The flashy reflective ribbons developed by the Kerala Agricultural University to keep away birds from paddy-growing and vegetable-growing fields, might turn out to be a blessing for aquaculture farms too.
The scarlet red tapes with a metallic shine on them became a hit with agricultural farmers in Ernakulam, Thrissur and Malappuram districts who were fed up with bird attacks during or just before the harvest season. “When it twists and turns in the wind, the tapes reflect the sunlight and gives out the appearance of fire flashes or flames that scare away the birds,” said Mani Chellappan, officer-in-charge of the All-India Network Project on Agricultural Ornithology, based in Kerala Agricultural University, Thrissur.
While the red ribbons give out maximum reflection during daytime, tapes in golden yellow colour were developed for the wee hours of the morning and the dusk. Farmers use the two simultaneously - yellow for the low-light hours and red for the bright sunny hours.
While the innovative eco-friendly initiative was developed against the avian predators of food crops, the scientists at the Agriculture University soon realised that the same principle could work against the bird predating on the aquaculture farms. “The aquaculture farmers said they needed protection from birds for just two months when the small fry developed into a mature fish. So we thought of trying out these tapes,” said Mani Chellappan, who had developed these tapes.
The experimental use of the ‘flash’ producing tapes in aquaculture farms had begun at Chazhoor near Thrissur. “A comparative analysis of fish loss on farms that have used these tapes and those that have not will give us a correct picture on how effective these tapes are against fish-eating birds,” said Mani Chellappan.
Both migratory as well as domestic birds are attracted to the broad expanses of open fish farms. Fish-eating birds such as cormorants that dive into the water and herons and egrets that wade around the aquaculture ponds are a common problem faced by the aquaculture facilities. The ‘flashy’ ribbons could give an ecofriendly solution to the problem. For one acre, a farmer would need at least 10 ribbon rolls. For every 5 metres of the ribbon, a support is necessary to hold the tapes tightly stretched.
“When the tapes are taut, a slight wind will cause it to make a sound as well, which will be an additional help in scaring away the birds,” said Mani Chellappan.
The cost of these coloured tapes supplied by KAU comes to Rs 60 per roll. The tapes are tied above the crop plants at a height of approximately 60 cms in the North-South direction, where the reflection of the sunlight is the maximum. While indiscriminate use of the tapes would have the birds figuring out what is happening, the use of the flashy tapes are limited to 15-20 days in the cultivated areas where the bird attack is the most. For aquaculture, these re-usable tapes will have to be used for a little longer. If found effective, this technique will reduce significantly the economic loss due to bird predation in aquaculture farms.