How do organic farmers control slugs?

As with most organic systems, prevention is always better than cure. The following key measures should be considered when trying to minimise slug problems.

Drainage

Moist conditions are ideal for slugs. Improving soil structure through the appropriate use of cultivations and compost will help soil drainage. Incorporating sand into areas which are identified as slug breeding sites can also be effective.

Predatory insects

Providing the right habitat for natural enemies, especially ground beetles, will help control slugs. Beetles are extremely effective at reducing slug populations and feed voraciously on slug eggs, as well as the slugs themselves. Field margins and beetle banks provide ideal habitats. Note that spring cultivations will reduce beetle populations, whilst autumn cultivations have little effect on their numbers.

Encourage birds

Many birds, particularly blackbirds and song thrushes, will eat considerable numbers of slugs. Providing bird boxes, winter feeding areas, trees and hedgerows, and uncultivated areas will all help to maintain and improve farmland biodiversity. Chickens and ducks are also effective at ‘cleaning up’ an area, both pre- and post- harvest.

Other predators

Hedgehogs and frogs are also very effective at keeping slug populations down, and providing suitable habitats will encourage them. A hedgehog may consume as many as 500 slugs a night.

Diversionary tactics

Providing decoy or sacrificial crops, dead or alive, can aid control. Carrots, lettuce and comfrey are all attractive to slugs and snails and can be grown or placed near to main crops. This allows pests to be collected at regular intervals. In addition, bran, sliced carrot or comfrey can be laid as an attractant, allowing the collection of slugs as they feed.

Mulches

Living or dead mulches, such as grass clippings or undersown green manure, can be of use. Whilst these areas can provide cover for slugs, they also provide a habitat for their predators. The balance must be weighed up.

Slug pellets

If a licensee wants to use ferramol (a key ingredient in slug pellets) they would have to apply for special permission to do so, as we only allow the use of this product on a highly restricted basis.

We do not to certify any pest and disease control products.






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