Pictured: CSIRO researcher Steve Henry weighing a mouse: “The census depends on as many farmers as possible recording current observations of mice – whether numbers are large, small, or non-existent – over the seven days of Mouse Census Week.” (Credit: Alice Kenney)
2 April 2015
Farmers and advisers throughout Australia’s grain-growing regions are being asked to get involved in the nation’s first-ever mouse census by assessing mouse activity on their farms.
Mouse Census Week will be conducted from April 13 to 19, 2015, to provide farmers, the grains industry and researchers with an unprecedented bank of data about mouse activity in agricultural areas.
The census, initiated by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (IACRC) with the support of the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), will occur before and during seeding of winter crops – a critical time for locating mouse “hot spots” and determining whether numbers are at levels that could pose a risk to newly-sown crops.
Farmers and advisers are encouraged to play a role in the census by recording mouse activity via MouseAlert – a website and recently-released App aimed at improving early warning of possible plagues and rapid response to increases in mouse activity.
Steve Henry, research officer with the CSIRO, says it is important that mouse activity is assessed across all grain growing areas to identify the likelihood of large scale mouse problems in approaching growing seasons.
“This first census will identify where potential problem areas are, on the eve of the 2015 cropping season,” Mr Henry said.
“It will also be a valuable baseline that we can refer to when monitoring mouse activity at other critical times of the year, such as during the crop growing phase in winter and in spring to get an understanding of population size and breeding activity prior to harvest,” Mr Henry said.
Mr Henry said that based on his observations during a recently-completed three-state survey, combined with reports from farmers, mouse numbers were at significant levels in some regions.
“There is moderate to high mouse activity on Yorke Peninsula, the Adelaide Plains and in parts of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, as well as Macalister in Queensland and Ravensthorpe/Esperance in Western Australia. Yorke Peninsula currently has the most significant mouse activity in Australia.
“Despite numbers being low in many other areas, growers need to remain vigilant as mouse populations increase rapidly as soon as the conditions favour them and, with little warning, farmers can have a costly and escalating problem.”
MouseAlert has been designed to help farmers and the grains industry track changes in mouse activity in advance of major damage occurring.
“During Mouse Census Week, farmers can easily record mouse activity and hot spots by using MouseAlert on their smartphone, tablet or computer,” Mr Henry said.
“The census depends on as many farmers as possible recording current observations of mice – whether numbers are large, small, or non-existent – over the seven days of Mouse Census Week. Even discovering where there are no mice is extremely important.
“To make MouseAlert truly effective, we need farmers to give it a go – for their benefit and that of their farming neighbours. I encourage everyone to get involved and help us help you to get on the front foot and be better prepared before mouse numbers explode and damage occurs.”
GRDC Project Manager Plant Health, Tomas Langley, said initiatives such as MouseAlert and the national Mouse Census Week were important mechanisms to inform growers of changes in mouse populations and activity in their regions.
“If growers are aware of these changes as they occur, their ability to control mice and avoid potential crop losses is greatly improved,” Mr Langley said. “Knowing what is occurring out in the regions in terms of mouse populations is also extremely helpful for our ongoing research efforts.”
Farmers can get MouseAlert at the website www.mousealert.org.au or download the new MouseAlert App (part of the FeralScan phone App available in the iTunes store). Progress can be followed on Twitter @MouseAlert. An android version of the MouseAlert App is in development and is expected to be available next month.
These mouse-monitoring programs are funded by the GRDC in collaboration with Landcare Research New Zealand, CSIRO and NSW Department of Primary Industries through the IACRC.
Steve Henry, CSIRO
Phone 0428 633 844
Kylee Carpenter, IA CRC
Phone 0429 985 643
Sharon Watt, Porter Novelli
Phone 0409 675 100