PLANT PROTECTION -7- WATERERS
Great efforts are being made daily by more and more farmers to improve biodiversity on their farms, which is reflected in a growing respect for wooded areas, in the planting of trees in crop-incompatible areas, or in tha planting of hedges that allow to delimit the farm while protecting it from malicious intrusions or by avoiding the risk of adverse effects on lakes and rivers. In some windy regions, as is the case in Provence, in the south of France, crop protection against the wind is traditionally done by hedges of cypresses.
These areas of biodiversity fulfill their role perfectly, and all kinds of animals settle there quickly. This is particularly the case of charming small arboreal rodents such as squirrels, well known, or dormice much less known and often confused with rats.
As such, these animals are not pests. They feed on seeds and fruits, but their consumption is normally low and does not pose a significant risk to the farmer.
However, in some cases they can cause serious damage not to crops, but to irrigation systems. This is especially true for micro-spraying and drip irrigation.
In these systems, water is routed through a network of buried and/or surface pipes to the crop.
Our charming little rodents understand very quickly that these pipes are full of water. In spring, there are rarely any problems because they easily find water in the rain puddles or thanks to the morning dew.
But in the middle of summer, when everything is dry, they are thirsty, and finding water can be difficult, or too far away. If they want to drink outside watering hours, they try to release the water contained in these pipes by gnawing (they are often made of plastic, polyethylene type). The damage can be significant and the loss of water also. To this must be added the lack of irrigation caused by leakage and loss of pressure, which can be detrimental to the crop.
In addition, it's an exhausting type of damage for the farmer because it repairs frequently and finds the same problem again, the day after the repair, in the same place or almost, and so on, throughout the summer.
The fight against what can turn into a real plague does not involve the elimination of rodents, it's difficult, almost useless and counterproductive in terms of biodiversity and pollution.
The easiest, cheapest and most effective solution is to install waterers, which are filled with irrigation water and overflow, watering the crop.
Rodents may take some time to get used to, and in the early days you may find gnawed pipes right next to a waterer, or even in the waterer itself.
It must be emphasized that after a few days rodents will understand that water is available effortlessly in the waterers, and they will stop gnawing the pipes.
Cases of this type are quite numerous in agriculture. It's almost always easier and more effective to find the method to live in harmony with animals than to try to fight against them.
It's one of the bases of integrated and organic production methods and of all the production methods that put a priority on the environmental balance of the farm.
Control methods are used only when other means, such as prophylaxis, nesting boxes or insect hotels, waterers or simple repellents, have failed, and the damage has become difficult to manage and dangerous.