Experts warn of potential slug 'plague'

Weather conditions create potential for extreme pest problems for professional growers as sales rise in consumer sector.

Pests: spring brought ideal weather for slugs after the mild winter
Pests: spring brought ideal weather for slugs after the mild winter

The third-warmest spring in the UK since 1910 and rainfall at 56 per cent above average in May has led to a possible "plague" of slugs, expert advisers have warned - while 2014 is proving to be bad for aphid infestation too.

ADAS consultant John Atwood said: "Slugs and snails are a problem on strawberries and blackcurrants this year. It's already getting to be as bad as 2012.

"They eat the strawberries and losses could be significant - as much as five per cent." He added that 2014 is proving to be "a bad year" for aphids as well.

On the consumer side, latest GfK figures show slug killer sales are up by 78 per cent this year. Scotts Miracle-Gro is up 115 per cent for the year to date on SlugClear products to the end of April.

Bayer Garden sales in this category have increased by 80 per cent year on year.

For professional growers, ADAS consultant Will George said spring brought "ideal slug weather" after the mild winter. ADAS has noted slug/snail damage on aster, iris, Lathyrus, Ligularia, Knautia, Monarda, Phalaris and veronica, and recommended Ferramol slug killer, Sluxx and Sluggo for hardy nursery stock.

Meanwhile, ADAS said aphids have been noted on abelia, abutilon, acanthus, buddleia, Brunnera, campanula, Chaenomeles, clematis, coronilla, Echinops, eryngium, geum, iris, Knautia, Kniphofia, Lonicera, Lysimachia, Papaver, penstemon, potentilla, rheum, rudbeckia, salvia, sidalcea, Symphytum, verbascum and veronica. ADAS recommended Aphox or pyrethroids for ornamental growers.

On bedding, aphids have been reported on geranium and primula. Aphidius colemani or A. ervi will help to control populations. Chess WG (EAMU 2016/13), Spruzit and physically acting products such as Majestik, Savona and SB Plant Invigorator should provide additional control where required for professional growers.

Aphid watch Growers warned to be vigilant

Needlefresh managing director Christopher Hood has said Christmas tree growers need to be "vigilant" for aphids.

RHS advisory service head Guy Barter added: "With the high population now if there's another wet summer, as it's shaping up to be, slug and snail numbers will reach plague proportions, like they did in 2012."

Barter said nematode producer Becker Underwood has increased its capacity "so they won't run out again like they did in 2013".

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