Croppers encouraged to keep an eye on mouse numbers
GRAIN growers in Australia's southern cropping region are encouraged to monitor mouse populations and activity using the MouseAlert website (www. mousealert.org.au) in the lead-up to sowing of this year's winter crops. CSIRO researcher Steve Henry, who has just completed a three-state survey for a Grains Research and Development Corporation-funded project, says now is the time to be vigilant. Mr Henry says SA's Yorke Peninsula is where mouse populations are most significant. He describes the coastal strip between Port Victoria and Point Pearce as resembling “Swiss cheese” in some areas where mice have been burrowing. In other parts of Yorke Peninsula mice are at low levels, especially where stubbles have been grazed. “Grazing creates disturbance to mice because sheep are trampling the ground,” Mr Henry said. “Sheep also reduce food for mice by cleaning up any grain left on the ground after harvest.” Where summer weeds and volunteer cereals have been sprayed following January rains, numbers of mice are generally low. However, Mr Henry says growers should check paddocks previously planted to vetch and pulse crops. “Grains from these crops which have been left on the ground often don't germinate after the first summer rain, so they can remain a potential food source for some time,” Mr Henry said. On SA's upper Eyre Peninsula, moderate levels of activity have been recorded in the Buckleboo region, while on the Adelaide Plains there are also places where moderate levels of activity have been recorded. Mr Henry visited 35 farms to collect data on mice. There were signs of recent mouse activity on 10 farms in the Mallee between Walpeup in Victoria and Pinnaroo in SA but little activity was recorded on 11 farms between Horsham and Hopetoun in Victoria. In the area around Coleambally in NSW, Mr Henry's survey detected low numbers of mice in cropping paddocks. Despite numbers being low in many areas, Mr Henry urges caution as mouse populations can increase rapidly if conditions become favourable. In south-eastern Australia, Mr Henry surveys mice at three critical times of the year: He surveys in March to determine numbers ahead of seeding; June to assess activity during the crop growing phase; and in spring to get an understanding of population size and breeding activity prior to harvest. Also, farmers and agronomists can contribute directly to information about mice in their local area by using MouseAlert. This is accessible by computer or mobile device and an app will soon be available. Recent reports of mouse activity can be viewed with MouseAlert, and it 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. MouseAlert, the surveys by Mr Henry, and research to develop more accurate forecasts of changes in mouse numbers, are all funded by the GRDC. This is a collaborative project between Landcare Research New Zealand, CSIRO, NSW Department of Primary Industries and the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC). 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.
• Details: www.mousealert.org.au
CSIRO researcher Steve Henry (pictured weighing a mouse) has just completed a three-state survey for a GRDC-funded project and says now is the time to be vigilant. Photo: Alice Kenney