Out of the two most common pests of potatoes – slugs and wireworms - slugs are regarded as the worst and in particular it‘s the keeled slugs that do the most damage.
Ordinarily, keeled slugs spend their time feeding above ground but they live and feed mainly on decaying organic matter in the soil. Unfortunately for the vegetable gardener they will also feed on living plant material, damaging potato tubers from late summer to autumn.
Working alone they make round holes in the potatoes skin which will often go unnoticed however they will also tunnel out extensive cavities inside the tubers which – in severe cases – makes the tuber inedible! However keeled slugs will often work in conjunction with wireworms and their already created tunnels, widening and extending them as they see fit. Often by the time the potatoes are lifted the slugs have gone back into the soil
Where potato crops are concerned slugs are difficult to deal with as they are generally out of reach of chemical and organic controls. However, there are some cultural control methods that can reduce their incidence.
1. Avoid planting potatoes into heavy soils, as these are favoured by slugs. If this is unavoidable try lightning the soil by adding plenty of compost and well-rotted manure. Also aid excessive watering of your crop as this will only make things worse.
2. Try trapping slugs by encircling you potato crop with old wet sacks and rotten wooden boards. In the mornings, lift the boards and sacks and remove the slugs by hand. I would recommend wearing gloves
3. Dig over your soil once or twice before planting as this will bring slug eggs to the soil surface where they can be eaten by birds.
4. Avoid sowing potatoes into a site bordering grass, compost heaps or piles of organic waste, as all of these provide a base from which the slugs will carry out their midnight raids.
5. You can try planting potato varieties offering high resistance to slug attack. Below is a list of the best varieties. If these are unavailable to you plant early cropping varieties and lift them early so as to avoid the time of year when these slugs are at their most active.
High Resistance to Slugs
Medium Resistance to Slugs
Be aware that slug-damaged tubers are prone to secondary rots and should not be stored with healthy tubers.
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