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A survey of arable growers has highlighted the need for greater accuracy when applying slug pellets – with application timing one of the biggest... Room for improvement in slug control strategies

A survey of arable growers has highlighted the need for greater accuracy when applying slug pellets – with application timing one of the biggest improvements needed to tackle a burgeoning slug population.

Some 81% of growers perceive the threat posed by slugs has either remained static (65%) or increased (16%) over the last three years, according to the Adama UK poll. But only 28% of growers are using traps to assess slug activity.

The survey found that 20% of growers were potentially applying pellets ahead of the slug threshold being reached, says Adama molluscicide and fungicide product manager Melanie Wardle.

“What we learned was that growers are anticipating another year of intense slug pressure predominantly because the wet weather in the second half of the spring coincided with the main breeding period resulting in the potential for an increased population this autumn.”

Pellet management

Ms Wardle said the survey also highlighted that the majority of growers were using pellets correctly. But there was still considerable room for improvement in terms of when and – to an extent how – pellets were applied.

In terms of how growers assess the slug threat in their crops, 69% of farmers said they relied on visual inspections when crop walking, with 28% using slug traps and 3% using slug forecasting tools.

“From a best-practice perspective it is essential that pellets are only applied once the threshold has been reached so it’s encouraging that almost a third of growers are proactively using slug traps to determine when slugs are active.

In an ideal world, 100% of growers would be using traps to assess the risk, says Ms Wardle. “Trapping is more reliable than basic visual inspections which can be more hit and miss depending on when the crop is walked and during what conditions.”

Adama recently launched its new ferric phosphate pellet Gusto Iron and has another novel active ingredient in development. Ms Wardle said the company was keen to identify what growers look for when choosing a molluscicide.

The survey indicated that the most critical factors when choosing a slug pellet were palatability, active ingredient efficacy and pellet longevity in wet conditions. Spreading accuracy, mould resistance and pellet visibility were also important.

Growers expressed a clear preference for high quality, value-added pellets which balanced palatability and longevity with colour retention and mould resistance. Gusto Iron had all these attributes said Ms Wardle.

The survey also highlighted that 37% of growers are applying pellets to 12 metres, with an additional 24% spreading to 18m. A further 32% are spreading to 24m, with the remaining 7% spreading to 36m.

“Even at relatively narrow working widths it’s imperative to ensure that spreading equipment is correctly calibrated and that it is operated at an appropriate forward speed according to the prevailing climatic conditions.”