Grain growers are being reminded to remain vigilant as mouse populations continue to climb.
Recent strong winds and hail in some parts of the region have knocked grain to the ground and, combined with grain spilt at harvest, have provided a ready food source that could maintain mouse populations through summer.
Significant numbers of mice have been recorded across southern NSW, suggesting an early start to breeding with an outbreak predicted in north-west Victoria next autumn.
Higher than average rainfall over the next two months would likely result in a rising mouse population.
According to Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation researcher Steve Henry, who has been surveying mouse activity, growers can limit the amount of feed available to the pests by ensuring that all grain gets into the header, not onto the ground.
‘‘Spilt grain at harvest can provide perfect conditions for mouse breeding,’’ Mr Henry said.
‘‘It is critical that farmers are proactive about spraying out summer germinations to reduce the amount of food and habitat available for mice. It is also critical to maintain cleared grain-free ground around all grain storage areas.
‘‘There is a two-week (harvest) withholding period for application of bait to control mice prior to harvesting, so growers need to be using ‘common sense hygiene’ as their main control method.
‘‘This means care in harvesting, spraying out summer germinations and being meticulous in preventing spills or loose grain around storages. Making these efforts now will hopefully limit the mouse numbers we will see at sowing time in autumn.’’
Mr Henry started breeding started again in early spring this year in cropping regions and he expected numbers would increase through summer and into autumn, when sowing of next year’s winter crops begins.
■Growers are encouraged to report and map mouse presence, absence and level of activity at: www.mousealert.org.au