Mice numbers threat to crops

Kate PollardCountryman

Farmers across the State are keeping their eyes peeled for signs of active mice holes in germinating crops.

High populations have been reported by farmers and agronomists across the grain belt from Geraldton to Esperance, with aerial and ground baiting programs in full swing.

Geraldton agronomist Grant Thompson said the two main hotspots for mice activity were Tenindewa, between Geraldton and Mullewa, and Yuna.

But he said the biggest issue growers faced was dry conditions.

Around Quairading, York and Cadoux, Farmanco agronomist David Stead said there was plenty of evidence of mice activity, especially on sandier country and in homes.

At this stage, he said growers were monitoring paddocks and baiting at the first sign of missing plants.

Broadacre producers are not the only people nervous about the damage mice can cause.

A population increase could spell disaster for seed suppliers as well as companies and grower groups involved in cropping trials in 2012.

In the south, Elders Esperance agronomist Holly Swarbrick said there were high levels of mice activity around Ravensthorpe, Munglinup and Beaumont.

Ms Swarbrick said some growers were concerned while others were not.

Beaumont grower Phil Longmire says mice were worst in areas hit by hail damage last year where grain was left on the ground.

To limit damage, Mr Longmire has baited his entire canola program using a mouse spreader hooked up to the airseeder during sowing.

"We are also probably looking at baiting 15 to 20 per cent of our cereals."

"It's not a cheap exercise and is costing around $8 per hectare for the baits, then spreading costs on top."

"We are just starting to see a bit of damage on the germinating barley, it's not heavy but its enough to warrant baiting."

"An inch of rain would solve all problems."

Mr Longmire said some growers were also using planes to get baits out.

Gavin Egan, who farms in Beaumont and Scaddan, has hired an aerial contractor who has baited the Beaumont farm twice.

Mr Egan said that two Sundays ago, they counted five to 14 active holes in a 200 square metre patch after the first baiting.

"We reckon we have reduced them by two-thirds. Before seeding, there could have been 10 holes in an area the size of a ute tray, then a gap and then another 10 holes," Mr Egan said. "We reckon we are running a million mice out there."

Mr Egan said they were starting to see damage with mice digging barley out of the ground and grazing it at the 1.5 leaf state.

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