Mizoram farmers launch efforts against Mautam rodents

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Aizawl, Nov 1 (UNI) With a view to preventing the Mautam (bamboo flowering) rats from devouring their crops, the farmers in Mizoram have launched a unique drive to end the rodent menace, official sources said here today.

They said according to an initiative taken up by the state Rodent Control Committee a few months ago, it would pay volunteers Rs two for each rat killed, provided they produced the rat tails as a proof.

''We are getting good response. After the launch of the cash-for-rat tails policy, the farmers have shown great enthusiasm in killing rats. The tails are piling up everyday,'' assistant plant protection officer James Lalsiamliana said.

The Agriculture officials said,'' cremating the rat tails in the presence of the media was felt necessary, to avoid purchasing the same rat tails more than once.'' ''About 11,106 rat tails were collected from different villages in Aizawl district alone and torched this morning. However, more rat tails poured in after we left for the cremation,'' Aizawl District Agriculture Officer (DAO) Lalzarliana informed.

He also said Ratu village in Northeast Mizoram contributed the most number of rat tails burnt today.

The cash-for-rat tails scheme received great response from other districts too.

In Lunglei district, 30,600 rat tails had been disposed off while the Kolasib DAO collected 10,000 rat tails from the farmers.

Farmers in Serchhip district contributed 10,500 rat tails, while those from Mamit managed to kill 16,000 rats.

The Agriculture officials pointed out that besides these, thousands of rats killed in mass poisoning, went unreported following inability to collect the tails.

The officials admitted that the rodents had executed large-scale damage despite all the precautionary measures.

According to estimates, the state's rice produce had fallen by 70-80 per cent, of which 80 per cent was attributed to rodent attacks and 20 per cent to pests, both related to the catastrophic Mautam that occurs every 48 years.

The Plant Protection Squad (PPS), under the Aizawl DAO, headed by subject matter specialist J Rotluanga, spent several nights in the jhums, studying the activities of the rice-attacking rodents.

The team concluded from its research, that even wet rice cultivations were not safe from the rodents, refuting the general belief during the previous Mautam.

An army of about 30-40 rats attacks a single jhum at a given point of time. They arrive at the jhum early in the morning and devour the entire jhum within five to ten days, the officials said.

The rats also damage other crops, including brinjals, chillies, soyabean, grapes, passion-fruits, sugarcanes, lady's fingers and pumpkin, their favourite being rice, the officials said.

Phulrua (dendrocalamus hamiltonii) flower in different parts of Mizoram, the agriculture officials informed, emphasising the need to cut down this variety of bamboo before their full bloom, likely in February-March, to avoid proliferation of rodents.

The PPS also inferenced that fencing of jhum was of great help against rodent attacks and advised the farmers to fence their jhums.

The Agriculture officials stated that many farmers had been left with no foodgrains even for sowing purpose in the next year, following the rodent attacks.

UNI

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