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Reporting on science, technology and innovation in Arizona and the Southwest through a collaboration from Arizona NPR member stations. This project is funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Additional stories from the Arizona Science Desk are posted at our collaborating station, KJZZ:

New Ideas Wanted For Keeping Birds Out Of Arizona Crops

A flock of birds can damage acres of fresh produce.

“Not only can they eat the produce or eat your seedlings or your seeds, but they also poop in the field. So there could also be fecal material left behind,” said Paula Rivadeneira, University of Arizona professor at the Yuma Agricultural Center. “And that’s a real, genuine concern for food safety.”

To keep birds away, growers have tried more than just scarecrows – including cannons, noises that mimic predators and even lasers. Nothing really works.

The damage can be quite expensive for farmers, so they reached out to the university.

UA decided to host a design challenge to find a new type of bird deterrent. They want to keep unwanted birds out of fields, without harming protected species.

“Our goal is to do something that’s behavioral,” Rivadeneira said. “To use the bird’s own behavior and physiology to deter them from these fields, so they can make the choice not to be there.”

They’re inviting growers, engineers, biologists, and members of the public to participate.

University researchers will help the winner of the challenge secure funding and develop the idea.

The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension will host the bird discussion and design challenge in Yuma on Tuesday, March 29. The event is sponsored by the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture.