Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 May 2017
Consumption of weed seeds and waste grains by seed predators is an important ecosystem service that helps to regulate weed and volunteer crop populations in many agricultural systems. The prairie deer mouse is found in a variety of sparsely vegetated habitats throughout the central United States and is the dominant vertebrate seed predator in row-crop fields (corn and soybean) in this region. Evaluating the preferences of prairie deer mice for common agricultural weed seeds and waste grain is important to understand the potential ability of native mice to regulate volunteer crops and weed populations. We evaluated winter seed preference of deer mice using cafeteria-style feeding trials presented within row-crop fields in central Indiana and used compositional analysis to compare proportional consumption of seeds from five common agricultural weeds (common ragweed, common cocklebur, common lambsquarters, velvetleaf, and giant foxtail) and two grains (corn and soybean) during overnight feeding trials. Prairie deer mice significantly preferred corn to all other available seed types. Ragweed and soybean were also readily consumed and were preferred over seeds other than corn. Giant foxtail was intermediately preferred. Our results show that prairie deer mice have clear preferences for certain seeds commonly available in row-crop fields; mice likely contribute to reduction of waste grain and some weed seed populations.
Associate Editor for this paper: Adam Davis, USDA–ARS.