Nepal hopes to win rat race

Rats destroy 35 percent of the millet produced in Nepal, 13 percent paddy and 15 percent wheat

Kathmandu: Nepal`s scientists say they have found a remedy to curb one of the biggest menaces to crops that could lead to farmers harvesting 40 percent more than their current produce.

The Nepal Agricultural Research Society (NARC) has successfully completed experiments on rats, one of the biggest destroyers of crops, by inventing a pellet that will make the rodents infertile.

"Crop loss assessments show rats destroy 35 percent of the millet produced in Nepal, 13 percent paddy and 15 percent wheat," said Poornadass Dhaubaji Shrestha, senior technical officer at NARC who is part of the three-year-old research.

"We have come up with a pellet containing the powdered seed of the custard apple. If a rat eats it for seven days, it is unable to reproduce."

The research began after NARC officials read an article about an experiment on monkeys. The primates were given food mixed with extracts of neem leaves, which was found to cause sterility.

Shrestha says Nepal is the first country to have come up with the invention containing custard apple seed as an ingredient.

The pellet contains 20 gm of powdered custard apple seed mixed with wheat flour, gram seeds and crushed peanuts tossed with skimmed milk.

"We kept four pairs of rats - a male and female each - in different cages and fed them the mixture," Shrestha told a news agency. "Then they were mated with rats from outside. There was no reproduction."

Of the nearly 2,000 breeds of rats, Nepal has about 45, of which five are deadly crop attackers.

An adult pair can give birth to 1,000 baby rats in a year. Rats become adult when they are three months old and live up to three years.

A female rat can give birth to up to a dozen baby rats at a time.

Shrestha said it will take another year for the pellets to be manufactured commercially. After that, they will be distributed among farmers.

Once the domestic requirement is met, NARC will also look at exporting the magic pellet.

The USP of the remedy is that unlike the common rat killing pesticide, it contains no chemicals and will have no harmful effect, either on the crop or humans and livestock.