The long term objective of this study is to provide small holder and commercial farmers with cost effective and sustainable technologies for ecological rodent pest management in crop fields. This is because rodents can inflict considerable economic damage in agricultural activities because of their abundance, diversity and their ability to quickly multiply. Losses are largely contributed to large population outbreaks and ineffective and incorrect application of rodenticides. However, effective rodenticide control is dependent on timing and method of application, which differs between rodent pest species and agro-ecosystems. Due to the limited impact of incorrect rodenticide use Ecologically Based Rodent Management (EBRM) is promoted as an alternative and proven effective means to control rodent pests. EBRM adopts a more all-inclusive approach and include habitat modification, intensive trapping, predicting and managing outbreaks, predation and responsible and correct use of rodenticides during peak outbreaks. Predation (especially avian predation) and habitat modification (or habitat heterogeneity) are key strategies in EBRM.
This study therefore assembled a team of rodent ecologists, carnivore ecologists and chemical control researchers in an effort to combine affective and responsible chemical rodent control with ecological process to control rodent pests. In ecological processes we are looking at avian and mammalian predation, as well as density dependant population control (e.g. disease prevalence). In chemical control we are looking at what chemicals provide most effective control, without harm to the ecological process. This research is done in collaboration with Agricultural Research Council (Plant Protection Research Institute) and University of Pretoria. The project is funded by the Sasol Agricultural Trust (2014-2016) and study sites are in Free State, North West and Venda.
- Lourens Swanepoel