Laser trials aim to target rodents in feed stores
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.