Magpie geese damage to mango crops

Warren Hunt, Agricultural Policy and Analysis Officer, Darwin

Magpie geese are a growing problem in mango orchards in the Darwin region. Observations by two sizeable mango businesses indicate crop losses between 10-15%. If this level of damage is consistent through much of the Darwin mango production region, the impact could be worth up to $2 million per annum. A new initiative between the NT Government, NT Farmers Association (NTFA), Charles Darwin University (CDU) and Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) aims to find a long-term solution to this problem. The project, funded by members’ mango levies to HIA, involves a CDU PhD study to investigate the behavioural patterns of the birds and investigate the efficacy of a number of novel damage mitigation techniques.

Typical damage to mango fruit by magpie geeseTypical damage to mango fruit by magpie geeseMagpie goose

Project activities commenced with a growers’ consultation meeting in April at Acacia Hills Farm that was attended by over 40 farmers and services sector providers. A project advisory committee has been formed to provide guidance to the research team and comprises growers, HIA, CDU, AMIA, NTFA, DLRM and Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries (DPIF) representatives.

Additionally, Top End mango producer and NTFA/AMIA Board member Han Siah won a Nuffield Scholarship to investigate novel control techniques for protecting horticultural crops from bird damage in the Top End. Mr Siah’s new information may provide ideas that could inform the project about novel control techniques for testing in mangoes and other horticultural crops.

Research is necessary to establish the extent of the problem and determine potential mitigation strategies that may be essential for ensuring the Darwin region maintains a profitable mango industry in coming decades, without detrimentally affecting magpie geese populations. Mango farmers, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT and the Department of Land Resource Management (DLRM) experts believe that the behaviour of magpie geese in recent years may be altering. This could be resulting in geese causing increased early damage and in some cases even becoming resident in orchards.

Last updated: 24 June 2016