Mouse Control Webinar
Mouse activity continues to be of concern across many grain growing regions of Australia.
Grain growers who have monitored mice through summer and early autumn and applied baits early should now be considering baiting at seeding, or within 24 hours of seeding to reduce the impact of mice on winter crops.
While ongoing monitoring is an important part of all mouse control strategies those growers, who still have six weeks until they start seeding are now advised to check mouse numbers in the paddock and apply bait if needed.
Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Manager Pests Leigh Nelson says the organisation is currently working to help growers maximise bait effectiveness and paddock application this season amidst reports of increased mouse activity in the grain growing regions of NSW and Queensland.
Five quick tips for mouse control at seeding:
- Apply broad scale zinc phosphide bait: According to the label, at the prescribed rate of 1kg/ha.
- Apply bait at seeding or within 24 hours: While seed is still covered by soil increasing the likelihood of mice taking the bait, prior to finding the seed. Rebait through the season as needed.
- Timing is critical: Delays of 4-5 days in baiting after seeding can give mice time to find crop seed. High populations can cause up to 5% damage each night.
- Minimise sources of food and shelter: Control weeds and volunteer crops along fence lines, clean up residual grain by grazing or rolling stubbles
- Monitor paddocks: Check paddocks regularly and update local data using the MouseAlert website.
Dr Nelson says the GRDC understands the challenges facing growers when it comes to effective mouse control and are committed to working with them to overcome the issues.
"Broad scale application of zinc phosphide bait at the prescribed rate of one kilogram per hectare is currently the only method available to growers to control mice in their paddocks," she says.
“However the GRDC and our research partners are working to try to address gaps in knowledge and other challenges through new approaches – to improve the efficacy of zinc phosphide baiting, to better understand mouse ecology and no-till systems and develop innovative alternative control tactics.”
Dr Nelson says effective mouse control hinges on keeping informed of paddock populations, so regular monitoring was critical with growers encouraged to bait when mouse activity was significant (1 burrow per square metre) at the recommended rate of 1kg/ha.
“Ongoing monitoring is critical to guide decision making for growers with bait able to be re-applied after 14 days as needed,” she says.
Active holes can be identified by sprinkling talcum powder around holes and inspecting the level of disturbance the following morning. One burrow per 100 square metres equals 100 burrows ☺per hectare, or 200 mice per hectare. Burrows usually contain 1 to 4 mice but can have up to 40 mice.
Checks should be made across a paddock as populations can be patchy. Hole counts vary by soil type. In cracking soils, holes may be difficult to identify. In sandy soils, mice may dig many holes in search of seed, which can look similar to nesting burrows. In hard-setting soils, there may be few holes but each can contain many mice – up to 40 per hole during plagues.
Mouse chew cards or ‘Canola’ squares: this method is most reliable in late autumn/winter when food is scarce. It is less reliable as crops mature, because the crop provides a more attractive food source than canola-soaked card.
- Each sampling area requires 10 pieces of strong paper or light card (10cm by 10cm), marked with a 1cm grid and soaked in canola or linseed oil.
- Place the cards randomly across a paddock and peg them to the ground.
- If more than 10 squares per card are eaten overnight, significant mouse populations are emerging.
- If more than 20 squares per card are consumed in immature crops, there is a significant mouse problem.
Economic damage is likely when there are 200 to 300 mice per hectare at sowing (1 to 2 active burrows per 100 m transect) and baiting is critical. Two hundred mice per hectare can eat 1 per cent of the crop sown each night, or 14 per cent in two weeks.
Aerial or ground application can be used to spread zinc phosphide bait. A rate of 1kg/ha provides 20,000 lethal doses per hectare. It can be spread in stubble, pasture and crop, or a vegetative fallow, but not on bare ground. Baiting is less effective when alternative feed sources are available, so growers should endeavor where possible to clean up grain spills, control weeds and reduce food sources (eg graze sheep on stubbles).
A wide range of baits are registered for use in bait stations, in and around buildings and farm storages (within 2m) or enclosed spaces, e.g. drains. Consult the APVMA for a complete listing of currently registered products.
Ideally, mouse bait should be used in dry conditions to achieve maximum ingestion. Baiting at the time of sowing, or within 24 hours, is most effective for protecting recently sown crops. Damage is most severe for about two to three weeks after crop emergence and again around seed-set.
Monitoring is the only method of establishing if further baiting is required. After baiting, mouse activity should continue to be monitored and rebaiting should not occur for at least 14 days. After 14 days reassess mouse activity and if numbers remain high then reapply.
Proactive mouse baiting program looks to control numbers up to 6 weeks prior to planting. If number persist then baits can be reapplied before the crop is planted and further reduce any potential damage to the crop emergence.
Zinc phosphide bait will tolerate some rain, but rain action erodes the bait quality, so rebaiting may be required if rainfall occurs within 1-3 days of baiting.
Based on current research, GRDC is advising growers to bait strategically rather than frequently, and a number of growers have modified farm machinery, to distribute bait quickly and widely. (Read about Seeder-mounted mouse bait spreaders here)
Growers have modified a variety of farm machinery to apply the 1 kg/ha of zinc phosphide bait required to control the mice present in their fields. Some examples are as follows:
In Victoria, Brad Plant at Manangatang (story available via this link) has built a mouse bait spreader that is ground-driven via his air commodity cart, with a keyless drill chuck and drill bits used to modify the application rate. Product is metered into the air-stream and blown out to a swath width of around 16m.
Griffith, NSW farmer Michael Pfitzner has adapted a ‘whale-tail’ spreader with bait product metered from the air commodity cart and the product drawn into a fabricated plenum mount for the whale-tail, which draws product in a venturi style.
- GRDC Tips and Tactics: Better Mouse Management
- GRDC Update Paper: Monitoring Mice in Australia
- Ag Excellene Alliance: Controlling Mice - Baiting Strategies
- YouTube video: Mice Control - a challenge for conservation farming
- GRDC Mouse Chew Card (PDF 2.8 mb) or GRDC Mouse Chew Card (JPG 0.6 mb)
- GRDC Mouse Control Q&A from webinar on 28th of March
GRDC Research Codes
Disclaimer: Any recommendations, suggestions or opinions contained in this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Grains Research and Development Corporation. No person should act on the basis of the contents of this publication without first obtaining specific, independent, professional advice. The Corporation and contributors to this publication may identify products by proprietary or trade names to help readers identify particular types of products. We do not endorse or recommend the products of any manufacturer referred to. Other products may perform as well as or better than those specifically referred to. The GRDC will not be liable for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on the information in this publication.
CAUTION: RESEARCH ON UNREGISTERED PESTICIDE USE
Any research with unregistered pesticides or of unregistered products reported in this document does not constitute a recommendation for that particular use by the authors or the authors’ organisations. All pesticide applications must accord with the currently registered label for that particular pesticide, crop, pest and region.
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