Recently our team has begun looking into some new tech to solve an old problem: swans. Tundra swans migrate to the area every year from Alaska and northwestern Canada and are particularly fond of red root, a weed that competes with cranberry vines for nutrients. When they fly in to feed, they not only tear out the red root, they also tear out vines and leave enormous holes that damage the beds themselves.
Since the swans are a protected species, growers have had to come up with a solution to keep them away from the crop. At Pine Island our PIICM team has been installing swan string for several years. The strings help keep the swans out of the bog by limiting the space available. “Swans are like a commercial airliner,” CEO Bill Haines says. “Having the strings up disrupts their attempt to both land and take off again.” Not all of the bogs are strung; our team maps them out where we have found red root and where the swans have been spotted. Just three acres of swan damage can give us a loss of 200 barrels per acre, or even more, depending on the variety. That takes three years to come back.
Pine Island spends a lot of money and time putting up string every year, and we wanted to find a better solution. “The main issue is getting rid of red root, and renovation helps with that, but that’s not the fastest solution,” says Matt Giberson. So they began to do some research. “We found a laser by Agrilaser that we thought might work, so we contacted them to see if we could demo a unit and they said yes.”
Once it arrived, Louis and Mike helped with the set-up, with Louis working on the power sourcing and Mike working on a plywood stand for the truck. “It’s all set up so we can just put it in the back of a truck and go,” Matt says. “Our first run was Tuesday around 10 A.M. and didn’t see any effect, so I went back to Red Road at dusk.” There weren’t any swans out there, but plenty of geese, and conditions were perfect. “I was surprised how far it goes; from Red Road I could hit the tree line at Ben Haines. I moved it all the way across the reservoir within 100 yards of the geese and they ll took off.” Matt then planned a follow-up evening out at Sim Place, but is feeling pretty confident. “If we can keep them out at night time, this thing could really save us a lot of time that we spend every year setting up and taking down string.”
There are still several tests to run, but so far things are looking great; if all goes well, our swan issue should be greatly reduced!