SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Scarecrows have come a long way from hay-filled old clothes made to look like people. A high-tech version could be a quiet, fairly inexpensive way to get rid of birds destroying fields of corn. It’s a laser scarecrow.
“It uses a moving beam of light. Birds are sensitive to color. They are a lot more sensitive to color than we are,” URI Professor of Plant Sciences Rebecca Brown explained.
The beam of light can scare off a flock of birds from a cornfield. People can’t see the laser during the day but birds can.
Birds are also sensitive to moving shadows, according to Brown.
“We run it along the tassels, the top of the corn plant,” she said.
The device is designed specifically for sweet corn. Damaged husks cannot be sold at farm stands. Brown helped develop the solar-powered laser scarecrow and several farmers in the area have been trying it out. So far, she’s encouraged by the results.
“The birds will leave the field alone, where if you don’t have the laser, you might have 60, 80, 100% damage,” Brown said.
Brown’s research will determine whether URI can formally recommend the device to other farms in and out of Rhode Island.
“We need to have scientific evidence that it works, as well as the best way to design it, specifically for fresh market sweet corn,” she added.
Once Brown is done testing the laser scarecrow, she hopes a company will manufacture and sell the device to farmers.