A laboratory-based comparison of a molluscicide and an alternative food source (red clover) as means of reducing slug damage to winter wheat



Slugs are major pests of many crops in the UK, including winter wheat, yet current methods of control are often unreliable. This study investigates the potential use of red clover, as an alternative food source, to reduce the amount of damage caused to winter wheat by the field slug, Deroceras reticulatum (Müller). Two laboratory-based studies, each conducted over a 7-day period, investigated the effects of red clover seedlings and commercial metaldehyde pellets on damage to winter wheat seeds and seedlings. The results indicate that metaldehyde applications, in the form of commercially available pellets, resulted in significantly greater protection to wheat seeds compared with red clover, whereas metaldehyde and red clover were equally as effective in reducing damage to wheat seedlings. A further laboratory experiment investigated the effect of two slug population densities (48 and 16 adults m−2) and high and low red clover seed rates (125% and 75% of a standard rate) on damage to wheat seeds. Results showed that, at the highest slug population density, red clover sown at 125% of the standard rate gave 99% protection to wheat seeds, compared with the 75% seed rate which gave 55%. At the lower slug population density, both seed rates of red clover resulted in similar levels of protection. Implications for the potential use of red clover as an alternative food source for reducing damage to winter wheat in field conditions are discussed. Copyright © 2005 Society of Chemical Industry