19 May 2011

Grass developed to reduce bird strikes

12:43 pm on 19 May 2011

An AgResearch scientist who's developed a grass to reduce the risk of bird strikes at airports says the concept is starting to take flight.

Chris Pennell introduced a natural fungus or endophyte into fescue grass that produces chemicals that are harmless to birds but make them feel sick when they eat it.

Endophytic grass also reduces insect numbers, making areas where it's growing less attractive to insect-feeding birds.

Trials at Christchurch, Auckland and Hamilton airports show a clear reduction in bird numbers at sites areas where the grass has been sown.

The project has won a DuPont Innovation Award.

Mr Pennell says the project had its beginnings almost 12 years ago when he started investigating the disgarded resuls of earlier research.

Results so far have been very favourable with only 5% of the birds counted at Auckland airport, for instance, visiting the area planted in the endophtic grass.

Monitoring is continuing to establish a statistical link between reduced bird numbers and fewer bird strikes.

He says some airports overseas, including Melbourne and Vancouver, are showing interest in the grass, which he says could also be adapted for areas such as parks and golf courses.