Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 18, pp 18434–18439 | Cite as

An assessment of vegetation management practices and burrow fumigation with aluminum phosphide as tools for managing voles within perennial crop fields in California, USA

  • Roger A. BaldwinEmail author
  • Denise I. Stetson
  • Manuel G. Lopez
  • Richard M. Engeman
Research Article


Voles (Cricetidae) cause extensive damage to a variety of crops throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. The removal of vegetation from crop fields at the end of the growing season, combined with a subsequent burrow fumigant application of aluminum phosphide, has the potential to substantially curtail vole activity but has not been thoroughly examined. We set up a study to test the impact of these management tools in perennial globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus) fields in Monterey County, CA, during 2010 and 2011, to determine their potential utility as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program for managing California voles (Microtus californicus). We used both chewing indices and mortality estimates derived via radiotelemetry to assess the efficacy of aboveground vegetation removal and aluminum phosphide applications on vole abundance. We determined the impact of plowing artichoke fields on vole activity as well. Both removal of vegetation and applications of aluminum phosphide substantially reduced vole presence within treated fields. Plowing also reduced vole abundance to the point of little residual activity following treatment. These management practices appear to be effective at eliminating voles from crop fields. Combining these tools with management practices designed to slow down reinvasion by neighboring vole populations (e.g., barriers, repellents, traps) has the potential to substantially reduce farmer reliance on rodenticides for vole management, although rodenticides will still be needed to curtail populations that reestablish within crop fields. Such an IPM approach should substantially benefit both farmers and agro-ecosystems.


Aluminum phosphide Burrow fumigation California vole Microtus californicus Plowing Vegetation management 



We thank Ocean Mist/Sea Mist Farms, particularly JF Castaneda, C Drew, D Huss, and their field crews, for all of the assistance and resources they provided during this project.


This project was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through Grant No. SCB09008. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA. Additional support was provided by the Vertebrate Pest Control Research Advisory Committee of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (Grant No. 09-0643).

Compliance with ethical standards

All procedures were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of California, Davis (Study Protocol 15732).


  1. Baker RO (2004) Field efficacy of Fumitoxin® (55% aluminum phosphide) tablets for controlling valley pocket gopher. In: Timm RM, Gorenzel WP (eds) Proceedings of the 21st Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 253–257Google Scholar
  2. Baldwin RA (2012) The importance of aluminum phosphide for burrowing pest control in California. In: Timm RM (ed) Proceedings of the 25th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 151–159Google Scholar
  3. Baldwin RA, Holtz BA (2010) Fumigation of California ground squirrels revisited: are fumigants an effective method for controlling ground squirrels? In: Timm RM, Fagerstone KA (eds) Proceedings of the 24th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 129–132Google Scholar
  4. Baldwin RA, Quinn N (2012) The applicability of burrow fumigants for controlling Belding’s ground squirrels in alfalfa. In: Timm RM (ed) Proceedings of the 25th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 160–163Google Scholar
  5. Baldwin RA, Salmon TP, Schmidt RH, Timm RM (2014) Perceived damage and areas of needed research for wildlife pests of California agriculture. Integr Zool 9:265–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldwin RA, Meinerz R, Jantz HE, Witmer GW (2015) Impact of capture and transportation methods on survival of small rodents during relocation events. Southwest Nat 60:385–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baldwin RA, Meinerz R, Orloff SB (2016a) Burrow fumigation versus trapping for pocket gopher (Thomomys spp.) management: a comparison of efficacy and cost effectiveness. Wildl Res 43:389–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baldwin RA, Meinerz R, Witmer GW (2016b) Cholecalciferol plus diphacinone baits for vole control: a novel approach to a historic problem. J Pest Sci 89:129–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clark JP (1984) Vole control in field crops. In: Clark DO (ed) Proceedings of the 11th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 5–6Google Scholar
  10. Edge WD, Wolff JO, Carey RL (1995) Density-dependent responses of gray-tailed voles to mowing. J Wildl Manag 59:245–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Engeman R, Whisson D (2006) Using a general indexing paradigm to monitor rodent populations. Int Biodeterior Biodegrad 58:2–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Engeman RM, Baldwin RA, Stetson DI (2016) Guiding the management of an agricultural pest: indexing abundance of California meadow voles in artichoke fields. Crop Prot 88:53–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fuelling O, Walther B, Nentwig W, Airoldi J-P (2010) Barriers, traps and predators – an integrated approach to avoid vole damage. In: Timm RM, Fagerstone KA (eds) Proceedings of the 24th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 222–227Google Scholar
  14. Horak KE, Volker SF, Campton CM (2015) Increased diphacinone and chlorophacinone metabolism in previously exposed wild caught voles, Microtus californicus. Crop Prot 78:35–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jacob J (2003) Short-term effects of farming practices on populations of common voles. Agric Ecosyst Environ 95:321–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jacob J, Hempel N (2003) Effects of farming practices on spatial behaviour of common voles. J Ethol 21:45–50Google Scholar
  17. Jacob J, Tkadlec E (2010) Rodent outbreaks in Europe: dynamics and damage. In: Singleton GR, Belmain S, Brown PR, Hardy B (eds) Rodent outbreaks—ecology and impacts. International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines, pp 207–223Google Scholar
  18. Jokić G, Vukša P, Vukša M (2010) Comparative efficacy of conventional and new rodenticides against Microtus arvalis (Pallas, 1778) in wheat and alfalfa crops. Crop Prot 29:487–491CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Parker WT, Muller LI, Gerhardt RR, O’Rourke DP, Ramsay EC (2008) Field use of isoflurane for safe squirrel and woodrat anesthesia. J Wildl Manag 72:1262–1266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rodríguez-Pastor R, Luque-Larena JJ, Lambin X, Mougeot F (2016) “Living on the edge”: the role of field margins for common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations in recently colonised Mediterranean farmland. Agric Ecosyst Environ 231:206–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Salmon TP, Lawrence SJ (2006a) Anticoagulant resistance in meadow voles (Microtus californicus). In: Timm RM, O’Brien JM (eds) Proceedings of the 22nd Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 156–160Google Scholar
  22. Salmon TP, Lawrence SJ (2006b) Zinc phosphide-treated bracts as an alternative rodenticide in artichoke fields for meadow vole (Microtus californicus) control. In: Timm RM, O’Brien JM (eds) Proceedings of the 22nd Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 161–165Google Scholar
  23. Salmon TP, Gorenzel WP, Bentley WJ (1982) Aluminum phosphide (Phostoxin) as a burrow fumigant for ground squirrel control. In: Marsh RE (ed) Proceedings of the 10th Vertebrate Pest Conference. University of California, Davis, pp 143–146Google Scholar
  24. Schlötelburg A, Bellingrath-Kimura S, Jaboc J (In press) Development of an odorous repellent against common voles (Microtus arvalis) in laboratory screening and subsequent enclosure trials.
  25. Singleton GR, Sudarmaji JJ, Krebs CJ (2005) Integrated management to reduce rodent damage to lowland rice crops in Indonesia. Agric Ecosyst Environ 107:75–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Whisson DA, Engeman RM, Collins K (2005) Developing relative abundance techniques (RATs) for monitoring rodent populations. Wildl Res 32:239–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Witmer GW, Hakim AA, Moser BW (2000) Investigations of methods to reduce damage by voles. In: Brittingham MC, Kays J, McPeake R (eds) Proceedings of the 9th Wildlife Damage Management Conference. Pennsylvania State University, State College, pp 357–365Google Scholar
  28. Witmer G, Sayler R, Huggins D, Capelli J (2007) Ecology and management of rodents in no-till agriculture in Washington, USA. Integr Zool 2:154–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Witmer G, Snow N, Humberg L, Salmon T (2009) Vole problems, management options, and research needs in the United States. In: Boulanger JR (ed) Proceedings of the 13th Wildlife Damage Management Conference. University of Nebraska, Lincoln, pp 235–249Google Scholar
  30. Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical analysis. Fourth edition. Prentice-Hall, Inc, Upper Saddle RiverGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, One Shields AvenueUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension CenterUniversity of CaliforniaParlierUSA
  3. 3.National Ecological Observatory NetworkVancouverUSA
  4. 4.California Department of Fish and WildlifeSacramentoUSA
  5. 5.USDA/Wildlife ServicesNational Wildlife Research CenterFort CollinsUSA

Personalised recommendations