Cold weather reduces slug threat

Winter crops across large parts of the country face many challenges with saturated soils and poor establishment impacting spring prospects, but growers can at least take comfort in the fact that the threat posed by slugs has eased.

With average temperatures recently falling close to the 5oC mark that is accepted to be the lowest most slug species can operate and the Met Office forecasting temperatures to remain low, the focus should now be on how to keep on top of populations once temperatures rise in the spring.

“Slugs are hardy creatures capable of withstanding tough conditions so growers should be prepared for their return in the spring,” says De Sangosse commercial manager Simon McMunn.

“We’ve had unprecedented slug numbers this year and given the backward nature of many crops it’s quite probable that growers will find their crops under renewed attack come the spring. The winter may just prove to be a valuable opportunity to perform some maintenance on the pellet applicator,” he added.

However, the spring should favour growers far more than the winter meaning the period which crops are likely to be susceptible will be shorter.

“Assuming we get a favourable spring and crops receive a boost in the form of some readily available nutrition such as a foliar applied ZC solution that stimulates root development than the threat should pass quickly as the crops will be able to grow away rapidly,” he adds.

The prospects for spring crops are also finely balanced and it will be important to monitor for slug activity once temperatures rise to establish the level of threat facing the incoming crop.

“Agronomists and farmers are forecasting a large area of spring oilseed rape and an unconfirmed area of winter oilseed rape is likely to be patched up or re-drilled with a spring crop.  Whatever happens there may well be a large carryover of slugs from this autumn so growers need to be vigilant.”