Eliminate Voles Without Sacrificing No-Till, Cover Crops

The undisturbed, vegetated environment that no-till and cover crops create is an ideal home for voles, but with the right management, no-tillers can control them and prevent damage.

By now it's well known that pairing no-till with cover crops can do a lot of good for the soil and cash crops.

Unfortunately, the two together can also be vole haven.

If the population is high enough — the Indiana NRCS says five active vole colonies in close proximity is considered to be the economic threshold — they can significantly reduce corn and soybean stands.

But if managed correctly, no-tillers shouldn’t have to sacrifice their conservation practices to defeat these pests.

Preferred Habitat.

Resembling a mouse with a short tail, meadow voles feed on vegetation and seeds year-round, day and night, preferring highly vegetated areas on dry ridges in rolling terrain.

Barry Fisher says if no-tillers have grassy areas such as waterways, field pastures or grassy borders, they should assume that voles are present.

“That doesn’t mean you’re going to have major vole issues,” the Indiana NRCS state soil health specialist says, explaining their populations are weather dependent and can come and go over the years.

But if a no-tiller has grassy areas nearby and uses cover crops, particularly grass cover crops or mixes of grass and clover species, the chances of attracting a vole population increase.

Fisher adds he’s never really had a problem with voles in cereal grains or mixes where there are several species, but that doesn’t mean a vole infestation couldn’t occur there.

Fields where corn has been harvested also seem to be more susceptible to vole populations because of the amount of residue left…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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