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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ecologically-based management of pest rodents in rice-based agro-ecosystems in southeast Asia


About 70% of the current energy intake of the human population in southeast Asia is met by rice. Rats, especially the ricefield rat, Rattus argentiventer, cause significant pre- and post-harvest losses in rice-based agro-ecosystems of southeast Asia and therefore require appropriate management. Current management practices focus on culling animals when populations are high and after significant damage has already occurred. The use of legal and illegal poisons poses a considerable threat to non-target species and humans. This is of particular concern in regions where rats are often consumed by humans to provide an important protein supplement to their diet. During the last seven years, CSIRO’s rodent research group has tested and refined several methods aimed at decreasing pre-harvest rodent damage in cooperation with the Indonesian Research Institute for Rice and the Vietnamese National Institute for Plant Protection. These methods include exclusion of rats by fencing and physical control by trap-barrier systems with lure crops. The effects of these technologies were investigated regarding the regulation of rat numbers (physical control), damage (exclusion, physical control) and yield (physical control). The results are promising, indicating yield increase, of up to 20% in some cases. Integration of these methods with improved field sanitation, crop synchronisation and more efficient timing of other physical methods of control should result in pronounced increases in yield and improved cost effectiveness. Our approach is contingent on a strong understanding of the ecology of specific rodent pests. Measures of success besides decrease in rat numbers and damage are an increase in farmers’ net income through yield increase and a decrease in the use of chemicals. Pros and cons of these methods in different economic and cultural environments are discussed.

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