In recent weeks, two farms in the Spanish province of Cadiz, 'El Chorreadero', in the municipality of San José del Valle, and 'Torremesa', in Chipiona, have helped test a revolutionary bird control system known as "laser scarecrow". It is meant to prevent birds from causing damage to the crops, but its use may be extended to other animal species, such as deer, wild boars and rodents.
The European project is called Life Laser Fence and has been underway since 2016, with the development of a laser light beam technology to keep birds away from productive agricultural fields. It is meant not to cause any harm to animals. Specifically, in the Cadiz farms, it has been taken into account that the cultivation of table grapes in the area of Rota, Chipiona and Sanlúcar has acquired great relevance in recent years.
"Fighting some of its biggest threats, like small passerine birds, is greatly important," say project representatives. The results obtained have been really encouraging, especially with sparrows, one of the most harmful small birds in the area."
As explained by the project's technical coordinator in Spain, Rafael Coveñas, the tests of the "Agrilaser" scarecrow, which have also been carried out in rice fields of Isla Mayor, Seville, owned by Ángel Camacho Alimentación group, have had an effectiveness of over 85% and its use could be "very interesting" for this sector.
In recent weeks, they have delved deeper into the technique's experimental research with light beams with more colors and other animal populations.
The members of this project, which kicked off in 2016 with a budget of three million Euro and will be ending this year, have already asked the European Commission (EC) to extend it for another six months, to allow it to complete this second phase with mammals and rodents.
"The damage caused by birds in agricultural plots is sometimes very great, and we must also not forget the huge amount of phytosanitary applications that are carried out, and that expose animals to suffering contamination at any time."
"Preventing birds from coming near the plots when a phytosanitary treatment is being carried out is one of the project's objectives," said Coveñas, who acknowledged having "a productivist vision." He wants a future with agriculture and environmental protection going hand in hand. As a collateral effect, there will be an improvement in the production and yields."
The Life Laser Fence project is coordinated by the John Moores University of Liverpool, UK, and other partners from Scotland, the Netherlands and Spain. In Spain, in addition to the tests carried out by a team of ten people in Cadiz and Seville, linked to the Ángel Camacho Alimentación group, the Iris group has tested the laser system in Lugo to prevent the entry of mammals and rodents.