6 Tips to Help No-Tillers Eradicate Yield Robbing Slugs

Establishing diverse plant and insect communities and scrutinizing insecticide use are among strategies that could keep slugs from hurting no-till yields and profitability.

Iit's getting hard to overestimate the problems slugs pose for no-tillers. 

The University of Delaware estimates about 20% of no-till acres in the Mid-Atlantic States alone — some 600,000 acres — are affected by slug damage each year. Even mainstream Newsweek magazine recently authored an article on slug damage.

While consistent, cost-effective options to control slugs aren’t as numerous as with other crop pests, Penn State University Extension entomologist John Tooker shared several potential strategies at the National No-Tillage Conference in Cincinnati last January.

1. Feed the Beetles

Some wolf spiders and insects like firefly larvae, soldier beetle larvae and ground beetles will kill slugs. But ground beetles have by far the largest effect, Tooker says.

He shared a study that found 100% slug survival with no predators and some mortality with soldier beetle larvae and wolf spiders. But when these predators were combined with ground beetles, very few slugs survived.

Tooker even shared a heat map from Europe showing the abundance of gray garden slugs and ground beetles in the same locations. 

“The ground beetles are responding to the slug populations because that’s what they want to eat,” he says. “If we can get more of these ground beetles in our fields, our slug populations are going to go down.”

2. Don’t Create ‘Toxic’ Slugs

Tooker shared Penn State research data from 2013 indicating that in plots where neonicotinoid insecticides were used to treat seed corn, slug populations were higher compared to plots without the treatments.

More detailed Penn…

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John dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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