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Training on Ecological Principles and the Management of Rodents in Agricultural Ecosystems Held on May 2-4 – Afrirodents

Rationale

Effective management of rodents in agricultural systems needs a strong ecological foundation. In this course we will foster the importance of population ecology in pest management, together with an emphasis on farmer participatory research as a foundation for technology transfer.

                                     

Learning Objective

During the course, participants had the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in:

  • Applying knowledge of animal population ecology toward the management of rodents in agro-ecosystems with an emphasis on rice-based systems;
  • Using the scientific approach to study pest management at a landscape level;
  • Decision analysis of pest problems and determining processes and factors that influence farmer’s decisions.

Course Content

Introduction

Rodents, insects and weeds cause major losses in rice crops throughout the world and their management continues to pose major challenges to farmers and agriculturalists.  Rodent pest management went through a period of stagnation in the 1980s and 1990s mainly because there was too little research effort to understand the biology, behavior and habitat use of the species we are attempting to manage. In Asia, rats consume enough rice to feed 180 to 350 million people for a year. Their management is a high priority. Changes to agricultural farming systems, including a greater diversity in crops, increased intensity of cropping, and more frequent climatic extreme events are leading to new challenges for farmers.

Localised heavy losses associated with the patchy destruction of crops by pests and diseases have resulted in major concerns for food stability at the village level. With the expected increase in human population growth in these countries, the situation will become more acute. There is a growing demand, particularly in developing countries, for pest management strategies that either have less reliance on chemicals or can better target their use. There has been strong progress with ecologically-based pest management approaches which builds on the progress made with integrated pest management (IPM).

We will present a brief course covering the basic biology and ecology of rodent pests, various case studies, recent research on rodent-weed interactions and the imperative to manage wildlife at a landscape scale with regard to the ecosystem services they provide. There will be case studies from Africa, Asia and Australia on management strategies at a community level that are more sustainable and environmentally benign. Ecologically-based pest management and farmer participatory research will be the themes for this short course.

Topics covered

  • Ecologically-based management, the re-emergence of a paradigm for pest management
  • Basic population ecology – general principles for rodent management
  • Population and behavioural ecology of rodents with an emphasis on rigorous testing of hypotheses via replicated, experimental treatments in an agricultural context
  • Progress of fertility control of rodent pests
  • Management of mouse plagues in Australian wheatfields (also answer questions on CRISPR)
  • Plague in Tanzania
  • EBRM in Eastern Africa advances and challenges
  • Camera trapping of wildlife and data analyses
  • Rodent weed interactions in an agricultural landscape
  • The social and cultural dimension to pest management
  • Decision analysis of needs, knowledge, attitudes and practices of farmers

                                      

 

Action learning project – at the beginning of the course each participant briefly (maximum 5 slides in 6 minutes) presented research they were currently involved with or are planning to conduct soon. At the end of the course each participant returned to their project and indicated what they would now do differently (maximum 4 minutes).

Duration and Location of the Course

This was a 3-day course held on May 2-4, 2023, at the Institute of Pest Management, Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro.

Course Trainers (*In person for face-to-face interaction)

  • Prof Grant Singleton* (Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich; Principal Scientist, International Rice Research Institute 2005-2019): ecologically-based rodent management; farmer-participatory research; rodent diseases; ecosystem service of wildlife in rice agricultural systems (rodents, birds, amphibians)

  • Prof Rhodes Makundi* (Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)): his research on rodents started in 1979 as an agricultural research officer responsible for rodent control in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development. His research initially focused on rodent outbreak management, which expanded when he joined SUA in 1987 to involve research on ecology and rodent pest management aimed at developing ecologically-based rodent management. He also has done research on plague to better understand the host and vector dynamics in the plague cycle.

  • Emeritus Prof Charles Krebs (University of British Columbia): eminent population ecologist, experimental field studies on predator-prey interactions, community ecologist, biomathematician. Author of 6 editions of the textbook “ECOLOGY: The experimental analysis of distribution and abundance”. www.zoology.ubc.ca/~krebs/
  • Alice Kenney (University of British Columbia): small mammal ecology, camera traps and analysis of associated data.
  • Dr Peter Brown (Principal Research Scientist, Team Leader Rodent Management, Health & Biosecurity, CSIRO, Australia): Population outbreaks of house mice in Australian wheat crops; research on management options.
  • Dr Jens Jacob, Rodent Research Team Leader, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Münster, Germany: Rodent outbreaks in Europe, rodent management, risk assessment and non-target effects, rodent-borne diseases.