USDA seeks Louisiana growers with hog damage for drone study

wild hogs

Photo by Billy Higginbotham, professor emeritus with Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center in Overton

Dwight LeBlanc, Louisiana Wildlife Services state director based in Port Allen, is seeking Louisiana rice producers who have had feral hog damage to their crop to participate in a study.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is conducting feral swine control projects across the United States, including Louisiana. One of the goals is to quantify damage to various resources and determine if control objectives can be achieved, he wrote in a letter to producers.

“Our economics folks are currently evaluating damage to six major crops, including rice. One of this year’s projects will help determine if drones, outfitted with specialty cameras, can be used to accurately and remotely identify and assess damage to rice and then verify the damage in the field.

“If this design-phase project is successful, future data could be used to extrapolate damage figures over larger areas to better quantify economic losses. This would provide information on where feral swine  control projects need to be focused, whether damage is increasing or decreasing, and the success or failure of control efforts.

“I have talked to some of you individually about this project, but now that rice is planted and growing, I am trying to find some fields in Southwest Louisiana that have historically sustained pig damage during the headed period.

“General procedure would be for our drone operator to fly a damaged field and then ground-truth the amount of damage.

“Data would be used to determine if this aerial assessment would be feasible and accurate. This information would provide additional data to support feral swine operations across the nation.

“If you are willing to participate, would you also be willing to locate some growers who may want to participate in this project? We are also interested in both first and ratoon crop fields.”

Contact LeBlanc on his cell at 337-298-3633 or via email at Dwight.LeBlanc@aphis.usda.gov.