Crop­pers en­cour­aged to keep an eye on mouse num­bers

Australian Farmers & Dealers Journal - - NEWS -

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

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