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Development of a commercially viable and environmentally sustainable approach to slug control

Project number 21120078

Lead partner Harper Adams University

Start date August 2019

End date April 2021

AHDB funding £120,000

(£100,000 AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds and £20,000 AHDB Potatoes)

Total funding £120,000

The challenge

Slug distribution within arable fields is patchy. AHDB-funded PhD project (2140009118) found that these patches varied in size but were sufficiently stable for targeted molluscicide applications to be considered.

It was also found that knowledge of soil characteristics that are commonly assessed on commercial farms could be used to locate patches. However, further work is required to confirm the optimum combination of soil characteristics needed to pinpoint patch location.

Technological solutions for patch targeting also need to be developed/refined. Such solutions also require evaluation in commercial farming systems.

The project

This project aims to develop an approach to identify areas of arable fields with high slug densities, which can be targeted with molluscicides. The project has six core objectives:

Objective 1: Industry liaison
To establish a network of industry contacts (e.g. farmers, agronomists, manufacturers and soil mapping companies) to comment on, guide and participate in all stages of the project.

Objective 2: Soil characteristics
To establish the optimal combination of soil characteristics to locate areas of higher slug densities within arable crops. To test (field verify) the combination in a field experiment. To propose a procedure that predicts where slug patches are likely to form within commercial fields.

Objective 3: Wide-scale testing (soil characteristics)
To utilise field maps of soil characteristics to assess the proposed procedure in commercial fields located in major cereal growing areas of the UK.

Objective 4: Wide-scale testing (patch stability/use)
To test the stability of the soil characteristics, during and across cropping seasons. To use data collected under Objective 3 and AHDB project 2140009118 to confirm/enhance understanding of slug patch stability and size, in addition to assessing the reliability of using soil maps to locate slug patches. Databases held by Precision Decisions will be used to support further analysis of stability.

Objective 5: Practical assessment of soil characteristics
Use soil assessment approaches and software (e.g. Precision Decisions and Soil Essentials) to develop methods for the assessment of soil characteristics in arable fields. Test methods at a commercial field site.

Objective 6: Integration of findings into a practical system
Work with machinery manufacturers to identify modifications to commercially available technology (e.g. application equipment and software programmes) to allow variable application of slug pellets, based on an application plan created from soil maps. Conduct a cost/benefit analysis on the overall system.

The benefits

This project will benefit a diverse range of sectors, including the water and agricultural industries. Although the focus is on cereals and oilseed rape production systems, the project will also be of benefit to growers of potatoes and vegetables. Potential long-term benefits include: A reduction in total area treated with molluscicides Increased profit margins, through reduced use of variable inputs Improved compliance with the EU Water Framework Directives.

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