Farmers urged to take part in rodent study

Farmers across the UK are being urged to help create a more accurate national picture of resistance to rodenticides in rats and mice.

The call from the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use UK (CRRU) comes in response to the ‘surprising and troubling’ spread of resistance to rodenticides found by its latest surveillance. It found not only that three-quarters of rats analysed carried a resistance gene but one-in-five had two different genes, known as ‘hybrid-resistance’.

This poses potentially unknown difficulties for rodent control, according to CRRU chairman Dr Alan Buckle. “A critical practicality is that, where resistant rodents are present, farmers could be using products that are ineffective. And where resistance genes are still absent, others may be using resistance-breaking products unnecessarily.”

This appeal involves collecting 2-3cm tail ends from freshly deceased rats or mice and sending by post in free packaging kits. These are available with detailed instructions from CRRU (thinkwildlife.org/anticoagulant-resistance-project/). In return, producers will get a free indication of their farm’s status from the CRRU.

Resistance testing is a formal component of the CRRU-operated UK Rodenticide Stewardship Regime. As a measure of the regime’s success, rodenticide residues in barn owls are also monitored. The most recent results were 87% residue-positive.

This year will see a formal in-depth review by the regime’s Government Oversight Group of its implementation and impact on wildlife. To be judged effective, lasting reductions in rodenticide residues carried by non-target wildlife are expected.

Without such evidence, Dr Buckle suggests the possibility that further restrictions could be applied to how rodenticides can be used, and by whom. “Clearly, this places responsibility squarely in users’ own hands,” he said.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.