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is bird seed spreading weeds or flowers

Q: My husband and I have a dispute. We used inexpensive bird seed a few years ago that sprouted quite a harvest of weeds in our grass. For the past two years I’ve been buying “No Mess” bird seed. My husband says this seed is still causing the weeds.

A: You discovered what a lot of bird feeders have: cheap birdseed causes weeds because birds pick through the seed looking for what they like and then scatter the rest on the ground beneath. “No Mess” birdseed has several seed components but they have all had the hull and skin removed. This prevents germination – and the seed is so delectable that birds consume it all. If your husband isn’t satisfied, do an experiment. Plant some of the birdseed in a pot filled with soil. Water once and leave it in the shade outdoors. If you find sprouts, you’ll have the answer to your dispute.

Many millions of homeowners use feeders to attract birds. But a two-year study featured in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management suggests there may be one unintended consequence to this popular hobby. Bird feed mixtures may be helping to spread troublesome weeds that threaten agricultural crops.

When researchers examined the contents of 98 commercially available bird feed mixes, they uncovered several significant findings:

Bird feed mixtures may be helping to spread troublesome weeds that threaten agricultural crops

The researchers also explored which harvested bird feed ingredients contributed most to weed seed contamination. They found that proso millet grain was closely linked to the presence of pigweed species weeds, while safflower and sunflower contributed most to the presence of kochia and common ragweed, respectively.

“While it is difficult to estimate the precise role commercial bird feed plays, there is a distinct possibility it may be an overlooked pathway for spreading troublesome weed species into new regions,” says Eric Oseland of the University of Missouri.

To mitigate the risks, researchers recommend careful weed management in crop fields designated for bird feed, as well as the use of sieving during packaging to reduce weed seed contamination. They also point to the proven effectiveness of regulatory measures adopted in Europe to limit weed seed content in bird feed.