Certain farmers, as well as other members of the public (such as keen gardeners), have been asked to collect slugs as part of a government-funded, three-year £2.6m research programme.
The Strategies Leading to Improved Management and Enhanced Resilience Against Slugs (SLIMERS ― ayy) are on the lookout for Slug Scouts to collect the critters.
They will also recruit 30 paid Slug Sleuths who will “carry out on-farm trials to ground truth and develop the technologies” and “lead communication and dissemination activity to encourage adoption of the commercial services.”
Volunteers who sign up to the Slug Scout programme will be given a pack containing tweezers, slug identification cards, and instructions on how to collect grey field slugs and send them into the lab. Anyone can apply for this programme.
“The John Innes Centre are hoping for over 1000 slugs in order for great results to come from the feeding trials this year,” the campaign shared.
Why is this happening?
Researchers at Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) are studying slugs to create targeted, sustainable slug repellents.
Metaldehyde pellets were banned in the UK in April of 2022, meaning ferric phosphate pellets are now the only chemical option left for slug control.
Many considered this a wise move, as the pellets affected already-dwindling bird populations and “has horrible environmental side effects,” Fiona Taylor, chief executive at Garden Organic said.
“Slugs are arable farming’s biggest pest issue which, without adequate control, is estimated to cost the UK industry about £43.5M per year. Developing solutions to tackle these pests sustainably could be a game-changer for the entire industry and wider supply chain,” Dr. Jenna Ross OBE from CHAP said.
“Farmers urgently need alternative control measures that are effective, sustainable, environmentally and societally acceptable, and economically viable. Researchers at CHAP and JIC are conducting vital research that will help us achieve this, but in order to succeed we need as many slugs as possible,” Dr. Ross adds.
If you want to become a Slug Scout, you can either contact Skye (email@example.com) or Tom (firstname.lastname@example.org), sharing your name and address. Alternatively, you can sign up at www.slimers.co.uk.