TAU-led project results in 50% reduction in pesticide use
Tel Aviv University's Prof. Yossi Leshem has spearheaded a project to use birds of prey instead of pesticides in agriculture.
Prof. Yossi Leshem, of Tel Aviv University's George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, has led a national project for the use of raptors in biological pest control. The project, which has been underway for eight years, encourages farmers to use birds of prey – mainly barn owls and kestrels – to control pest populations, instead of using commercial pesticides.
At the conclusion of 2014, the project has shown that permit applications for the use of agricultural pesticides have decreased significantly.
The project involves placing nesting boxes in farming areas to encourage the presence of barn owls, whose population density in Israel is among the highest in the world, as well as kestrels. Both species have been found to be effective in controlling rodent populations. Some 3,000 nesting boxes have been installed so far, helping to reduce the numbers of crop-decimating creatures such as voles, gerbils and mice.
Although a direct correlation is difficult to prove, in the past four years, permit applications for the use of Rosh-80, a highly toxic pesticide that is the only type permitted for use in Israel against rodents in fields and orchards have decreased by 50 to 90 percent. During the same period, the number of nesting boxes has risen considerably.
While the project is led by TAU's Prof. Leshem, a number of government ministries also participate, along with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and TAU's International Center for the Study of Bird Migration. In recent years, Palestinian and Jordanian farmers have also joined the project.