Crop farmers should be aware of the potential spread of

Crop farmers should be aware of the potential spread of avian influenza by performing fall fieldwork near poultry buildings. (Photo: Iowa Turkey Federation).

What crop farmers can do to help prevent the spread of avian influenza

October 27, 2022 | Kriss Nelson

The first positive case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in Dallas County last week. This is also the first case of HPAI in an Iowa backyard or commercial flock since May 2.

With the most current outbreak, the Iowa Turkey Federation is encouraging crop farmers to help mitigate the spread of the deadly virus.

Driving around Iowa this fall, you can’t help but notice the number of migrating birds in the sky and on the ground.  The migrating geese, ducks and other wild birds often stop in a farm field for rest and a meal.  While there, they naturally leave feces in the field.  Recent testing has shown that up to 40% of migrating wild birds carry the HPAI virus.  This is how the virus is spread to turkeys and layers on the farm. 

Research has shown the avian influenza virus can survive for more than a month in bird droppings in cold weather and for nearly a week, even in hot summer temperatures.  Feces dry in the fields and can potentially become aerosolized when the soil is disturbed.  This allows the virus to be spread via dust in the wind.

The potential risk factor of HPAI has been known since 2015, but

observations in the current outbreak indicate the current virus strain circulating in wild birds is different from the 2015 and the risk of spreading by wind is greater.

Be a good neighbor 

So, what can crop farmers do to help prevent the spread of HPAI to Iowa’s turkeys and layers? 

  • Consider the location of your neighbor’s barns while deciding when to work a field.
  • Check what direction the wind is blowing. Is it possible to arrange fieldwork for days the wind is not blowing toward the barns?
  • Communicate with your neighbor.  If they know you will be working in the field, they may be able to mitigate the risk.

“I appreciate Iowa crop farmer’s awareness of the current avian influenza outbreak.  Being cognitive of their field location and talking to us before they disturb the fields really helps enhance our farm’s biosecurity,” says Ben Slinger, Iowa Turkey Federation president from Ellsworth.