Rodent abundance, stone bund density and its effects on crop damage in the Tigray highlands, Ethiopia
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Crop protection. - Haywards Heath
, p. 61-67
University of Antwerp
In areas of subsistence agriculture, a variety of soil conservation methods have been implemented in the last few decades to improve crop yields, however these can have unintended consequences such as providing habitat for rodent pests. We studied rodent population dynamics and estimated crop damage in high and low stone bund density fields for four cropping seasons in Tigray highlands, northern Ethiopia. Stone bunds are physical structures for soil and water conservation, and potentially habitat for rodents. We used a general model to relate the proportion of crop damage to rodent abundance, stone bund density and crop stages. Generally, rodent abundance remained relatively low during the study period, except during the fourth quarter of the 2010 cropping season. We found a positive correlation between rodent abundance and crop damage, and significant variation in rodent abundance and crop damage between high and low stone bund density fields. Furthermore, crop damage also varied significantly between crop stages. We concluded that Mastomys awashensis (Lavrenchenko, Likhnova and Baskevich, 1998) and Arvicanthis dembeensis (Ruppel, 1842) were the two most important crop pests in Tigray highlands causing significant damage. Fields with high stone bund density (∼10 m average distance apart) harbor more rodents and endure a significantly higher proportion of crop damage compared to fields with lower stone bund density (∼15 m average distance apart). The fact that rodent abundances peaked during the reproductive stage of the crop and around harvest implies the need for management intervention before these crop stages are attained.