Inside The Story: Making the Skies Safer With Plants
(KUTV) Birds and planes are not a good combination, which is why the Salt Lake International Airport is growing a new crop designed to chase them away.
Air traffic safety is a top priority for airport officials, and bird strikes to aircraft are a significant concern. Scientist have been working to reduce the potential for strikes by paying attention to the animals natural behavior. The idea is to grow a crop that chases away their food source in hopes that they will leave too. Fewer birds mean less danger to pilots and airplanes.
At the Salt Lake International Airport in a two-acre experimental site, teams from Utah State, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Airport Wildlife Division are working together to plant a crop that will get rid of rodents.
We've seen from news stories and pictures on the web what birds can do to a plane, especially when they are sucked into the engine. The most famous case was in 2009 when a jet ended up in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of geese.
Airport Wildlife Manager Gib Rokich says, "We routinely trap and relocate four to five hundred raptures a year." The problem is every time they trap 30 birds another 30 return. That's where Utah State and agriculture experts come in. They're experimenting with plants that would grow in such an environment and at the same time force the rodents to flee.
Mike Morgan a biochemist major at USU is helping with the project. He said, "We are able to use a crop that has good oil content that also has a lot of promise for bio dieseling."
USU Weed Specialist Ralph Whitesides said, "We've selected species that we think will not attract rodents. We think this has potential not only here, but it may work at other airports as well."
Crews are planting 19 different species of crops in the two acre plot. If it's successful then they will start planting in other key areas. The area involved in the project is about five thousand acres of fields, so this is just the beginning.
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group.)