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Research into slug behaviour for crop protection receives further AHDB funding

Posted 17 October

“We hope that this study will show that the pesticide only needs to be targeted to certain areas of the field and that this will actually be more effective."

Harper Adams University has received further investment from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. Researchers will use the funding to continue their work on targeted treatment techniques to protect crops against slugs by tracking the using tiny radio tracking tags similar to ones used on cattle. The radio tracking tags which are about the size of a grain of rice, were injected into slugs before video tracking found that the slugs’ routines did not change compared with non-tagged slugs.

Harper Adams PhD student Emily Forbes focused on the distribution of slugs across a field. In particular, Emily looked to define what causes slug populations to develop in distinct patches. An RFID scanner, which operates in a similar way to a metal detector, was swept over the ground regularly to map the whereabouts of tagged slugs. By understanding how the slugs move and behave, researchers hope to be able to advise farmers on how is best to use their pesticides.

Emily said: “We hope that this study will show that the pesticide only needs to be targeted to certain areas of the field and that this will actually be more effective. Slugs need to shelter from the sun; it’s why they prefer to feed at night and shelter underground during the day. RFID tags reveal what slugs get up to, no matter where they hide.

The latest £120,000 investment will be used to identify the optimum combination of soil characteristics needed to pinpoint patch locations. It will also be used to investigate how to create targeted application plans based on soil maps. By working with industry, the team also hopes to identify commercially available technology that can be adapted to allow the variable application of slug treatments.

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