Further analysis of the economic impact of deer populations on soybeans across South Carolina
Sustainable Production
DiseaseField management Pest
Parent Project:
This is the first year of this project.
Lead Principal Investigator:
Cory Heaton, Clemson University
Co-Principal Investigators:
Project Code:
Contributing Organization (Checkoff):
Institution Funded:
Brief Project Summary:
Soybeans are a preferred food source for white-tailed deer; however, the exact economic impact of deer populations on soybean fields is not known. This project affixes a predicted dollar value on the amount of soybean damage inflicted by deer feeding as a function of the white-tailed deer population for a given area. Such knowledge will be beneficial for supporting requests to address the depredation permitting process and for reassessing season and bag limits. Quantification of economic impact as a function of local population provides a basis for return on investment from damage mitigation; in short, it can assist in development of a guide for break-even costs of deer damage controls.
Key Beneficiaries:
#agronomists, #extension agents, #farmers
Unique Keywords:
#agronomy, #deer, #deer damage, #deer populations
Information And Results
Project Summary

This proposed continuation is to collect a third year of data on the impact of deer populations on soybean throughout South Carolina. (This is planned to be the last year of this project unless the Board wishes for this work to be continued to a fourth year). The 2022 growing season posed many challenges for cooperating growers and Clemson University research farms that participated in this project. For the Simpson Station located in Anderson, SC, untimely rainfall in the spring led to a delayed harvest of small grain fields that were followed by drought conditions, this resulted in extremely late planting of soybeans. Unfortunately, this was the case for many farmers across South Carolina and not just the Upstate. Similar conditions were observed at Sandhills REC where poor germination resulted in no yield data being obtained. However, the 2021 and 2022 result that were obtained against adverse growing conditions, quantifiably demonstrated that deer damage to soybean in South Carolina is significant.

This third year of work will be kept the same size as 2022 for the number of deer population surveys, but seek to improve confidence in data on soybean yield effects of deer damage as a function of population. The main objective for the continuation of this project is to further collect data to quantify the economic impact of deer populations on soybeans. Beginning as early as late January of 2023 night surveys for local deer populations will be conducted again in Barnwell County, Anderson County, Florence County, Richland County, and Orangeburg County. Exclusion cages will be utilized in fields of cooperating farmers just like this past year to determine soybean yield within a given field in the absence of deer feeding pressure. Any research with wildlife poses many challenges, especially in data variability, and deer are no exception. Having multiple years of data on population estimates and related soybean damage helps to overcome those challenges.

Project Objectives

The main objective for the continuation of this project is to further collect data to quantify the economic impact of deer populations on soybeans.

Project Deliverables

Results of this proposed study will be disseminated to growers through presentations at grower meetings and field days. Additionally, project results may be included in press releases, social media, blogs, newsletters, scientific publications, fact sheets, and production guides.

Progress Of Work

Final Project Results

Benefit To Soybean Farmers

Data from the 2021 and 2022 projects produced promising results supporting the case in advocating for farmers who are struggling with deer feeding damage in soybeans. Our overall average deer population estimates in areas with a large proportion of crop land were found to be about two and a half times more than the most recently published data from a 2013 SCDNR deer density map. While the soybean acreage across South Carolina varies, so does deer population density and habitat. All of these factors will play a role in determining deer impact to soybean in a given area, and for these reasons the project has been expanded from one county in 2021 to five counties in different regions of the State.

The United Soybean Research Retention policy will display final reports with the project once completed but working files will be purged after three years. And financial information after seven years. All pertinent information is in the final report or if you want more information, please contact the project lead at your state soybean organization or principal investigator listed on the project.