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Californian vineyards are using owls to protect vines instead of chemicals 

Napa Valley vintners have started using nesting barn owls for pest control in an effort to move away from toxic pesticides while making wine.

Barn owls are being welcomed onto vineyards across California, according the Good News Network, which revealed that scientists hand already begun studying the impact of the strategy and has the results have been “encouraging”.

According to the nonprofit Napa Green, a trend toward chemical-free farming statewide is reflected in the threefold increase of organic winegrape acreage since 2005, with the number of organic acres doubling in just the last decade.

One of the world’s most efficient pest controllers is the barn owl, which is found on six of our seven continents and is capable of eating 3,400 rodents each year.

Matt Johnson, a wildlife professor at Humboldt State, who has studied pest control in vineyards revealed that one of his surveys found that out of 75 California wine makers, four-fifths of them purposely invite owls onto their property by constructing nest boxes.

“We’re working mainly in Napa Valley, where there are over 300 barn owl nest boxes,” said Johnson.

John C. Robinson, a local ornithologist, told Bay Nature Magazine: “You can literally put a barn owl nest box in the exact location where you think you have a problem with the small mammals, and voilà! The owls will start using that area.”

Johnson and his graduate students have reportedly found that barn owls like their boxes to sit around 9 feet off the ground, face away from the sun, adjacent to an unkempt field, and preferably far from forested acres.

The scientists are now encouraging other winemakers to consider the move observing that using barn owls could be much better than using pesticides, or trapping reminding that not only is it a helpful way to let the species thrive, but also, using owls is a much less expensive form of pest control.

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