Monday, 21 September 2015

Don't let slugs surprise you


Slugs can be devastating to newly sown crops and pastures, ensure you check your paddocks before drilling.

Check before you sow
When scouting paddocks, look for slugs underneath sticks, stones, thick layers of trash and even cowpats.

For a more accurate assessment, place at least five wet sacks or mats in the paddock with some slug bait underneath, leave them out for a couple of nights and check underneath in the morning.

If you find an average of three or four slugs are under the sack, you could have a problem.

In newly-sown crops or pastures, slugs migrating in from the fencelines can cause damage. Even if slugs seem hard to find, it’s a good idea to broadcast slug bait around the outside of the paddock.

Combine forces to manage slugs
Cultural practices can help reduce the opportunity for slug populations to increase to damaging levels. Remove trash from the previous crop to reduce their food source and minimise suitable habitats. Consider mob stocking, which closes cracks in the soil and tramples slugs. Slugs are not good at burrowing into soil, but they do like crawling down to shelter in cracks, so fine firm seedbeds are better than loose cloddy ones.

Cultivation helps reduce slug numbers, so minimum till or direct drill crops are more at risk.

Spray out resident vegetation and broadcast slug bait with your starter fertiliser before drilling. This way, bait is introduced at the same time as other slug food sources are drying up. Endure slug bait mixes and spreads evenly with fertiliser, saving on application costs.

Plan around drilling
In most situations, broadcasting bait is more effective, because it takes care of the slugs in between the drill rows.

In conditions where drill slots remain open after direct drilling, sowing slug bait down the spout will help control slugs that crawl into the open drill row.

Continue monitoring after drilling, particularly if slug populations are high or conditions are favourable. Where risk is high, it’s a good idea to apply repeat application of bait. For example, two applications of 4-5kg/ha Endure slug bait would be more effective than a single application at 8kg/ha.

Right tool for the job

Consider the active ingredient in your bait. Metaldehyde is less harmful to beneficial insects such as earthworms and carab beetles - predators of slugs - so you can use repeat applications if necessary. Methiocarb bait, on the other hand, is recommended to be only used once per season because of its toxicity to earthworms, which are essential for healthy soil.

Pasta-based Endure slug bait uses metaldehyde as the active ingredient, distributed evenly throughout, so it is not at risk of being washed off in wet conditions. The size and shape of Endure bait means it spreads evenly - important for effective slug control.

Ask if your slug bait is Fertmark tested, so it spreads consistently every time, when mixed with fertiliser.