Urgent Need: Long term pest Management

Kohima, December 26 (MExN): The need to prepare a long term plan for rodent and pest management for Nagaland is felt, according to a visiting rodent specialist from New Delhi. Relatively, necessary funds should be sought from all available funding sources. This was among the many recommendations made to the state government during the recent visit of rodent specialist Dr. AMK Mohan Roy, also a consultant from the central Ministry of Agriculture.

Crop losses in Nagaland are not due to flowering species, the recommendations said, and felt that the state may have a survey of flowering varieties of bamboo with their resource mapping for focus on that area. Other recommendation said that a periodic survey of spontaneous bamboo flowering areas may be undertaken to initiate rodent surveillance in later months and proper awareness-creation measures should be taken to motivate the farming community in managing rodent pests.

“The lesser bandicoot, B. bengalensis reached foot hills of the state. Since it is one of the dreaded rodent pests, long-term continuous measures should be planned and implemented irrespective of bamboo flowering,” another recommendation said.

It also felt that periodic skill upgrade training programmes may be organized for field extension functionaries of agriculture and horticulture departments. The short-term recommendations included an immediate survey of ‘existing gregariously’ and sporadically flowering bamboo areas should be undertaken with the assistance of state forest department. Rodent surveillance in these areas should be made for planning preventive measure in the coming jhum/kharif season, by the state horticulture and forest departments. They should also be jointly involved in all concerned activities to combat rodent pests, it stated.

Some of the other options and recommendation of Dr Rao for rodent and pest management included one that said using owls or raptors at this stage would have a bouncing affect. This is because removing a part of the highly-reproducing population would finally lead to further increase in prodigality. It would be the same case with using local bamboo traps, which would remove part of the rodent population, leading to further stimulation in prodigality.

Often Governments resort to bounty payment systems for rodent management by production of rat tails. It is a worldwide accepted fact that bounty payment system would not yield desirable control success. In a fast-reproducing population, if partial removal of population is resorted to, it would lead to increase in productivity of the surviving populations. As such this system needs to be discouraged. It would work in specific time frame and specific locations in order to motivate the people to go for rodent control. Incentives for trap preparation would yield better results in the long run and awareness of using traps at appropriate times of the crop seasons need to be created.

Poison measures are some of the effective and feasible methods left over to reduce their numbers in short time. However, poisoning measures are likely to affect the non-target animals. In consideration of these factors, while employing traps by the farming community in the initial stages of rice crop in forthcoming jhum/kharif rice crop, attempts are required to use poisoning measures with anticoagulants at the community level. For the safety of non-target animals and sustained baiting, while using anticoagulant baits, it is desirable to use bait stations made with hollow bamboo shoots. Since large scale rodent control operations would be undertaken with the technical assistance of the department of Agriculture and awareness-creation among the farming community should be made initially. Awareness-creation should include growing the crop without any gap; that non-rodent preferred crops like ginger or medicinal plant may prevent significant rodent damage in the fields; that knowledge of local bamboo trap preparation and setting, knowledge on rodenticides and their characters, appropriate baiting techniques including bait station placement, are some of the essential practices.

It may be recalled that during the visit of Dr. Rao, minister for agriculture Dr. Chumben Murry highlighted the plight of farmers, particularly in Peren district and several meetings were held with the principal Chief Conservator of Forest, the Director of agriculture and officers.

Earlier, field visits and interactions with the affected villagers were held for Dungki, Lamhai, Deukoram and old Jalukie where villagers expressed fears for the coming years and shortage of rice for consumption even for the coming festive season. They also requested rice provisions to tide over the lean months. They even reported to have begun searching for jobs in the neighboring villages.

The field observations made in the harvested fields indicated that the damage is by forest dwelling rodents and also burrowing ones in the jhum fields. The damage estimate made on rice crops in two randomly selected fields indicated total tiller damage in jhum rice fields. However, in the foothills of Dimapur district, burrows of the Lesser Bandicoot could be seen and its presence was confirmed after capturing two of the rodents and with the distribution of faecal pellets in the storage huts of the villages.

It was informed that most of the crops except ginger suffered rodent damage. Hence cultivation of ginger or medicinal plants may reduce rodent -related losses. Mizoram state is already implementing this system and it is understood that the results are positive. Although rodents are able to devour any crop or plant, their habit of food preference make these crops devoid of their depredations.

Under storage, it was observed that farmers store the grain and other produce in storage huts. The huts were made of wooden structures erected on vertical stands that rodents could crawl over through and damage the stored grains. Due to the accessibility, farmers reported significant rodent damage in the storages. The field observations also confirmed rodents’ entry, especially the lesser bandicoot, through the bamboo poles.

During the field visit, an attempt was made to identify the rodent pest species observed and collected at old Jalukie village, Peren district. Similarly, in Hetoi village of Dimapur district, the lesser bandicoot was collected. As per this attempt, the white bellied rat and the lesser bandicoot were identified as major rodent species in jhum fields causing enormous crop losses. The alarming part of the observation was on the spread of lesser bandicoot infestation in the foothill areas of Dimapur district.