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Environment

New weapon against bird-strike at airports

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 01:36

Aug. 24 - New Zealand scientists have developed a bird-repelling grass designed to reduce the number of bird strikes at airports. Marketed as ''Avanex'', the grass is infected with a fungus that birds won't eat and is seen as an important new weapon in a fight that costs the airline industry about $1.4 billion each year. Rob Muir reports.

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This grass seed is being hailed as a breakthrough in the effort to rid airports of birds. Turf company PGG Wrightson is commercialising it and business manager Cameron Healey says demand is unprecedented. SOUNDBITE: (English) CAMERON HENLEY, BUSINESS MANAGER - PGG WRIGHTSON TURF, SAYING: "We've been staggered by the interest we're getting in this grass." The grass, marketed as " Avanex", contains a fungus that sickens - but doesn't harm - birds when they eat it, according to agricultural scientist, Dr. Chris Pennell. SOUNDBITE: (English) DR CHRIS PENNELL, SCIENTIST - AGRESEARCH, SAYING: "It's a natural drug that's in the grass that birds avoid once they eat it." The grass could be an ideal deterrent at airports, where birds are a frequent hazard to planes In July, 2008 a bird-strike incident led to the aborted take-off and evacuation of an Air Mauritius Flight in New Delhi. And in January the following year, after colliding with a flock of geese, a US Airways pilot was forced to land his aircraft on New York's Hudson River. SOUNDBITE: (English) DR CHRIS PENNELL, SCIENTIST - AGRESEARCH, SAYING: "Bird strike is a 1.4 billion dollar problem to the aviation industry, and if we can reduce the attractiveness of an airport then we don't have to use guns and flashing lights. Just chase them away." And the developers see potential for their product elsewhere. SOUNDBITE: (English) CAMERON HENLEY, BUSINESS MANAGER - PGG WRIGHTSON TURF, SAYING: "There's no reason this technology can't be taken into other grasses and in other areas such as golf courses, sporting fields, recreation reserves, even front and back lawns." An idea they're pleased to say, is strictly for the birds. Rob Muir, Reuters

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New weapon against bird-strike at airports

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 - 01:36

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