OSU Research Finds Garden Pests Love Bread Dough

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New research from the Oregon State University Extension Service has found that slugs and snails are strongly attracted to bread dough, a finding that could lead to better ways to control these serious pests in agriculture, nurseries and allotment gardens.

Since the beginning of history, slugs have ravaged crops and are now responsible for billions of dollars in damage, including between $ 60 million and $ 100 million to Oregon’s grass seed industry alone, according to Rory. Mc Donnell, associate professor and specialist in gastropods in extension.

“Damage to grass seeds is a major problem,” said Mc Donnell, who collaborated with scientists in other states on a study published in a special issue of Insects that focuses on slugs and snails. “But it’s only one culture. It’s mind boggling when you think about it. A wide variety of crops are affected. They even take special crops like mint. Many times I have seen farmers lose an entire crop.

Currently, nurseries, farmers and home gardeners use commercial baits like metaldehyde, iron phosphate or ferric sodium EDTA to control slugs and snails. These molluscicides are relatively expensive, can be toxic to non-targets, and work with varying degrees of success, Mc Donnell said. Given its simplicity, low cost, and ready availability of ingredients, bread dough has potential not only for crop protection in the United States but also for developing countries where access to pesticides is limited by cost. A dry formulation would likely have an indefinite shelf life and be easy to ship. It can be used to attract slugs to a trap, where they will die, or to attract them to a molluscicide.

“Bread dough is a nontoxic, generic and effective tool that could be used in the detection and management of gastropods worldwide,” said Mc Donnell. “This represents a tool to help manage pest infestations, either using baited traps or through attraction and destruction approaches. It could also be integrated into existing baits to improve their attractiveness.

Of Oregon’s 28 species of exotic or non-native slugs and snails, two are particularly troublesome: European brown snails (Cornu aspersum) and gray field slugs (Deroceras reticulatum), which infest nurseries and feed hundreds of important crops at a significant financial cost. . If European brown garden snails are found in shipments of nursery plants from Oregon to ports of entry in other states, the items are either returned or processed on site, Mc Donnell said. Either way it’s expensive.

“With trade and travel around the world, we are achieving homogenization of slugs and snails on planet Earth due to the widespread introduction of species,” said Mc Donnell. “It’s not just a modern phenomenon. Slugs and snails have traveled with humans for thousands of years. But it is becoming more serious due to targeted introductions, global trade, intensification of agriculture and the development of new crops.

Mc Donnell and colleagues have yet to determine why bread dough – a simple mixture of flour, water, and yeast – attracts slugs and snails, but theorizes that it is the fermentation process that attracts them. . They used a range of foods in addition to bread dough to determine which would be the most appealing bait, including beer, cucumber, lettuce, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, hostas and pot (a yeast-based food product popular in Britain).

“We gave them a choice of food and they always went for bread dough,” said Mc Donnell. “They really, really like it. They went crazy for it. The bread dough surpassed everything.

In one case, more than 18,000 snails were trapped in 48 hours, according to Mc Donnell. Research has found that bread dough can be effective in the field in Oregon for at least eight days.

“He’s got something that we call ‘a good lifespan on the pitch’,” said Mc Donnell. “It’s really, really important. If it worked for 12 hours that would be good, but eight days gives a much larger window of use.

The project was a collaboration between Mc Donnell and his team; Robin Veasey and Jocelyn Millar, University of California at Riverside; Arnold Hara, University of Hawaii at Hilo; Amy Roda, US Department of Agriculture, Miami; Gary Adams, US Department of Agriculture, Billings, Mont .; and Ian Foley, Montana Department of Agriculture. This work was supported by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture under Section 7721 of the Plant Protection Act.


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