Grains Research and Development

Date: 19.08.2014

Mouse monitoring and plague warning tool to protect crops

Author: Sharon Watt
Peter West (left), MouseAlert project leader, demonstrates the MouseAlert website to Queensland-based vertebrate pest expert Julianne Farrell and Simon Humphrys from the Invasive Animals CRC and the National Mouse Management Working Group.

As the spring mouse breeding season approaches, grain growers in the southern cropping region are being equipped with a new electronic tool to help them monitor mouse activity and protect their crops.

MouseAlert is a new interactive website which allows growers, landholders and advisers to record and view mouse activity in their local area in real time. Data entered will help with prediction of mouse plagues and assist in the timely control of mouse populations.

Developed by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) in partnership with the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), Landcare Research New Zealand, CSIRO, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries and Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), MouseAlert is being introduced to growers in SA, Victoria and central west NSW at a series of workshops over the coming months.

MouseAlert project leader Peter West, of the IACRC and NSW DPI, says the website at www.mousealert.org.au enables farmers to record mouse activity in their local area to inform their community about changes in mouse numbers and damage.

“It will also assist growers in determining when to implement control measures in advance of a possible plague,” Mr West said.

“It can be used by mobile device users in the field, and a new community facility will enable farmers to create online groups and share their observations of mouse activity among members.”

The next stage of MouseAlert’s development will be a notification system so members of a group can be alerted to changes in mouse activity in their area as soon as it happens, enabling a co-ordinated, local response. A mobile phone app is also in the pipeline.

The launch of MouseAlert is considered timely, given that vertebrate pest management authorities in the southern cropping region are anticipating an increase in mouse activity when breeding commences in spring.

They are warning growers that if breeding starts early and if populations are relatively high, then damage to crops is likely to be considerable.

“Monitoring in early spring is going to be critical, and the use of MouseAlert will assist growers to keep abreast of any changes in mouse populations,” Mr West said.

GRDC Southern Regional Panel member Bill Long, who is also an agronomic consultant and a grower on SA’s Yorke Peninsula, has welcomed the development of MouseAlert.

“Mice have become a regular and serious pest in the southern region, and earlier this year we saw in South Australia, particularly, just how rapidly populations can escalate and the costly consequences,” Mr Long said.

“Providing growers with information and resources to assist in reducing mouse numbers and damage to crops is imperative and collaboration by the GRDC and its various research partners is fundamentally important.

“MouseAlert is the product of a successful industry collaborative effort and we expect its usefulness and uptake will only continue to evolve.”

The GRDC, on behalf of growers and the Australian Government, is continuing to invest in a range of mouse-related research, development and extension activities – including MouseAlert – aimed at providing information to growers and industry to improve early warning of possible plagues, and rapid response to mouse activity. The GRDC supports the National Mouse Management Working Group (NMMWG) which was set up in 2011 to co-ordinate actions to counter mouse plagues.

Through a new three-year GRDC-funded study, monitoring and modelling of mouse populations across the grain belt of Australia continues. The project is a collaboration between Landcare Research (New Zealand), CSIRO and the IACRC.

For information about monitoring mouse activity and upcoming workshops, contact Steve Henry from CSIRO on 0428 633 844 or email steve.henry@csiro.au.

Information about MouseAlert is available from Peter West, IACRC and NSW DPI, on 02 6391 3887 or 0407 622 191, or email peter.west@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

Further information on mouse monitoring and management is available via the GRDC Fact Sheet, www.grdc.com.au/GRDC-FS-MouseControl.

ENDS

Media Interviews

Peter Brown, CSIRO

0406 753 365

Peter West, Invasive Animals CRC

0407 622 191

Bill Long, GRDC Southern Panel

0417 803 034

Contact

Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli

0409 675 100

Caption: Peter West (left), MouseAlert project leader, demonstrates the MouseAlert website to Queensland-based vertebrate pest expert Julianne Farrell and Simon Humphrys from the Invasive Animals CRC and the National Mouse Management Working Group.

GRDC Project Code IAC00001, IAC00002

Region South, North