Title:  Determining the Effects of White-tailed Deer Herbivory on Cornfields in NPS Owned Agricultural Leases.
Author(s): Chad M. Stewart and Bill McShea – Conservation and Research Center, Smithsonian Institution
Year: 2005
Abstract: Herbivory by white-tailed deer in agricultural regions can lead to lower crop yields. In Maryland and Virginia, several National Historical Parks are mandated to include agricultural fields to maintain historical accuracy, but have difficulty offering agricultural leases due to high deer densities lowering crop yields. We quantified the impact of white-tailed deer foraging on agricultural lands within three National Historical Parks: C&O Historical Park (5 fields), Antietam Battlefield (4 fields), and Monocacy Battlefield (3 fields). In each field, six 5 x 5 m exclosures were constructed with adjacent control plots, with three exclosures along the field’s edge and three in the field’s interior. In this two-year study, each field was monitored twice during the growing season, once after emergence (July), and once prior to harvest (September/October). We compared quality of corn, percentage of stalks with corn, and weight of 15 stalks between the fenced and control plots. Using a paired t-test, fenced plots had a significantly higher weight than control plots (p<0.001) and interior plots weighed significantly more than edge plots (p<0.05). On average, 24.6% of edge corn was lost due to deer herbivory, while 12.2% was lost in the interior. The C&O Canal fields sustained 32.5% total loss, significantly more (p<0.01) than Antietam (9.7% loss) and Monocacy (7.3% loss). These differences may be due to landscape factors such as the amount of surrounding forest cover. Finding participants in aglease programs may continue to be difficult in the future unless a management plan is instituted.

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