The project, led by the British On-Farm Innovation Network (BOFIN), aims to gauge how palatable a range of different wheats are to slugs, and help farmers move away from a reliance on chemical control measures and the potential environmental impact of those chemicals.
It follows initial studies that indicated one landrace wheat, known as Watkins 788, may be resistant to the slimy pests, that cost UK arable farmers £100M every year.
“Slugs are UK arable farming’s most damaging pest,” notes Oxfordshire farmer and BOFIN founder Tom Allen-Stevens, who co-ordinates farmer involvement in the project. “As they get active again this month, rather than let them graze on our crops, we’re keen for farmers to join our group of ‘Slug Scouts’, who will trap the pests and send them in for this important study.”
The Slug Scout volunteers will be provided with a pack, including containers and postage-paid envelopes, as well as instructions on how to set up an effective ‘Slimery’.
“This is what you use to attract and trap your slug population that you can then harvest periodically – it’ll want to be in the most slug-infested spot of your farm,” explains Tom.
The trials are part of a wider project that aims to explore the palatability of wheat and the grazing behaviour of slugs, with the aim of identifying a possible slug-resistant trait for the development of future varieties.