more contaminated area.

In order to examine an alternative in addition to the chemical and physical control options against tiger almond grass (Cyperus esculentus), a test was started last autumn with free-range pigs on an area contaminated with tiger almond grass in the canton of Zug. René Total, Agroscope, explains: “With the use of wool and Turopolje pigs, an attempt was made to decimate the tiger nut population. These breeds are known for their heavy burrowing and addictive activity. Feeding tests with the cultivated form of Cyperus esculentus have shown that these almonds are a treat for the pigs. ” The length of stay on the test field should be around eight months. Previous experiments with normal domestic pigs have shown that these compact the soil on the surface. Therefore this should be loosened up once or twice during the test phase.

Pigs rummaged through the ground very intensively In autumn 2019, the pigs rummaged through the ground very intensively in an area of ​​around 20 ares (preculture grain), which was moderately contaminated with tiger nut grass. After a short time the area was turned over. The monitoring with a long-term camera from Agroscope showed that there was a very high level of digging activity, especially where the densest populations of tiger nut grass were. A feeding experiment with sterile tiger nuts (cultivated form) should also show whether the pigs can also find almonds in deeper soil layers. “When we checked the depots after three days, there were no more almonds,” reports René Total. Certain areas of the ground became muddy due to heavy rainfall and intensive digging. Since a hard crust then formed in dry weather, soil cultivation was carried out with a cultivator in March and April 2020. This made it easier for the pigs to rummage again and layers of soil that they had not yet rummaged through became accessible to the pigs.

The number of tiger almond grass plants has decreased significantly «The number of tiger almond grass plants per ten liters of soil decreased significantly at the end of the test compared to the samples before the test. However, since the area was not very heavily populated with tiger nut grass, only a few samples could be taken. The attempt would therefore have to be repeated on a more contaminated area, ”says René Total.

After one month in the climatic chamber, no sprouting almonds were found in the fecal samples. This means that the pigs destroy the almonds while eating and digesting them to such an extent that they no longer germinate. This also prevents the almonds from spreading through the faeces on the area.

After the pigs were removed from the area at the end of April 2020, the partial areas measured with GPS were counted again for infestation with tiger almond grass at the beginning of July 2020. As with the soil samples, the number of plants had clearly decreased.

Ecologically sensible control of tiger nutgrass Economics director Silvia Thalmann-Gut is delighted with the result: “The use of extensively kept pigs on soils infested with tiger nutgrass can significantly reduce the population of tiger nutgrass. That makes ecological sense because it works without herbicides. ” The pigs can be used on larger areas or specifically on partial areas where tiger almond grass is available.

«In addition to the positive effect on neophyte control and active soil cultivation, these woolen and turopolje pigs were also an attraction to watch. If the entire package from the farm works together, the sale of farm products could be positively influenced, ”explains Martina Schmid, Canton of Zug Agriculture Office, which actively supported the project. In addition to fighting tiger nuts, the pigs also have a positive effect on the soil structure and other problem weeds.

Effort, yield and procedure The effort involved in caring for the pigs should not be underestimated. The bottom wire of the pasture fence had to be shoveled free regularly, as the pigs move very large amounts of earth. The additional feeding and maintenance of the accommodations must not be neglected. René Total’s conclusion: “Fighting the tiger nut grass with the help of pigs is not a 100% solution. There is a reduction in tiger nuts in the soil. Dormant almonds in the ground cannot be controlled chemically. With free-range pigs, however, resting almonds are also recorded. Otherwise this is only possible with steam sterilization. ” Raymund Gmünder from the cantonal plant protection service mentions the use of free-range pigs for the first reduction of the tiger nut grass as a possible strategy for combating tiger nut grass: “The legal requirements must be observed. We recommend using free-range pigs to control tiger almond grass in advance with the cantonal plant protection service. Early detection of the neophyte and immediate, targeted control of it can prevent many activities and costs. “

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and / or sentence structure not be perfect.

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