Context. Post-harvest losses by rodents have traditionally been calculated by estimates of consumption determined in the laboratory. Methods for assessing storage losses by rodents under smallholder conditions will help farmers and policy makers understand the impact rodents may have on food security, nutrition and health. Stored product loss assessment methods could also be used to monitor the effects of rodent control in villages.
Aims. The present study examined a method to measure the amount of rice eaten by rodents in household granaries. The effects of trapping and better hygiene around granaries to reduce rodent populations were investigated using the post-harvest monitoring method to determine whether the program was successful in lowering rodent numbers sufficiently to reduce post-harvest losses.
Methods. Baskets with known quantities of rice were placed within household granaries and monitored periodically for moisture content, weight loss, faecal contamination and percentage of rodent-damaged grains. Using an empirical treatment–control study, rodent management was performed at the community level through daily trapping in two Bangladesh villages and in Myanmar at the granary storehouse level. Post-harvest losses were monitored in granaries in villages with rodent management and in similar granaries in villages where there was no management.
Key results. Estimates of household losses in the absence of rodent control were 2.5% in Bangladesh and 17% in Myanmar. These losses were reduced when rodent control was implemented, down to 0.5% in Bangladesh and 5% in Myanmar.
Conclusions. The impact of rodents on smallholder storage can be accurately assessed in the field under realistic conditions. Intensive daily trapping at the community level together with improved hygiene practices can successfully reduce rodent numbers, and this can significantly reduce stored grain losses and rodent contamination and damage levels.
Implications. In addition to the threat of rodent pests during crop production, rodents are a major threat to food security after harvest and have, as of yet, unquantified impacts on household nutrition and health through potential transmission of gastroenteric diseases and zoonoses to householders and domestic livestock. Trapping and environmental management are affordable and effective tools to reduce rodent impacts on stored grain within communities and are viable alternatives to rodenticides.