High slug populations may welcome no-till farmers to the start of the growing season.
Ohio State University entomologists have been receiving reports that adult slugs and eggs are present in abundance in some no-till fields throughout western, southern and northeast Ohio.
"The winter weather was not severe enough to knock out slug populations. Last fall we were finding a lot of slugs in fields and those just carried through winter to lay eggs," says Ron Hammond, an Ohio State entomologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster. "We fully expect juveniles to be there this spring."
The juvenile stage of the slug creates the most damage to crops and its voracious appetite can be devastating for farmers who have had a history of slug problems. Upon hatching in mid-to-late May, the slug will begin feeding on anything that is planted in the field, whether it's corn, soybeans or alfalfa. Slug feeding can cause significant reductions in corn yields and total stand loss in soybeans.
Hammond recommends farmers begin scouting their fields now for the presence of adult slugs and eggs to determine their severity and plan appropriate management tactics.
"If farmers easily find slugs and eggs in their fields, the impression we get is that populations will be high. We want them to realize that the potential is there for slugs to be out there," says Hammond.
He said the best management practice to control slugs is to plant early. "The earlier a farmer can plant his crops the better. The plants have a better chance of outgrowing the damage done by slug feeding if they can get a head start before eggs hatch."
Earlier planted crops like corn usually have the most success in escaping any serious damage from slug feeding. Soybeans, on the other hand, suffer the most damage if germination follows egg hatch.
"Slugs can take out the plant before a grower ever sees the crop," says Hammond.
If soybean farmers are finding a lot of slugs in their fields, are planting in late May or June, and have had a history of stand losses because of slugs, they might want to consider applying a molluscicide at or following planting.
The most popular material is Deadline MPs, but a new product available this year may give farmers another option. Called Trail's End LG, the molluscicide appears to be just as effective as Deadline MPs and should be slightly cheaper.
Hammond said statewide surveys will begin upon the arrival of warmer temperatures and drier soils to determine just how widespread slugs will be this year. He will also post regular slug reports to Ohio State's weekly Crop Observation and Report Network (C.O.R.N.) newsletter at http://corn.osu.edu/.