With grain growers across Central Queensland busy rolling in the headers for winter crop harvest, it can be easy to overlook a small pest that can become a big problem if not confronted early.
Lately I’ve noticed a few more mice scurrying around the sheds during the day, which is a good sign that the breeding season may already be underway.
Mice start breeding as crops start to mature, and as long as grain is available mice will continue to breed.
Thankfully mouse populations have not reached levels which pose a significant threat to yield during the current harvest, but a number of growers from the Central Highlands, Arcadia, and Callide-Dawson Valleys are reporting rising numbers around their farms.
And with hot, dry weather opening up some nice cracks in our soils, conditions are right for mouse populations to grow and cause some headaches for summer crops.
Mouse populations can change very quickly - just one breeding pair of mice can produce 500 mice within 21 weeks! Growers need to be vigilant in monitoring mouse populations on their farms, and bait as soon as threshold levels are reached.
Fact sheets from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) are a good starting point when planning your monitoring and response strategy.
Monitoring mouse activity gives an indication of the level of potential damage that can occur during the growing season – importantly coming into the summer sowing periods, crops are most vulnerable during the first two to three weeks after seeding. Every seed removed is one less plant to provide yield potential.
Some tell-tale signs that mice are on the move are burrows and holes around the farm; mouse droppings on the soil and plants; seeds being dug up and plants being gnawed; and more birds of prey than normal.
Superficially, mouse damage can look like disease or moisture stress, until the stem is lifted and the chewed sections on the underside will be visible.
Crop hygiene and management can help reduce mice numbers but baiting is the only in-crop control.
Baiting pre-sowing and at crop emergence achieves high levels of control but re-invasion can occur. Baiting maturing crops is also effective but kill rates may be lower.
Finally, remember that mice are vermin and can carry disease; gloves should be worn when handling mice and appropriate occupational health and safety procedures, including protective clothing, should be adhered to when handling poisons.
For a GRDC Fact Sheet on mouse control strategies, visit www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-FS-MouseControl.
Caption: Kelly Becker, GRDC Northern Panellist, Theodore.
Michael Thomson, Cox Inall Communications
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