“Putting out bait right at the point of sowing is the best way to protect newly sown crop,” said CSIRO researcher Steve Henry who is working on a national mouse management project.
“For farmers who are looking to dry sow this year in areas with high mouse loads you would say putting out bait as a precaution is not a bad move, especially given it is reasonably cheap.”
Grain Producers South Australia chairman Wade Dabinett, who farms in an area that has been particularly hard hit with mice this year, said putting out bait behind the seeder would be standard practice this year.
“You’re looking at as little as $3.50 a hectare to protect crops and last year we saw people having to re-sow untreated paddocks so it is pretty cheap insurance,” Mr Dabinett said.
Given the run of years with high mouse numbers he expected baiting may become standard practice annually in his area.
“It is cheap and easy to do, it doesn’t require another pass so I think it may become something we just go out and do at sowing time,” he said.
Mr Henry said sowing-time baiting was particularly effective.
“You’re burying the seed and burying residual food and leaving the bait on the surface so it is more effective in terms of getting the mice to take the bait,” Mr Henry said.
“It is really important as generally we see the most damage to crop occur in the 24 to 48 hours after sowing.”
Mr Henry said there had been some growers who had put out an application of bait six to eight weeks ago in an attempt to lower numbers prior to sowing.
Mr Dabinett said farmers had to keep monitoring after baiting as the bait efficacy was lower in a stubble environment.
“There were still the other food sources in March so you would definitely want to keep monitoring numbers and I would say most people who baited early would put out another round at sowing just to be safe,” he said.
“The feedback has been that an early bait certainly has made an impact but that baiting behind the seeder will definitely be the main game.”
Mr Dabinett said after the sowing bait application he would be checking paddocks out for mouse activity to see if more baiting was required.
“We had paddocks last year that needed five lots of bait so it is something you need to keep watching, there’s no point getting the crop up safely but letting it get smashed later on,” he said.
Mr Dabinett said farmers were looking to get mouse loads down prior to the winter dormancy period to minimise the likelihood of spring baiting.
“Baiting in the spring is more expensive and more difficult as the crop is standing and you don’t want to knock it down with a bait spreader, the ideal situation will be to get numbers down below damaging levels before the mice go to ground over winter,” he said.
Mr Henry said the industry was geared up for a big year in terms of mouse numbers and bait availability is unlikely to be the problem it was last year.
“Farmers have been talking to their suppliers and from what I hear there are good reserves of mouse bait out there.”