Grass sends birds pack­ing, re­duc­ing haz­ard

South Waikato News - - RURAL DELIVERY -

A bird-re­pelling grass de­signed in Can­ter­bury is be­ing mar­keted to the world.

Avanex is a grass en­gi­neered to lower the amount of in­sects it har­bours while mak­ing birds that eat it sick enough to not re­turn.

A sym­bi­otic fun­gus that grows in the grass is what the birds and in­sects can’t stand.

It was devel­oped a few years ago af­ter decades of tri­als funded by PGG Wright­son, the Foun­da­tion for Arable Re­search, Christchurch In­ter­na­tional Air­port and the Crown- owned AgRe­search through its sub­sidi- ary Grass­lanz, which owns the patents for the tech­nol­ogy.

Tests have shown it low­ered bird num­bers by 95 per cent on test plots at air­ports in Christchurch, Auck­land and Hamil­ton.

PGG Wright­son Seed and Grain gen­eral man­ager David Green said a rov­ing tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence had toured New Zealand to show the grass in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments and al­low po­ten­tial cus­tomers to speak with peo­ple us­ing the tech­nol­ogy.

PGG Wright­son has the rights to mar­ket and sell the grass in New Zealand and world­wide.

About 40 peo­ple, mostly from abroad, at the con­fer­ence were in­flu­en­tial in the field of mit­i­gat­ing bird strike for avi­a­tion in­dus­tries – a mas­sive bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try.

‘‘We prob­a­bly wouldn’t get very wealthy if we only had New Zealand as a mar­ket but we see this has good ap­pli­ca­tion in many tem­per­ate ar­eas around the world and this is the first step in tak­ing it to th­ese mar­kets,’’ Mr Green said.

The feed­back from the vis­i­tors was ‘‘fan­tas­tic’’, he said, and there was a gen­uine in­ter­est in us­ing the grass at air­ports overseas.

Avanex was not a sil­ver bul­let but would be a strong part of a mul­ti­fac­eted plan to pre­vent bird strike, he said.

‘‘The key thing is to get this core group of in­ter­na­tional peo­ple im­mersed in the tech­nol­ogy and we’re hop­ing they will be the cat­a­lyst for de­vel­op­ing this in those coun­tries.’’

Parks and sports fields could also use Avanex as it had all the usual prop­er­ties of grass, he said.

Christchurch In­ter­na­tional Air­port chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Andy Lester said the com­pany had been in­volved in the project from the start be­cause it re­alised the ben­e­fits of such a prod­uct.

About one- fifth of the grass around the air­port’s run­way – roughly 35ha – was bird-re­pel­lent.

The ef­fect was no­tice­able with flocks of birds land­ing on neigh­bour­ing pad­docks but rarely on the Avanex grass, he said.

Bird strike was a haz­ard rel­a­tive to the size of the birds.

Spar­rows hit­ting a larger plane would not be much of an is­sue, whereas a flock of cana­dian geese caused a 2009 Air­bus A320 crash into the Hud­son River, New York.

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