Target pellets to beat early slug threat in potatoes

Incorporating slug pellets directly into potato ridges at planting could more effectively protect newly-planted crops than broadcasting pellets over the surface, says a Lincolnshire agronomist.

That is because for the first six to eight weeks after planting, slugs are deterred from spending time on the surface, due to exposure to dehydrating winds before the crop canopy develops, Boothmans Agriculture’s Robert Boothman says. Using specialist equipment to incorporate pellets into the soil at planting, therefore, increases chances of slug uptake and effective control.

“It’s not an additional input, you are simply targeting that early control better. With no remedial options for slug damage, it’s important to protect tuber production from planting onwards, and increase the control opportunities by targeting pests where they are most active.”

Planting slug pellets

Injecting slug pellets into potato ridges at planting could improve early slug control, says Robert Boothman

But he says such approaches are only advisable if a high quality metaldehyde or methiocarb pellet, that will give a fatal dose quickly, is used. “You need one that will stay intact for as long as possible. Poor quality pellets are characterised by cracked or broken pellets that will lay exposed to rain or irrigation and act like a sponge to soak up water. As soon as this happens the pellets become less palatable and can completely break down.”

Where growers do not have the ability to incorporate pellets into the ridge, it is vital to get on with broadcast pellets as close as possible to planting, he says.

Independent agronomist John Keer says there are several ways of incorporating pellets at planting, but even if such early control measures are successful, control later in the season will still be essential.

“Seed tubers grow far too fast for slugs to be a problem on the seed. Slugs aren’t generally a problem until mid-July, when they can cause very real damage to daughter tubers, especially on more susceptible Piper varieties and crops on heavier land. If we get a wet summer, there’ll still be a need for regular ove-the-top applications.”

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