9 July 1999

Slugs

rife – how to stopem

This years Sprays &

Sprayers event, organised

by Novartis Crop Protection,

provided a host of technical

tips for cereal growers.

farmers weekly reporters

profile the highlights

BEWARE, the menace of slugs is set to be worse than ever this autumn, but there are plenty of practical measures to minimise their impact.

That was the message from Aubourn Farming agronomist Bridget Carroll for visitors to the Focus on Establishment feature at Sprays and Sprayers.

"It will be a rough year for slugs, even with the finer seed-beds resulting from the reduced cultivation systems demonstrated at Sprays and Sprayers," she said.

On the 1000ha (2500-acre) Neville Estate in Lincolnshire where Ms Carroll is based that will mean all farm crops after oilseed rape and others needing treatment will be pre-pelleted with metaldehyde. Fields under real pressure may get two applications.

"Re-drilling is a huge cost and slug pellets are the best risk/benefit answer," she noted. Good straw chopping using sharp cutters, followed by even spreading of straw and chaff, is also essential to avoid crop and pest effects. It also aids pellet application on stubbles before cultivation with a double pass of Simba discs.

The second dose of pellets will go on around the time of pre-drilling cultivations. In both cases the aim is to attack slugs above and below the soil surface.

Last year strobilurin treatments on some wheats delayed harvest by five days. That moved later drillings into a wet weather window, leading to management problems. "To overcome this, all the wheat will be given pre-harvest desiccation to avoid the strobilurin delay factor this year. It is price we are prepared to pay," said Ms Carroll.

Reduced tillage cultivations on the Neville Estate run 24 hours a day, with a weed flush sprayed off with glyphosate before the pre-drilling cultivation passes. The move from a plough based system to reduced cultivations means drilling during daylight should start on August 26, followed by barley in the last two weeks of September and then second wheats.

Farm-saved seed is used to ensure an early supply, with some being carried over from last season. "This is essential in case we suffer another delayed harvest," says Ms Carroll. "It also allows plenty of time to use gravity separation to ensure a high vigour seed sample.

"Drilling rates are adjusted for the early drillings so we avoid excessively thick plant populations that would increase disease and lodging risk."

Once the crop is established, a close watch is kept on the threat from grass weeds and any change in pest and BYDV risk resulting from early drilling.

REDUCED CULTIVATIONS

&#8226 Slug trouble expected.

&#8226 Pre-pelleting with metaldehyde advised.

&#8226 Ensure good straw chop and spread.

&#8226 Pre-harvest desiccate strob-treated wheat.

&#8226 Farm-saved seed carried over to counter late harvest drilling delays.

REDUCED CULTIVATIONS

&#8226 Slug trouble expected.

&#8226 Pre-pelleting with metaldehyde advised.

&#8226 Ensure good straw chop and spread.

&#8226 Pre-harvest desiccate strob-treated wheat.

&#8226 Farm-saved seed carried over to counter late harvest drilling delays.