Maintain vigilance to protect winter crops from mice

Steve Henry
With sowing in full swing across Australia’s grain growing regions, growers have been encouraged to remain vigilant for mice. CSIRO Research Officer, Steve Henry, said walking through paddocks is the best way to gauge numbers. Image: Anvil media

After last year’s mouse outbreak caused significant damage to crops and communities, grain growers are again being reminded to remain alert for this pest during sowing.

Mr Steve Henry, mouse researcher from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, said it was unlikely mouse populations would reach the numbers observed last season, but growers should remain vigilant in terms of monitoring and baiting, especially at this time of year, to ensure they address any potential issues early.

The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) has invested in a number of CSIRO’s mouse management research projects, including the grower workshops on mouse management that were conducted in Western Australia earlier this year.

In GRDC’s most recent video, Mr Henry discusses the workshops and the tips he provided to those in attendance, including how to identify whether the pest has become an issue on farm and how to respond to increasing numbers. Watch the video:

Mr Henry said while there’s certainly been a reported increase in mouse activity across the regions, the presence of mice seems to be dependent on paddock history and the availability of food and shelter.

“Mouse numbers are patchy in most parts of the country, however there are widespread reports of high mouse activity in Western Australia,” he said.

“A lot of regions in the north have reported mice sightings but recent, widespread rain will help drive those numbers down.”

Mr Henry said with expected high prices for winter crops this season, it is more important than ever that growers take early action to control mice and protect high value crops.

“Demand for canola is high, seed is in short supply, and strong prices are predicted so we want to prevent growers from having to re-sow their crops due to mouse damage,” he said.

“If mice are present, farmers should bait with 50 grams per kilogram of zinc phosphide (ZnP).

“This will help push numbers down over winter to ensure mice start breeding from a lower population base next spring.”

Mr Henry said the most effective way for growers to gauge mouse numbers at this time of year was to walk through paddocks and look for active burrows.

“After last year’s season there are lots of big stubbles which can easily hide the signs of mouse activity.

“Burrows can be patchy in their distribution, so growers should walk through different parts of the paddock and look for signs of mice.”

GRDC Pests Manager, Dr Leigh Nelson, said she understood an increase in mouse activity would have growers wary after last year’s outbreak impacted grain communities financially and mentally.

GRDC has invested significantly in mouse monitoring and management and has made a commitment to help growers increase their preparedness for mouse outbreaks and the effectiveness of baiting.

“Managing mice requires an integrated approach from industry and growers and the GRDC has made a commitment to help improve growers’ preparedness and management strategies to stay on top of numbers,” Dr Nelson said.

“While an increase in mouse activity would certainly cause worry for communities and growers, it’s a good indication that early intervention needs to occur now to protect establishing crops and drive numbers down before spring.

“GRDC continues to provide up-to-date information and resources to growers to help them react to an increase in mouse activity.

“Our priority is working with growers and communities to identify mouse activity and implement effective management strategies to prevent damage to their enterprises.”

GRDC has produced mouse chew cards which are a highly effective yet simple tool to measure activity in the paddock. These can be downloaded along with more information about mouse control at the GRDC Mouse management page.

Mr Henry also encourages growers and advisers to report and map regional mouse activity using the MouseAlert website.

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