Rodent damage to rice crops is not affected by the water-saving technique, alternate wetting and drying uri icon

abstract

  • Rice farmers in Southeast Asia are hesitant to adopt the water-saving technology, alternate wetting and drying (AWD), for fear the practice will lead to increased rodent pest activity, consequently exacerbating yield loss. We examined the effects of AWD on the population dynamics, habitat use and damage levels inflicted on rice crops by the most important rodent pest of rice in Indonesia and the Philippines, Rattus argentiventer and R. tanezumi, respectively. Rice crop damage levels were not affected by the water management scheme employed. Rodent activity in rice fields was not influenced by water level. Both species tended to use the rice paddies over bunds regardless of water level, indicating that something other than water affects their habitat use, and we argue it is likely that the perceived risk of predation is the primary factor driving habitat use. Activity levels and damage inflicted by rodent pests on rice were not correlated. AWD had no effect on breeding and population dynamics of these species. Breeding of R. argentiventer is tied to the growth stages of rice, while available resource dictates breeding by R. tanezumi. Our findings clearly indicate that rice farmers in both Indonesia and the Philippines have no cause to reject AWD based on concerns that AWD would exacerbate crop losses by rodents. Given AWD is being promoted as a climate-smart technology for rice production in Asia and Africa, we strongly recommend its adoption without concerns that it would aggravate rodent pest impacts in lowland irrigated rice cropping systems.

publication date

  • 2020
  • 2020