The impact of a rodent plague can be devastating. For example, a 1993 mouse plague in southern Australia cost an estimated AS 100 million in crop, stored grain and other losses.
In South-East Asia, it is common for villages to lose more than half their rice crop to rats. Sometimes whole crops are destroyed when rat numbers explode, or farmers don't even bother to plant, expecting that rats will eat the crop. As well as eating the crop, rats also eat young chickens and spoil grain.
CSIRO researchers have been studying mouse plagues in Australia since 1983, identifying the factors that trigger these events and how mice use different habitats at different stages leading up to a plague. This knowledge of mouse ecology now helps in managing outbreaks.
For the past 10 years, the CSIRO group has also worked on projects funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) in South-East Asia. These projects have focused on identifying the rat species causing crop losses and developing integrated control programs appropriate …