WOOSTER, Ohio — Soybean rust and soybean aphids may keep growers preoccupied this growing season, but they shouldn't forget an equally problematic pest: slugs.
"The slug issue is something we think might be falling under the radar because all of the attention is turned toward soybean rust and the soybean aphid," said Ron Hammond, an Ohio State University research entomologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. "The numbers are out there. We want to make sure growers don't forget about them as there could be the potential for problems if not monitored."
Given the numbers of adults found in Ohio fields this past fall, researchers are predicting high slug populations when hatching begins in early to mid-May — mainly in no-till fields. Tillage tends to bury eggs deep in the soil, thereby helping to keep slug populations low. Such a scenario does not exist in no-till, where the idea is to leave soil residue undisturbed for added production benefits.
"The sooner growers can plant the better," said Hammond. "If the weather stays nice and growers get their crop in early, the plants may be able to outgrow any kind of feeding damage. But if the weather gets cooler and planting is delayed, we will have the potential for a serious slug problem."
The juvenile stage of the slug creates the most damage to crops and its voracious appetite and large densities can be devastating for farmers who have had a history of slug problems. Upon hatching, the slug will begin feeding on anything that is planted in the field, whether it is corn, soybeans or alfalfa. Slug feeding can cause significant reductions in corn yields and total stand loss in soybeans.
The one thing growers can do to help control slug damage is to scout their fields on a regular basis.
"If growers have a history of slug problems and they believe they could have stand reduction problems from slug feeding, then they should consider an at-planting treatment, such as a molluscicide bait," said Hammond. "Once the plants are in the ground, the bait is really the only thing you can get by with."