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The use of an alternative food source (red clover) as a means of reducing slug pest damage to winter wheat: towards field implementation

A report of experiments designed to investigate the three issues key to successful field implementation of a slug control strategy.

Year of Publication2006

Slugs are major pests of many crops in the UK, including winter wheat, yet current methods of control are often unreliable. The aim of this study was to investigate three issues key to the successful field implementation of a control strategy that uses red clover as an alternative food source to reduce the amount of damage caused to winter wheat by the field slug, Deroceras reticulatum (Müller). A series of three experiments was designed to assess this aim. Firstly, under laboratory conditions, red clover was consumed in greater quantities than wheat, even when wheat was presented as a novel food. Secondly, red clover had no significant effects on the emergence and early growth of wheat in a polytunnel experiment. Both these results are crucial to the successful implementation of a strategy that uses red clover as an alternative food source. Lastly, the results of a field experiment were consistent with the results of the polytunnel experiment, in that red clover did not significantly affect wheat emergence. However, plots in which red clover was left to grow until the time of wheat harvest resulted in significantly lower (43%) wheat yields than plots without red clover. These results suggest that red clover must be removed from the field after the wheat has passed its vulnerable seedling stage. Recommendations for the potential use of red clover as an alternative food source for reducing damage to winter wheat in field conditions are discussed and opportunities for further work are suggested.

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Supporting the development of the national rural economy.

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