, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 97-126

Rodent Control in India

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Abstract

Eighteen species of rodents are pests in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, animal and human dwellings and rural and urban storage facilities in India. Their habitat, distribution, abundance and economic significance varies in different crops, seasons and geographical regions of the country. Of these, Bandicota bengalensis is the most predominant and widespread pest of agriculture in wet and irrigated soils and has also established in houses and godowns in metropolitan cities like Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta. In dryland agriculture Tatera indica and Meriones hurrianae are the predominant rodent pests. Some species like Rattus meltada, Mus musculus and M. booduga occur in both wet and dry lands. Species like R. nitidus in north-eastern hill region and Gerbillus gleadowi in the Indian desert are important locally. The common commensal pests are Rattus rattus and M. musculus throughout the country including the islands. R. rattus along with squirrels Funambulus palmarum and F. tristriatus are serious pests of plantation crops such as coconut and oil palm in the southern peninsula. F. pennanti is abundant in orchards and gardens in the north and central plains and sub-mountain regions. Analysis of the information available on the damage and economic losses caused by rodents in rice, wheat, sugarcane, maize, pearl millet, sorghum, oil seed, legume and vegetable crop fields, horticulture and forestry, poultry farms, and rural and urban dwellings and storage facilities clearly shows that chronic damage ranging from 2% to 15% persists throughout the country and severe damage, sometimes even up to 100% loss of the field crop, is not rare. Several traditional and modern approaches and methods of rodent control are being used. The existing knowledge of the environmental, cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical methods of rodent control in India is reviewed. Considerable variations exist in the susceptibility of the pest species to different methods, particularly to rodenticides and trapping, their field applicability, efficacy and economics in different crops, seasons and geographical regions, behavioural responses of the pest species to these methods in different ecological conditions and their adoption by farmers in different regions of India. Environmental and cultural techniques, such as clean cultivation, proper soil tillage and crop scheduling, barriers, repellents and proofing which may reduce rodent harbourage, food sources and immigration have long lasting effects but are seldom adopted. However, their significance in relation to normal agricultural practices, intensification and diversification are discussed. Rodenticides, which provide an immediate solution to the rodent problem, form the major component of rodent control strategies in India. Poison baiting of rodents with zinc phosphide and burrow fumigation with aluminium phosphide are common in agricultural fields and recently Racumin (coumatetralyl) and bromadiolone have been introduced for the control of both agricultural and commensal rodent pests in India. Methods and timings of campaigns and successes and problems in implementation of rodent control are also reviewed.