A recent study suggests farmers should take measures to protect potato and grain stores before harvest to avoid destructive rat and mouse infestations.

Numbers of rats and mice have risen sharply during the Covid-19 lockdown, according to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA). A Covid-19 impact study carried out by the BPCA has revealed 51% of pest controllers have reported a rise in rat activity and 41% have reported a rise in mouse activity.

Rats and mice spread disease and thrive in stores where food and shelter are plentiful. “Farmers should take an integrated pest management approach and use a securable bait such as Storm Ultra Secure to deal with rising rodent populations and prevent infestations that can result in grain losses and contamination,” advised Helen Ainsworth, from BASF.

It is a new 25 parts per m (ppm) rodenticide that has been developed by BASF for the amateur market. “This is a single feed anticoagulant bait that can be used by any farmer to control rats and mice. It is highly palatable and can control even large rodent infestations in just 14 days,” said Miss Ainsworth.

Rats carry disease and if allowed to thrive in a grain store can multiply quickly with just one breeding pair escalating to 1250 in just one year. “Farmers should be looking for signs of rats now. Checking along the walls of buildings for droppings and gnaw marks and walking the farm to look for burrows,” added Miss Ainsworth.

Rats like open spaces so farmers can reduce rodent activity by keeping the farm, especially areas in and around grain stores, clear of rubbish, weeds and objects that rats can seek harbourage. Proofing a building by ensuring there are no access points for rodents and repairing dripping taps are other ways to prevent infestations.

Farmers can also walk the farm more often to check for signs of rodent activity and make adjustments to hygiene proofing that will prevent rats gaining access to stores.

When non-chemical methods have been exhausted, the use of rodenticides to control rats and mice should be carried out methodically and carefully.