Big leatherjacket threat

3 January 1997

Big leatherjacket threat

MONSTER leatherjackets, increasingly a problem in winter wheat in Scotland, may be causing damage further south.

The pests, come from a crane-fly species which seems to thrive when trapped under oilseed rape canopies.

With few rape crops in Scotland before 1977, it had little impact. That was because the flies, unlike their grass-favouring cousins, tend to disperse and lay their eggs quite widely. Now prevented from doing so by interlocking rape plants they become concentrated and a greater threat to following wheats, says SAC researcher Collette Coll.

Independent agronomist Peter Taylor is one of several advisers who suspect the pest is not confined to Scotland. "We have seen patchy sporadic damage – nothing worth spraying for. But it is perhaps a warning." Blossom midge was not considered a problem until its sudden explosion recently, he observes. &#42

The huge leatherjackets, shown left alongside their more usual cousins, can wreak havoc in wheat, says SACs Collette Coll.

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