Laser tri­als aim to tar­get ro­dents in feed stores

The Scotsman - - Weather Farming - By BRIAN HEN­DER­SON bhen­der­son@farm­

The use of laser st odis­cour­age rats from grain and feed stores is to be tested in Scot­land as part of a £2.6 mil­lion project to eval­u­ate the tech­nol­ogy as a means of pro­tect­ing a range of crops from pest at­tack both in the field and in the store.

The tri­als are part of a Europe-wide project to as­sess the value of non­lethal laser “fenc­ing” and to help ex­tend the use of lasers be­yond their cur­rent main ap­pli­ca­tion of dis­cour­ag­ing birds away from air­ports.

Dr Martin Sharp, project man­ager with the LIFE Laser Fence ini­tia­tive – a con­sor­tium of re­search es­tab­lish­ment and tech com­pa­nies from sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries – said that while ex­cel­lent re­sults had al­ready been shown for the con­trol of birds, there had been a greater vari­a­tion in re­sponse from rab­bits, rats and other pests in the past which had been more dif­fi­cult to scare.

How­ever, he said he was op­ti­mistic that the tri­als would help de­velop more re­li­able re­sults. He said: “We hope that with the new light beam mod­ules we can in­crease con­sis­tency in the de­ter­rent ef­fect and of­fer an ef­fec­tive and sus­tain­able so­lu­tion to limit dam­age to crops in the field and in store due to in­tru­sion of an­i­mals.”

The project had es­ti­mated that the dam­age caused by rats alone cost the UK farm­ing in­dus­try be­tween £14m and £28m per an­num – at a time when there is a clam­p­down on the wide - spread use of ro­den­ti­cide poi­sons over fears that they rep­re­sented an en­v­i­ron - men­tal threat if the poi­son could ac­cu­mu­late up the food chain.

“One aim is to iden­tify which light char­ac­ter is­tics are best suited for each species,” said Steinar Henskes, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Bird Con­trol Group, a com­pany which al­ready mar­kets lasers which au­tonomously iden­tify and re­pel birds which is also in­volved in the project.

“This will al­low us to ad­just our light beams ac­cord­ingly. For ex­amp le, first tri­als with the new wave­lengths showed dif­fer­ent re­sponses from an­i­mals. For in­stance, blue beams may be more ef­fec­tive than red beams.” The group also hop es to ad­dress con­cerns re­gard­ing safety is­sues which had been raised by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties where the tri­als were be­ing car­ried out through the use of “smar tphone” tech­nolo - gi es which can iden­tify the de­vice’s an­gle and turn the sys­tem off in case it presents a po­ten­tial daz­zle haz­ard to the user or peo­ple out­side the tar­get zone.

The Laser Fence project is test­ing the tech­nol­ogy’s ef­fi­cacy against a range of pest species. The con­sor­tium, which also in­cludes the UK’S Game and Wildlife Con­ser­vancy Trust, aims to meet the dif­fer­ing needs of farm­ers from Spain, Nether­lands, Ger­many and UK, who suf­fer from crop dam­age due to in­tru­sion of a range of species, in­clud­ing deer, rab­bits and ro­dents, such as rats and mice.

0 Dr Dave Par­ish of the Game & Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Trust ex­plains the laser trial at an open day at Auch­n­erran

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