Watch out for gerbils during summer grain production season

With the advent of the 2018/2019 summer grain production season, South African producers need to be aware of the potential losses caused by gerbils to newly planted crops.

Watch out for gerbils during summer grain production season

It is essential that grain farmers start implementing precautionary measures as soon as possible, said Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, CropLife SA’s operations and stewardship manager.

Registered rodenticides listed in CropLife’s gerbil management plan must be placed in bait stations or in gerbil burrows, he cautioned. Scattering rodenticides on the surface of the soil is not only illegal, but ineffective.

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“We also encourage grain farmers to create an environment conducive to owls and diurnal raptors, such as erecting owl boxes. These birds are valuable assets in gerbil control,” said Verdoorn.

“It’s also vital that producers regularly check hedgerows for burrows and gerbil droppings.”

Gerbils are found in South Africa’s grasslands, savannah, Karoo and fynbos biomes, according to Verdoorn.

“The animals start digging out seed just after planting, but the most damage is caused when seeds are germinating. This is probably due to seed being soft and more palatable than when newly planted,” he said.

Reports of 40 000 gerbils per hectares were not uncommon, said Verdoorn.

Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.