Robotic laser scarecrows: A tool for controlling bird damage in sweet corn

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Sweet corn (Zea mays L.) is an important direct retail and local wholesale crop in the United States. Birds have long been recognized as a pest of corn, which they damage by shredding the husks and eating the kernels. This study was performed to evaluate moving green laser beams as a bird control strategy in sweet corn. A portable, battery-powered robotic scarecrow was designed to continuously move a 14 mm diameter, 532 nm wavelength beam from a 50 mW laser. The scarecrow was tested in sweet corn fields in Rhode Island, USA over three years using a split-field design where half of each field was covered by the laser and the other half served as a control. . In 2017, the control sections averaged 48.4 ± 6.9 damaged ears per plot, while the sections covered by the laser averaged 14.6 ± 5.5 damaged ears (P = 0.0002). In 2018, the control sections averaged 23.8% ± 4.1% damaged ears while 13.7% ± 2.1% of ears were damaged in sections covered by the laser (P = 0.0046). In 2019, mean damage values across all planting blocks were 14.9% ± 4.1% for the protected plots and 20.3% ± 5.8% for the unprotected plots (P = 0.0332). The results of this study show that automated laser scarecrows can reduce bird damage to sweet corn under field conditions. Further research, including aviary studies with controlled populations of individually identified birds, are needed to measure efficacy and test for habituation.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Crop Protection