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>>GRANT: About three weeks ago, I shared about the decline of turkey populations throughout much of their range. And that information sparked a lot of conversations. I was hearing from fellow hunters, state agencies and conservation groups and it was really interesting to hear their take and see so much excitement about work that could be done to improve turkey populations.

>>GRANT: Managing to increase turkey populations is relatively simple. Not easy, but simple. We need to manage for quality nesting and brooding habitat and work to balance the number of predators so enough turkey poults can become adult turkeys.

>>GRANT: The balance between predator and prey species is a function of habitat quality. If there are no predators, say in my living room floor, I’m pretty sure a hen could successfully raise its poults. And if there is great quality habitat but a predator every acre or so, it doesn’t matter, most of those nests or poults are likely to be predated upon by predators.

>>GRANT: Even if there is high-quality habitat and the number of predators is managed so the prey species can thrive, there still can be issues that cause the decline in turkey populations.

>>GRANT: And today I would like to share one of those issues that may be responsible for declining turkey populations.

>>GRANT: Many of us have hunted where crops such as corn and soybean were established with seeds treated with neonicotinoids or in short neonics. You may know neonics by one of the common trade names often used – Poncho, Cruiser and there are many others. We’ve listed some of these on the screen. Neonics are derived from nicotine, and they work in insects by binding to their central nervous system causing paralysis and even death. Currently, it’s estimated in the USA that more than 90% of the corn seed and 45% of the soybeans as well as other crops are treated with neonics.

>>GRANT: Scientists from several universities and government agencies have been studying neonics and they have found they are one of the primary causes of the decline in insects including bees and several bird species.

>>GRANT: If you’re interested a good summary of how neonics impact bees can be found at the link on the screen and of course you can search and find a lot more information.

>>GRANT: Any way you slice it, neonics are a major concern and you’ve probably seen them if you’ve seen corn or soybean seed that was bright red or orange or green – well that’s a warning that these seeds were treated with an insecticide, most commonly neonics.

>>GRANT: A friend of mine that commonly hunts turkeys in agricultural areas recently sent me this image. Knowing how toxic neonics are, this can’t be good for turkeys.

>>GRANT: If you live or hunt in agricultural areas, you know how common it is to see turkeys in the fields during or right after they’ve been planted. Sometimes it’s like they’re following the planter down the rows.

>>GRANT: Farmers often complain about turkeys scratching up seed or eating seed from their fields and causing a spotty population of corn or soybeans. I don’t doubt that turkeys can be an issue and I want farmers to be successful, but I think it’s really important we consider what the consumption of neonics is doing to all species of wildlife.

>>GRANT: You may wonder, “Why the concern about neonics now? They’ve been used for quite some time.” And that’s true. They have been used for quite some time. But during the last decade there’s been a significant increase in the percent of crop seed that’s treated with neonics.

>>GRANT: Research has shown that neonics can stay active in the soil for three years or longer. I think it may be misleading for people just to consider neonics a seed treatment.

>>GRANT: It’s designed as an insecticide to go from that seed covering to be systemic throughout the plant. It’s in the plant tissue, the sap and even the pollen. And it’s easy to see why pollinator species could be so impacted by this insecticide.

>>GRANT: During the planting process in every field I’ve been in, not all seed is covered. Sometimes you spill some putting it in the drill or the planter. Sometimes you start the drill going before it’s all the way in the soil. Or just while you’re planting, the seed goes down the coulters and hits the stem or a piece of dirt or rock and bounces on top. No one walks throughout a field and doesn’t see some seed laying on top of the soil after it’s been planted.

>>GRANT: We all know how attracted turkeys are to grain and there’s no other grain in the spring. So, it’s easy to see how turkeys would walk into freshly planted fields and get them a crop full of neonic-treated seed.

>>GRANT: There’s no bad odor or taste in neonics. So, that’s certainly not going to discourage turkeys from consuming the seed. And remember neonics are designed to kill insects. It’s not real selective. It’s not just a certain insect or something like that. You’ve got a bunch of dead insects laying around that are full of neonics. Turkeys love eating insects. You can see where there’s a lot of pathways for neonics to get into turkeys.

>>GRANT: Not specific to turkeys, but researchers have shown that in birds neonics frequently cause decreased in body weights, decreased in fecundity, decreased in nest success. There’s a lot of issues when you consume a powerful insecticide. And I would also like to share, neonics are way stronger than DDT was back in the day.

>>GRANT: Turkeys face several issues. We’ve talked about declining habitat quality and increasing predators. But even if you have ideal habitat – like I don’t think the habitat has really declined a lot in central Iowa or central Kansas in the last few years, but turkey populations have really declined. And it’s easy to see if you have pretty good quality habitat but a primary food source is toxic, that could have a big impact on turkey populations.

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>>GRANT: Anyone that’s going to plant neonic-treated seed needs to be extremely cautious how they plant it. I planted it in the past not even knowing I was planting it. And I’ll tell you exactly how. Seed companies donate huge quantities of neonic-treated seed to conservation groups. They do this because the seed’s a year old; they didn’t sell it and so the germination rate has decreased. It’s still ok, but it’s decreased. They’re not going to sell to a big agricultural producer where every seed needs to count. And they would have to pay a huge amount of money to put it in a landfill because of the treatments on the seed.

>>GRANT: So, for the seed companies to save some money, they donate it to conservation groups who passes these massive savings on to their members like me and maybe you. I didn’t read the fine print at the time and maybe you’re not reading it either. And if you did, you probably wouldn’t want it on your land and you certainly wouldn’t be planting it as a wildlife food source.

>>GRANT: A lot of food plot farmers like me broadcast some seed every year. And imagine broadcasting neonic-treated seed on top of the ground. Now the – the instructions or the regulations say it’s got to be buried an inch, but folks like me probably didn’t read the label. So, we’re putting corn or soybeans – brightly colored corn and soybean – right on top of the soil. Of course, turkeys, dove, songbirds, quail, squirrels are consuming that seed and they’re getting a big, old dose of neonics.

>>GRANT: Even if the seed germinates, you’ll probably find it interesting that the warning label also includes, “Do not graze livestock in a field planted with neonics for 45 days.”

>>GRANT: I’ve never seen a soybean food plot once it germinated the deer weren’t in there in a day or two, unless it was protected by a fence.

>>GRANT: Again, I want to stress, I’ve taken advantage of those cheap seeds back in the past and a lot of my buddies have. We didn’t know any better. And I just want to share this information so we can all make wise decisions.

>>GRANT: Considering what I know now, what you know now, I’m going to recommend that these conservation groups stop accepting neonic-treated seed. Stop making that available to their members.

>>GRANT: I’ve already had a private conversation with the director of one of the major conservation groups. He, like me, didn’t know about neonics until I kind of walked him through this. And man, he was all excited. And he’s promised me he’s going to schedule a meeting with the board quickly and they’re going to stop using that conservation seed program when it involves neonic-treated seed.

>>GRANT: There’s a lot of ways these harsh chemicals can impact wildlife and potentially humans.

>>GRANT: You know recently, very recently, in Nebraska an ethanol plant got a bunch of this neonic-treated seed from a seed company and were using it as a cheap source of stock to make ethanol.

>>GRANT: They’ve been doing it for quite some time and, man, the pictures show mountains of purple or orange seed or whatever. And downwind, downstream, a lot of critters started getting sick; some people started getting sick. And they started sounding the alarm and, man, now massive amounts of research are going on on that site.

>>GRANT: Of course, that plant is shut down. It’s gotten into groundwater. It’s going down the creek. That’s soaking in the soil. You’ll be hearing about this on the national news. Man, if it’s that toxic I think we all need to kind of chime in and think about our actions when it comes to potentially planting treated seed in food plots.

>>GRANT: It sounds like this is all bad news. But fortunately, there are some easy solutions. There are many farmers – now about 5% of the farmers nationwide that are using regenerative ag practices, or what we call The Release Process™. It’s kind of modified for food plots and they don’t need or use any of these seed treatments. They’re growing very profitable crops and don’t have the expense of using insecticide-treated seed.

>>GRANT: As a testimony, here at The Proving Grounds and many of the landowners we assist are following The Release Process™ principles and I’m so excited. We’re getting several pictures of turkey poults here at The Proving Grounds. Of course, seeing some when we’re out working and that was on a really wet spring.

>>GRANT: If you have really high-quality habitat and work to balance the predators and make a good food source for them, turkey populations can do okay.

>>GRANT: Whoo. I’m pretty confident I’ll get some hate mail after this episode. But my mission today is simply to share information. All of it can be checked out and confirmed really easily by using doctor Google.

>>GRANT: I think we all need to be good conservationists, good stewards of the resource. We all need to make wise choices and protect the environment.

>>GRANT: Learning how we can protect and even improve the environment is a great way to learn about Creation. More importantly, I hope you take time everyday to be quiet and seek the Creator’s will for your life.

>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.