A recent article published by Lancaster Farming about slug damage in no-till soybean fields along the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic posed a valid but concerning question: Is no-till worth it if the slugs eat the crop over and over again?
In the article, Penn State entomologist John Tooker says he’s received calls from no-tillers who had to replant their soybeans a second or third time due to slug damage. One Pennsylvania no-tiller found almost 2 acres of soybeans devoured by garden slugs, which had recently hatched thanks to a 1-inch rainfall and the right temperatures.
While it may be too late for some growers this year, there are a number of tactics you can try to prevent such destruction from occurring again while keeping your system under no-till.
In Rock Hall, Md., Trey Hill of Harborview Farms uses a low rate of the slug bait Deadline Bullets on slug “hot spots” early and makes multiple applications, especially if it rains. He’s also had success with suspended liquid potash, saying if it’s on the ground for 5-6 days, it will “melt” the slugs, as long as it doesn’t rain during that time. You can learn more about Hill’s battle against slugs in the Summer edition of Conservation Tillage Guide.
Hill has heard that planting into living cover crops may help, and Lucas Criswell has seen that to be true. The Lewisburg, Pa., no-tiller lets his cereal rye cover crop grow with his soybeans to let the slugs feed on the cover instead of his cash crop, explaining that, “The slugs want to be on something green. They don’t care if it’s soybeans.”
They say prevention is the best medicine, so perhaps the easiest control tactic for no-tillers struggling with slugs is to make sure the seed furrow completely closes during planting. Tooker says an open furrow is like a “highway” for slugs, leading them from one plant to the next. Using a spiked closing wheel may be enough to get the furrow closed and shut the highway down.
For more suggestions on keeping slugs under control, check out “6 Tips to Help No-Tillers Eradicate Yield-Robbing Slugs.”
Have you resolved any slug issues while keeping your fields under no-till? Share your success story and any additional tips you can offer in the comments section below.