Functional Role of Native Mice in Midwestern Agroecosystems: Unwanted Pests or Friendly Neighbors?

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $9,879.00
Projected End Date: 05/15/2017
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Robert Swihart
Purdue University


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, forest/woodlot management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    Facilitation of agricultural ecosystem services, such as weed seed predation and biological pest control, can improve farmland ecological integrity and reduce costs of chemical inputs to farmers. Native rodents are ubiquitous within Midwestern row-crop agriculture and some species (i.e. deer mice [Peromyscus maniculatus] and white-footed mice [Peromyscus leucopus]) are known to provide ecosystem services by regulating weed seed populations and depredating invertebrate pests. Mice are active year-round, and therefore have the potential to reduce waste grain and weed seed populations during winter when other seed predators (e.g. ground beetles [Carabidae]) are dormant. Conversely, native mice can be agricultural pests when they consume planted seeds, damage seedlings, and consume beneficial insects, therefore minimizing their net benefit as an ecosystem service provider. Few studies have investigated the ecology of native mice within corn and soybean agriculture and a greater understanding of their diets, survival, and movements in crop fields and adjacent non-crop habitats will help elucidate the functional role (positive or negative) that these animals serve within agro-ecosystems. Our goal is to understand the functional role and ecosystem service potential of native rodents within corn and soybean agro-ecosystems of central Indiana. We will couple year-round rodent live-trapping data with stable isotope dietary information and seed predation experiments to examine how population dynamics within fields and adjacent non-crop habitats influence their ability to provide agricultural ecosystem services. Results from this study can be used to inform farmland management decisions for rodents that maximize the ecosystem service potential provided to farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Despite being commonly persecuted as agricultural pests, native mice may provide important weed seed predation ecosystem services to farmers in row-crop agriculture. A better understanding of the functional role that native mice serve in agro-ecosystems will help inform on-farm management decisions. This study seeks to quantify the ecosystem service potential of native farmland mice throughout the annual cycle in corn and soybean agro-ecosystems.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.