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Come harvest season, crop protection experts advise farmers to clean up grain spills to prevent rats from habituating the field.

Ulysses Duque, crop protection expert at Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), say rat population increases during harvest season as the rodents multiply rapidly when food sources are aplenty.

Studies on rat ecology found that female rats can give birth to 120 puppies in a cropping season.  They are pregnant for 21 days and mate again the day after they give birth.

To control rat population, Duque urges neighboring rice tillers with about 10 ha-contingent field to practice integrated rat management, which include synchronous planting, field sanitation, and keeping irrigation banks less than 20 cm-wide to disable rats from building nests.

According to Duque, fields of farmers implementing eco-friendly and proper rat management can still be invaded by rats from neighboring fields as these rodents are highly mobile.

“We encourage communities to act together as rat infestation damage crops by 10 percent or higher and decreases yield by 2.5 percent,” he said.

Discouraging farmers to use rodenticide as rat baits, Duque recommends field sanitation as the most active and sustained control measure. He adds that neighboring farmers should start controlling rats during the land preparation while their population is still low.

“Poisoning does not yield much good result because it is used when rats have already grown in number. Poisoning is not also recommended as rodenticides are lethal to humans and non-target animals,” he warns.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grant Singleton, rodent expert and coordinator of International Rice Research Institute-Irrigated Rice Research Consortium, promotes the Community Trap Barrier System (CTBS), an environment-friendly and low-cost technology that capitalizes on the rat’s behavior of entering holes and running along paddies searching for food.

To implement the trap-and-fence technology, neighboring farmers are to set-up plastic fence around a 20 x 20 m-small paddy, with rice planted 2-3 weeks earlier than the surrounding crop. Traps are set into the plastic fence so that rats follow the line of plastic until they reach a hole and get trapped.

Experts added that setting-up CTBS requires about PhP2,700 including labor costs and is cost-effective when damage reaches 10 percent or higher.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute