Rodent pests in agriculture

Introduced rodents like the house mouse (Mus musculus), black rat (Rattus rattus) and brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) are persistent agricultural pests in Australia. They all cause substantial damage to infrastructure and may also transmit disease in high intensity livestock systems like piggeries and poultry farms. The house mouse can cause significant damage to crops, stored grain and fodder in grain growing regions and mouse plagues have severe economic, social and environmental consequences.

The Challenge: the house mouse in agriculture

House mice (Mus musculus) are a major pest of broadacre agriculture and livestock systems in Australia. Increasing mouse numbers and mouse plagues cause damage at all stages of grain production and storage, as well as damage to fodder and infrastructure, resulting in significant economic loss for growers and industry. The social and health impacts on regional communities living through mouse plagues can be as devastating. The most recent mouse plague in 2020-2021 re-emphasised the scale and severity of the problem and the need for increased mouse management, monitoring and research.

Left to right: House mice can cause significant damage to ripening crops; a mouse burrow in a paddock surrounded by chewed-off cereal heads; mouse-damaged bales of hay; mice can infest farm buildings and damage and spoil infrastructure. Images: Steve Henry, Peter Brown, CSIRO.

The Setting: changing farming systems

The shift from ‘conventional’ to ‘conservation’ agriculture over the last 10-20 years has greatly benefited grain production systems with increased soil health and crop yields. This shift, however, has inadvertently created more suitable resources and conditions for house mice throughout the growing season. It’s likely that mouse activity and behaviour, as well as population dynamics, have consequently changed- the need for new research to inform best management is imperative.

Our Research

With investment from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) we’re leading research focussed on improving our understanding of mouse behaviour, activity and population dynamics and genomics in Australian grain growing regions to improve management recommendations for growers and industry. We’re also increasing capacity to monitor mouse activity in growing regions throughout Australia, enabling forecasting of potential mouse outbreaks and plagues.

Check out our current Research Projects for further details about our specific research focuses.

For general enquiries about our research contact our Team Leader

Dr Peter Brown

Research Scientist, Rodent Management