No ‘silver bullet’ to stop rodent damage
Dec 31, 2015
Pocket gopher. Photo: Jack Kelly Clark, UC IPM Program.
The war underway in agriculture continues and its strategic battlefield is located underground.
The continued farming skirmish pits western alfalfa growers – who want to upgrade from traditional surface irrigation systems to more water efficient subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems – against vertebrate pests, mainly pocket gophers, which chew up underground SDI drip tape.
While the stakes are high and producers have an upper hand, gophers remain the No. 1 enemy.
“Rodents are undoubtedly the major challenge for SDI in alfalfa in northern California,” said Dan Putnam, University of California Extension alfalfa and forage specialist based at Davis.
Putnam shared the latest information on SDI and gophers with 700-plus western state alfalfa industry members at the 2016 Western Alfalfa & Forage Symposium held in Reno, Nev. in December.
‘Subsurface drip irrigation creates an ideal habitat for gophers,” Putnam says noting, “Some growers have simply walked away from SDI alfalfa fields due to severe gopher damage.”
SDI is expensive to install and gopher damage makes the day-to-day management of the system even more costly.
Born to chew
An adult pocket gopher (Thomomys species) is six-to-eight inches long and constantly burrows through the soil using its strong front legs, says University of California (UC) Assistant Extension Specialist Roger Baldwin.
With SDI’s network of buried drip tape in the field, gophers use their sharp incisor teeth to chew everything in their path. The gophers chew through tape due to the rodents’ genetic makeup.
For more info, please visit http://westernfarmpress.com/alfalfa/pocket-gophers-no-1-enemy-subsurface-drip-irrigation-western-alfalfa?page=1
Several online resources available on alfalfa and SDI:
UC: http://ucanr.edu/sites/adi/ and http://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/+symposium/2014/index.aspx