In seven of the past 10 years slugs and snails headed the RHS’ annual list of the top garden pests of the year, which is based on enquiries to the charity’s Gardening Advice Service.
The project, which will test six different control strategies, including those most favoured by gardeners, will help to identify which combination of treatments can provide the best results, depending on the environment and individual characteristics of gardens.
Integrated Pest Management rechniques are to be trialled.
The six different control strategies being tested in this experiment are:
1. Control (no treatment) – this is important to compare with the other strategies
2. Cultural management (mulch) – a loose covering of material on the soil around the plants
3. Cultural + synthetic chemical (metaldehyde) – the most commonly used type of slug pellets
4. Cultural + organic chemical (ferric phosphate) – a slug pellet that is certified as organic
5. Cultural + nematode biological control applied reactively (once damage is seen)
6. Cultural + biological control applied preventatively (applied regularly from the early spring)
RHS scientist Dr Hayley Jones, who is leading the research said: "The damage slugs and snails do to plants has, over the years, led to the development of a wide array of control methods, but these animals are still a persistent problem, which means the current treatments are not working as well as hoped.
"By conducting scientifically robust research into which combination of treatments are the most effective, gardeners will for the first time have access to guidance on which method best suits their unique circumstances. What this could mean is that in years to come slugs and snails will drop down the table of gardeners’ most troublesome pests."
Mike Finney, BASF key country sales manager biologicals Europe, the Middle East and Africa said: "British gardeners are increasingly using beneficial nematodes as one the most effective ways control slugs and other pests. We were eager to join forces with the RHS on this project as we want to further understand how best to deal with these pests in the most effective, efficient and sustainable way."