Slugs Get A Leg Up On No-Tillers

Oozing under the research radar for years, these slimy seedling-gnawing pests are getting the full attention of no-tillers with increased no-till and cover crop acres producing lots of habitat

 A beer shortage would likely result if no-tillers resorted to the tried-and-true garden fix of drowning slugs in plates of beer. 

“Slugs are almost exclusively a no-till problem because tillage is control strategy No. 1,” says Penn State entomologist John Tooker. “And they’re a moving target. What works in one county may not be as effective in the next county.”

Not really an insect and not really a true agronomy issue, slugs fall into a research gray area. That they’re predominately a no-till problem hasn’t helped garner research attention or dollars, either. But as no-till acres and the use of cover crops increase, so do slug issues.

No-tiller Lucas Criswell has watched slugs make steady progress in his Lewisburg, Penn., fields in recent years.

“In the last 2 to 4 years, we’ve really seen slug problems increase,” he reports. “We’re not getting ahead of them. They’re getting ahead of us.”

And that concerns Criswell. He and about 15 other no-tillers met with Tooker to raise awareness on the issue and are actively seeking funding to study slugs and quantify control methods.

Plain Township, Ohio, no-tiller Parry Cochran is also familiar with the pest and has had to replant soybeans due to slugs. Once he was even forced to replant twice in the same year.

“They eat the whole plant. We had to replant nearly a quarter of the soybean acres one year,” he recalls. “We also see damage on the corn, but usually new growth keeps coming and it grows…

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