South: Slugs woken up by wet weather

If ever I get bitten by a mosquito I tend to wonder at God’s creative sense of humour. Why would he design something which, not just content with stealing some of my blood, has to leave a painful and irritating reminder that it’s just done so? It can have that bit of my blood by all means, just don’t leave a horrible itchy blob in that place.

My sentiments are similar with slugs. We plant our crops in good conditions into fantastic seed-beds. (Rah!) We then have a long dry spell that means they don’t germinate. (Boo!) Then the rain comes and they all come through (Double Rah!). But so do all the weeds (Double Boo!). And then the slugs all wake up! (Triple Boo!). And they leave the weeds behind and eat all the crops (Quadruple Boo!). So by my calculation that’s a lot more Boos than Rahs. Good old Nature. Always wins.

Which leaves us with no alternative but to make futile attempts to control them with the remaining chemistry we have available. Metaldehyde, at best, is an irritant that upsets the water industry. Ferric phosphate is about as effective as giving the slugs a “jolly good telling off”. So while we’re on the theological theme, perhaps the future of agronomy is radicalising slugs into believing that blackgrass and charlock are a lot more tasty than oilseed rape or wheat.

I suppose I shouldn’t be quite so scathing of the Almighty’s master plan. The incessant rain of the last month has meant pretty much full germination of all the drilled crops – even oilseed rape some seven or eight weeks after drilling. Yes, the slugs are reminding us we can’t turn our backs on the crops yet and some seed has decided it’s going to rot rather than germinate, but generally speaking most crops look OK. The moisture has certainly activated the residual herbicides – on both the crop and the weeds. I tend not to get too worried about autumn crop effects and console myself that if it’s doing that to the crop just think what it’s doing to the weeds.

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