Riding the slime wave (views on slugs by a globe-trotting scholar)

Friday, 11 October 2019

In 2018, AHDB funded a Nuffield Scholarship to investigate the global slug control challenge. The scale of this international problem is vast. Yet, the final report provides an insight into the integrated pest management techniques emerging across the world.

Slugs are pest enemy number one in cereals and oilseeds production, according to a recent AHDB review. They sit at the top of the pest chart because of the considerable damage they can inflict on crops, especially during vulnerable early growth stages, and because of the loss of key active ingredients and increased scrutiny on metaldehyde use, which can get into water destined for human consumption.

As with many issues, however, the UK is not alone in facing the slug-control challenge. It’s why AHDB sponsored an arable Nuffield Scholar to travel the world and leave no clod unturned in the quest for control inspiration.

The 2018 scholarship was awarded to Jenna Ross and, it seems, she was born for the job. Jenna was brought up on a mixed farm in Aberdeenshire and developed an interest in nature from a young age.

“When I was little, I collected slugs from turnip fields to keep as pets. As I grew up, I saw the impact slugs have on crops and on the livelihood of farmers.”

Her fascination with nature saw Jenna complete a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Aberdeen, with a focus on the efficacy of biological molluscicide products. Jenna then continued work on the application of biological control agents before starting her scholarship.

Slugs are a perfect fit for a globe-trotting scholar, as they have colonised all continents and are important economic pests of many crops, including arable, pasture and vegetables.

A hectic travel schedule saw Jenna visit several continents, including North America, South America, Africa, Australia and Europe to interview farmers and industry on the target slug species and the approaches – chemical, biological and cultural – available to manage them.

Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust Report

Riding the slime wave: gathering global data on slug control

nuffieldinternational.org/live/Reports (date report posted: 05/10/2019)

Watch Jenna at the AHDB Agronomists' Conference

At the 2019 Agronomists’ Conference, Nuffield Scholar Jenna Ross provided an insight into the integrated pest management techniques for slugs emerging across the world. Watch an extract above or the full video. Dr Gordon Port, from The University of Newcastle, also gave a UK perspective on slugs.