Wheat is a staple food for humans and livestock, but did you know that there are many animals that also rely on this crop as a food source? From small insects to large mammals, there are a variety of creatures that feast on wheat. In this guide, we will explore some of the most common animals that eat wheat and how they affect this important crop.
The Wheat Plant
Before we dive into the animals that eat wheat, let’s take a closer look at the plant itself. Wheat (Triticum spp.) is a grass that is grown around the world for its edible grain. There are three main types of wheat: hard, soft, and durum. Hard wheat is used to make bread and other baked goods, while soft wheat is used for pastries and cakes. Durum wheat is primarily used to make pasta.
Parts of the Wheat Plant
The wheat plant has several parts, including:
- Roots: These are responsible for taking up water and nutrients from the soil.
- Stem: This supports the leaves, flowers, and grain.
- Leaves: These produce energy through photosynthesis.
- Flowers: These contain the reproductive organs of the plant.
- Grain: This is the edible part of the plant.
One of the biggest threats to wheat crops are insects. These small creatures can cause significant damage to crops, resulting in lower yields and decreased quality. Some of the most common insects that feed on wheat include:
The Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor) is a small, dark-colored fly that is a major pest of wheat. The larvae of the fly feed on the stems of the plant, causing them to weaken and eventually die. This can result in stunted growth and poor yields. Hessian fly infestations are most common in the fall, when the eggs are laid on the wheat plants.
Aphids are small insects that feed on the sap of wheat plants. They can cause a variety of problems, including reduced growth and decreased yields. In addition, aphids can transmit viruses that can further damage the crop. There are many different species of aphids that feed on wheat, including greenbug (Schizaphis graminum) and bird cherry-oat aphid (Rhopalosiphum padi).
While insects may be small, there are also a variety of mammals that can cause damage to wheat crops. These larger animals can consume a significant amount of wheat, leading to substantial losses for farmers. Here are some of the most common mammals that eat wheat:
Mice and Rats
These small rodents are known for their love of grains, including wheat. Mice and rats can feed on wheat plants in fields, as well as in storage facilities. Because they can reproduce quickly and are highly adaptable, they can cause significant damage to crops in a short amount of time. Some farmers use traps and poisons to control mouse and rat populations.
Deer are known to feed on a variety of crops, including wheat. In agricultural areas, deer can cause significant damage to crops, resulting in lower yields and reduced quality. Some farmers use fences or scare tactics to keep deer away from their fields.
Birds can also be a problem for wheat farmers, especially when the crops are just starting to grow. Birds can consume large amounts of newly planted wheat seeds, reducing the overall yield of the crop. Here are some of the most common birds that eat wheat:
Pigeons and Doves
Pigeons and doves are known to feed on a variety of crops, including wheat. These birds can cause significant damage to crops, especially when they are in large flocks. Some farmers use scare tactics to keep these birds away from their fields.
Like pigeons and doves, sparrows are known to feed on a variety of crops, including wheat. These small birds can cause significant damage to newly planted wheat seeds. Some farmers use nets and other deterrents to keep sparrows away from their fields.
There are a variety of animals that eat wheat, from small insects to larger mammals and birds. While some of these creatures can cause significant damage to crops, there are ways to control their populations and protect wheat fields. By understanding the animals that eat wheat and their behavior, farmers can take steps to ensure a successful harvest.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What other crops do animals eat?
- Can wheat be grown without pesticides?
- Is it safe for animals to eat wheat?
Animals can feed on a variety of crops, depending on the species. Some common crops that are eaten by animals include corn, soybeans, and rice.
While pesticides can be effective at controlling insect and mammal populations, some farmers are moving towards more sustainable and organic farming methods that rely on natural pest control.
While wheat is a safe and nutritious food for humans and livestock, some animals may have trouble digesting it. For example, dogs and cats may have difficulty digesting wheat gluten, which can cause gastrointestinal distress.