Planet Earth Farmers are turning to trained raptors to protect our produce from field pests and foodborne pathogens. A peregrine falcon hurtles at over 100 mph toward rows of grapes. It banks at the last moment, passing within inches of professional falconer Kalen Pearson’s smiling face. The high-velocity interspecies dance causes a flock of European starlings to scatter — along with any other nearby birds that have any sense. Rows of plump organic grapes are safe for now, and so are the invasive starlings. In falconry-based bird abatement, the game isn’t the catch; it’s the chase. Farmers have been chasing superior and safer methods of crop preservation for millennia. This quest to build better mousetraps and scarecrows has daunted agricultural workers since the Neolithic era, and the modern age still hasn’t mastered the art of deterring hungry field pests, which eat crops and can spread pathogens through feces. The consequences can be deadly for producers’ profits, as well as for human bodies. In April 2018, for example, E. coli in romaine lettuce from Yuma, Arizona, killed five people and hospitalized nearly 100. In October 2015, an outbreak of the same bacteria sickened 55 people who had eaten at Chipotle […]


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