Research Reports

Rodents and Upland Agriculture in the Lao PDR

Lao PDR is a poorest country in Southeast Asia. About 50% of rural households risk being food-insecure. In the upland environment, rodents are considered one of the most important pests of upland rice, maize, job’stear (sorghum), and other crops, with mean yield losses estimated at 20%. Upland rice farmers generally rate them as being second only to weeds as the overall most important constraint to upland rice cultivation. Rodent outbreaks have been reported in upland agro-ecosystems of Lao PDR for more than 50 years. The frequency and duration of rodent outbreaks vary markedly from one province to another. Bamboo masting and rodent (nuu khii) outbreaks are episodic but such population outbreaks occur in many parts ofLaos. There are sometimes responsible for extreme crop losses (50-100% losses), occasionally leading to localized or widespread famine. In 2008, severe food shortages due to nuu khii outbreaks were reported in seven upland provinces. In Oudomxay and Louangprabang provinces, outbreaks occurred in seven districts, with 49 villages and 800 households severely affected. The main causes of these outbreaks appear to bamboo masting events and changing in cropping patterns. A range of rodent species are involved in these outbreaks. Six different etnotaxa (Lao species) reported to be involved historically in nuu khii outbreaks are nuu khii, nuu ban, nuu na , nuu america, nuu mon and nuu thongkhao. Future rodent outbreaks will continue to occur; therefore, there is immediate need to apply rodent management strategies that have been tested locally and found effective at a village scale. Also a national rodent management network must be established and strengthened. Detail community ecology studies on different bamboo species and their relationship with the dynamics of rodent demographic changes are needed. Capacity building on rodent management in the extension system also needs stronger emphasis.


Bounneaung DOUANGBOUPHA, Grant R. SINGLETON and Peter R. BROWN