Laser Technology keeps pigeons at bay in Stockbridge Technology Centre study

In late July this year, some 165,000 pointed cabbage were transplanted at a North Yorkshire farm as part of the Tru-Nject Project (http://www.tru-nject.co.uk/), a three year Innovate UK funded study led by Stockbridge Technology Centre with partners from Cranfield University and Manterra Ltd. The study site was known to be prone to bird issues, all too evident by the impact that local pigeons had had on the few volunteer oilseed rape plants present. Though the ‘sensible' thing to do would have been to net the crop after transplanting, the project team wanted a more novel solution that would keep the pigeons at bay, but also allow full and unrestricted access to the crop for scientific sampling.


Gavin Milson with the Agrilaser Autonomic in the field

As an alternative to nets, Gavin Milson, project Technical Assistant at STC, uncovered the possibility of using laser-based bird deterrents as a cost-effective and potentially suitable solution. An Agrilaser Autonomic® (http://birdcontrolgroup.com/agrilaser-autonomic/) was subsequently purchased and installed at the farm ahead of cabbage transplanting, powered by a solar panel linked to a deep cycle gel battery (from Photonic Universe Ltd, who were able to advise on the required spec for the job) .

Gavin Milson is delighted with the outcome and said: "This novel piece of technology appears to have effectively protected Tru-Nject's cabbages, its potential for bird control in field vegetables has generated significant interest and is threatening to emerge as a major, albeit unexpected, output from the project."

"Whilst light bird damage has been noted on selected plants in some isolated areas of the crop, complete loss of any individual plant to bird herbivory has not. Indeed, the vast majority of plants have received no unwanted attention from pigeons at all! With project staff now being more familiar with the kit and associated software, it is hoped that by optimising the system for use in Tru-Nject's cabbages in 2016, even light bird herbivory may be avoided."

The Tru-Nject team are now discussing plans to fully test the system in an oilseed rape crop later this year, comparing laser-protected crops to un-protected ‘control' crops. It is hoped that this will provide even stronger evidence that the Agrilaser Autonomic® can function as a stand-alone option to manage bird damage in field crops.

Stockbridge Technology Centre is an independent, not for profit organisation that is wholly owned by the UK horticultural industry and is a centre of excellence in technology transfer to agriculture and horticulture.

The Tru-Nject project combines engineering and sensor solutions with satellite image data and unique fertiliser placement technology and has been co-funded by the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board).

For more information on Stockbridge Technology Centre, visit www.stockbridgetechnology.co.uk

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