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Bird-deterring grass could solve airport woes

Published: 7:09PM Saturday August 06, 2011 Source: ONE News

A revolutionary grass seed developed in New Zealand could be the answer to bird strike problems at airports around the globe.

"Jackal" seed has been cultivated to contain an endophyte, a natural fungus that birds and insects dislike eating.

Chris Pennell from AgResearch told ONE News the bird deterring factor makes Jackal grass perfect for airports.

"Bird strike is a $1.4 billion problem for the aviation industry...and if we can reduce the attractiveness of an airport to birds, then we don't have to use guns and flashing lights to chase them away."

It worked at Christchurch Airport, and now Auckland and Hamilton airports are planting the seed.

Auckland Airport hazard manager, Peter Robinson, said they hope it will drive away birds like finches.

"At certain times of year we've had flocks of up to 300, and I expect that to drop to virtually nil."

After 13 years of trials the grass is finally being grown and harvested commercially, and is also attracting plenty of international interest.

The developers foresee the grass benefiting areas other than airports, such as golf courses, sporting fields and recreational reserves - anywhere that birds and insects are unwanted.

"The next big stage I'd like to go to is the horticultural industry," said Pennell.

He said, for example, the grass may potentially be able to reduce the amount of spraying that is done in kiwifruit vines.

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