Blueberry balloon bop

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UGA scientists use an inflatable tube man to keep birds away from new varieties of blueberry crops so there are berries left on the bushes to evaluate. (Photo by Sharon Dowdy)

Farmers have used scarecrows to keep birds away from field crops for more than 3,000 years.

He’s not a farmer, but UGA blueberry scientist Scott NeSmith still has to keep birds away from his blueberries so he can breed new varieties for Georgia growers. His latest trick—using a dancing, inflatable tube man to scare the birds—may lead passersby to believe the UGA Griffin campus is selling cars.

“We have only a handful of fruit to evaluate from a single, small plant,” NeSmith says. “If we let birds help themselves, it means we may not be able to evaluate a potential new variety.”

The blueberry research field is also equipped with an automatically firing carbide air cannon that produces a thunderclap-like sound to deter birds and other wildlife. Many airports use similar cannons to scare birds away from aircraft.

To date, NeSmith has released more than 20 blueberry varieties created specifically for Georgia farmers. Soon, he will release five new varieties bred with homeowners in mind.

This brief appeared in the fall 2018 issue of  Research Magazine. The original press release is available at https://news.uga.edu/dancing-tube-man-protects-ugas-research-blueberries/.