Farmers in western Victoria are experiencing one of the worst slug infestations they’ve seen in years.
- Slug populations boom in western Victoria due to heavy summer rains
- The pests are eating and destroying crops, including canola
- Farmers are having to resow their crops this season or allow paddocks to lie fallow
George Coutts is a farmer in Mininera, south of Ararat, and has had to bait his paddocks three times this season and resow some of his canola crops.
He said heavy summer rains across the region had increased slug populations.
‘Huge slug pressure’
“Any paddocks that we didn’t till or burn, we had huge [slug] pressure,” Mr Coutts said.
“We had to bait most paddocks three times but some paddocks four times, and some of the canola I haven’t even bothered resowing, cause I resowed it and it just got eaten again.”
Mr Coutts said he had experienced problems with slugs in the past, but had never seen such big numbers.
“It’s just annoying. I’ll just have to be extra vigilant moving forward.”
‘The perfect storm’
Gorst Rural Supplies agronomist Rhys Cottam-Starkey said the wet conditions this past spring and summer had created the perfect storm for slug numbers, and he’s seen widespread crop damage across the region.
Mr Cottam-Starkey said the first signs of crop damage from slugs was little chew marks in newly emerged seedlings.
“When the crop first comes out of the ground, it’s obviously the most sensitive and any damage to it will cause more significant damage later on,” he said.
“The canola seed is so small when it comes out of the ground [that] it doesn’t have any energy reserves, so any damage to the leaf will significantly reduce the amount of photosynthesis that the plant can undertake.
“Any resowing is generally frustrating because it messes up the timing of the crop.”
Baiting a challenge
Mr Cottam-Starkey has been encouraging farmers to bait their paddocks but, he said, it was a challenge because it was less effective in cold, wet weather.
“So timing of the bait would be the most critical part,” he said.
“When it becomes cold and wet, the bait becomes less effective.
“We’ve had to counteract that and make sure we’re still baiting at the right time and not feeding the mice slug bait.”