A UCCE advisor's short, effective communications on rodent management techniques helped San Diego County nurseries prevent crop losses and excess labor costs and pesticide use.
Rodents are known to cause extensive damage to different agricultural crops worldwide. In San Diego County, nursery and cut flower products account for the commodity with the highest reported dollar value and the highest dollar value per acre. In 2020, nursery and cut flower products had a total reported value of $1,274,784,274 and accounted for 70% of San Diego's agricultural commodities. Rodents have been reported to not only directly damage nursery crops by chewing directly on ornamental trees, seeds, seedlings, and bulbs, but they also cause extensive damage to drip irrigation systems.
How UC Delivers
UCCE Advisor Niamh Quinn's focus is on human-to-wildlife conflict, and rodents are what she knows best. When two members of the nursery and cut flower community in San Diego County reached out to her about rodent management issues, she was able to deliver practical, science-based solutions. One grower was experiencing issues where mice were damaging significant amounts of bulbs used to grow blooming plants. Another grower had an issue where mice were chewing irrigation lines used to provide water to cut flowers. Additionally, if you are not using the right pesticide, or the appropriate application method, pesticide use can be highly inflated. Thus, it is critical to offer science-based advice on pesticide use and alternative methods.
UCCE's technical assistance provided to the growers prevented significant crop loss. One grower estimated that the information on rodent management prevented $50,000 a year in crop loss, while the other estimated that their crop yield increased by 5% due to improved crop uniformity and height because rodents were no longer damaging drip.
Both growers reported significant cost reductions in labor. One grower has saved over $20,000 in labor costs due to a significant reduction in the amount of pesticide applied. The 90% reduction in pesticide applied not only saved the grower money on the labor needed to apply the product, but approximately $30,000 reduction in cost because less pesticide needed to be purchased. The other grower saved approximately $3,100 on the labor needed to repair drip irrigation that was being damaged by rodents.
These outcomes demonstrate how UCCE Advisors' extension programs contribute to increased agriculture and efficiency and profitability as part of UC ANR's commitment to promoting economic prosperity in California and also demonstrate a commitment to increased ecological sustainability of agriculture. Mike Mellano, CEO of Mellano & Company in San Diego says, “In today's fast paced and ever-changing world, it is very difficult, if not impossible for farmers/growers to stay on the cutting edge of every aspect. It is great to know that we have Cooperative Extension to educate us and help keep us innovative and sustainable. It seems that every day we have a new challenge, and being able to call or email an advisor to get the latest and greatest is the key to our ability to continue to stay in business and provide jobs and opportunities for our teams!"
Author - Human-Wildlife Interactions Advisor