Growers urged to monitor and manage mice ahead of planting
Author: Toni Somes | Date: 15 Mar 2018
Grain growers in New South Wales and southern Queensland are being advised to urgently assess paddocks for mouse numbers to determine whether mice are likely to pose a risk prior to planting.
If mouse numbers are a concern, growers should consult with their bait suppliers as soon as possible to ensure they have access to sufficient quantities of bait in advance of winter crop planting.
Growers and agronomists, who attended Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Research Update in Wagga Wagga recently, were encouraged to be pro-active with mouse control strategies in 2018 in the wake of extensive crop damage last year and a carryover of base populations through summer.
Mild weather and a reasonable supply of food sources as a result of grain being left on the ground due to weather events and frost in 2017 have contributed to numbers being at higher than normal levels for this time of year.
Mouse monitoring experts engaged in GRDC research investments say potential therefore exists for economic damage at planting this year in southern New South Wales.
CSIRO researcher Steve Henry says it is imperative that growers “get out of the ute, walk into their paddocks and get a good feel for what is going on” in respect to current numbers and activity.
Travelling through the Coleambally and Finley regions of southern NSW this week as part of an ongoing monitoring program Mr Henry says growers were already reporting increased mice activity.
“Growers need to get out into their paddocks and assess the situation, we have already had anecdotal reports of high mice numbers in barley stubble, along with standing rice crops,” Mr Henry said.
“So our advice is if growers think they are going to need bait, they should talk to their suppliers immediately. If they leave it too late, supplies may not be available when they need to bait, as has occurred in previous years.”
He advises growers to bait in the six weeks leading up to planting, as well as during planting and monitor the effectiveness after each application.
Broad scale application of zinc phosphide bait is the only method available to growers to control mice in their paddocks.
Mr Henry says timely application of bait at the prescribed rate (one kilogram per hectare) is paramount for reducing the impact that mice have on crops at sowing. He says strategic use of bait is also more effective than frequent use of bait.
Mr Henry says baiting is most effective when there is limited alternative food available to mice, so he recommends spraying out summer weeds and volunteer cereals, cleaning up grain on the ground and grazing sheep on stubbles (if feasible) to increase the probability of mice taking the bait.
Mouse management strategies and advice are outlined in the GRDC GrowNotes™ Better Mouse Management Tips and Tactics fact sheet.
Mr Henry delivered some sobering mouse reproduction facts to growers and advisers attending the GRDC Grains Research Update, including:
- Mice start breeding at six weeks of age
- Litters of up to 10 pups are born every 20 days
- Female mice become pregnant again immediately after giving birth
- A single pair can give rise to 500 offspring in a season.
The threshold for economic damage at sowing is 200 mice/hectare.
Mr Henry encourages growers and advisers to continue to report and map mouse presence, absence and level of activity using MouseAlert so others can see the scale and extent of localised mouse activity.
MouseAlert also provides access to fact sheets about mouse control and forecasts of the likelihood for future high levels of mouse activity in each grain-growing region.
Despite considerable past and present investment in mouse-related research, development and extension (RD&E), the GRDC recognises that mice continue to be a key constraint across the southern cropping region.
Studies have included searching for new tools and active ingredients, bait application strategies and ongoing monitoring and surveillance. Further investment in mouse-related RD&E is being undertaken to provide growers with new management tools and strategies for mouse management in the future.
Steve Henry, CSIRO
0428 633 844
Toni Somes, Cox Inall Communications
0427 878 387
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