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