Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Can farm-management practices reduce the impact of house mouse populations on crops in an irrigated farming system?

Peter R. Brown A C , Micah J. Davies A , Grant R. Singleton A and J. David Croft B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, GPO Box 284, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia.

B NSW Agriculture, PMB Pine Gully Road, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2650, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: peter.brown@csiro.au

Wildlife Research 31(6) 597-604 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR03063
Submitted: 17 July 2003  Accepted: 17 May 2004   Published: 23 December 2004

Abstract

The impacts of a range of farm-management practices on house mouse (Mus domesticus) populations were tested in a large replicated field study in a complex irrigated farming system in southern New South Wales, Australia. An advisory panel, made up of farmers, extension officers, industry representatives and scientists developed a series of best-practice farm-management actions to minimise the impact of mice. Twelve experimental sites were split into six treated sites, where farmers were encouraged to conduct the recommended practices, and six untreated sites, where farmers conducted their normal farming practices. Mouse abundance was generally low to moderate for the 4-year project (5–60% adjusted trap success). We found significant reductions in population abundance of mice on treated sites when densities were moderate, but no differences when densities were low. Biomass of weeds and grasses around the perimeter of crops were significantly lower on treated sites because of applications of herbicide sprays and grazing by sheep. We could not detect any significant difference in mouse damage to crops between treated and untreated sites; however, levels of damage were low (<5%). Yields of winter cereals and rice crops were significantly higher on treated sites by up to 40%. An analysis of benefits and costs of conducting farming practices on treated sites compared with untreated sites showed a 2 : 1 benefit to cost ratio for winter cereals, 9 : 1 for rice and 4 : 1 for soybeans.


Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to the farmers who participated in this research, particularly M. Bramston, G. Druitt, V. Filmer, T. Graham, P. Hardy, C. Hardy, K. Russell and I. Sutherland. We thank D. Jones, A. Lewis, K. Leslie, J. Winsbury (CSIRO), R. Eade, J. Osmond (Narrandera Rural Lands Protection Board) and J. Farrell (NSW Agriculture) for their help with collection of field data. We are grateful to J. Jacob, G. Saunders and T. Robinson for their comments on an earlier draft. This project was funded by the Natural Heritage Trust (through the National Feral Animal Control Program of the Bureau of Rural Sciences). The research was conducted in accordance with the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes (SEAEC No. 97/98 – 29).


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