As the 2017 field season winds down farmers are reflecting on how things went this summer and are looking ahead to next season.
Many Ohio farmers experienced significant slug damage this spring and are thinking about future practices to mitigate slug damage including cover crops and crop rotations. We are conducting some preliminary on-farm research to look at the effect of different cover crops on slugs, but some interesting work has already been done by our colleague at Penn State, Dr. John Tooker. Tooker and his team have found that slug populations tend to be lower in more diverse rotations than the typical corn/soy rotation — the longer and more diverse the rotation schedule the better. Diversified rotations help promote a healthy field ecology where pests and predators can maintain a balance with each other. Ground beetles in particular are effective slug predators.
Other practices which protect ground beetles have also been shown to help keep slugs down, for example avoiding insecticidal seed treatments or foliar applications unless they are warranted by pest-scouting and thresholds. Studies have shown that these insecticides harm beetle populations without harming the slugs and slug populations can actually increase. Dr. Tooker has also begun work with farmer-cooperators looking at “planting green” — planting corn or soybean into living cereal rye and terminating the cover slowly so that slugs have something to eat besides the cash crop. This is potentially a tricky approach so visit with somebody with experience in this approach if you want to give it a try.
To learn more about slug biology and life cycles, visit our factsheet at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/ENT-20