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10 Rodent Control Tips For Drip and Subsurface Drip Irrigation

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Drip and subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems offer numerous advantages to growers of several types of crops, from alfalfa to berries. Benefits like overall water use reduction, better water and resource use efficiency (WUE and RUE), and greater yields have been proven in research and case studies from leading irrigation companies such as Netafim and Toro Micro-Irrigation.

As they are for all growers, rodents are a major concern for those with drip and SDI systems. Pests like mice, voles, and gophers, when not properly managed, cause yield loss and crop damage. The good news is drip and SDI systems have several unique aspects and natural defenses for efficient and effective rodent management.

Because there isn’t one, “magic” solution for controlling pests, those looking to employ a drip or SDI system and successfully manage rodents need to build an integrated plan, starting with these 10 tips.  

Pre-Plant Planning

The first line of defense in the war on rodents is to identify areas of high rodent concentration, not only in the proposed drip or SDI field, in surrounding areas as well. Then, the following steps should be taken in each area.

  1. Create a buffer zone surrounding the field by eliminating weeds, ground cover and litter
  2. Cultivation and/or weed control is advised to destroy runways and weed roots, and kill existing rodents
    • Bonus: This also fosters healthier soil, one of the best baseline defenses against rodent as well as insect infestation
  3. Deep rip the soil to destroy burrows and disrupt the gopher’s habitat needed for survival
    • Note: disregard in minimum tillage operations


      Control While You Grow

      After proper pre-plant steps have been taken to control rodents, the integrated plan continues with best practices throughout the growing season.


  4. Bait for a week, then set traps after bait has been continually taken
  5. For best success with gophers, set traps on both tunnel entrances then check back within 48 hours
    • Note: traps not visited within 48 hours should be moved and tested in a new location
  6. Burrow fumigates, both aluminum phosphide and carbon monoxide-producing machines, are an effective alternative to traditional chemicals and common poisons
  7. Consider a product that addresses rodent control within the system; for example, Netafim USA has developed a product that can be injected into the dripline to irritate rodents and drive them to the surface where they’re more vulnerable to predators


    Post-Cutting and Crop Rotation

  8.  Add these final strategies to complete the thorough pest management plan.

  9. After harvest (or each cutting for alfalfa growers), closely monitor the area for any burrowing activity and take immediate action if needed
  10. Consider rotating in a cover crop like beans or legumes to enrich the soil and provide good organic matter
  11. Ask for help – seek out the advice of fellow growers who operate drip or SDI system, as well as pest management experts and local extension agents.

There Is No Good Luck – Only Good Planning

With proper planning and ongoing best management practices, rodent threats can be minimized in drip or SDI systems, leaving growers to enjoy benefits of higher yields, and greater WUE and RUE.


About The Author
Danilu Ramirez, CCA, PCA is a Water Quality Consultant for RDO Water, based in Santa Maria, CA.

Contact your local RDO Water store to learn more about drip and subsurface drip irrigation.

Additional contribution to this article provided by Netafim USA and Toro Micro-Irrigation. Visit and to read case studies, review system basics, and learn more about successful strategies for SDI and drip irrigation.