With autumn slowly approaching after a wetter-than-usual summer, slugs are making a return. Farmers looking to put them to some use are encouraged by the British On-Farm Innovation Network (BOFIN) to sign up as Slug Scouts.

The team at John Innes Centre (JIC) Insectary plans to test about 90 lines of wheat suspected of being resistant to slugs as part of a Defra-funded farmer-led project. To do this they need more than 1000 slugs. Slug Scouts are volunteers who can collect grey field slugs and send them in to the lab.

Those who sign up receive a free Slug Scout pack, which will include:

  • Full instructions on how to set up a Slimery to attract and trap your slugs
  •  A slug identification guide
  • Plastic containers into which you place your harvested slugs
  • Postage-paid envelopes to send them into John Innes Centre
  • Tweezers to pick up the slimy pests
  • A BOFIN pin badge, pen and leaflet

“We received a terrific response when we put out a call earlier this year,” reveals BOFIN founder Tom Allen-Stevens.

“JIC received over 1000 slugs from BOFIN Slug Scouts which enabled them to do some really significant feeding trials. If you are already one of our valued Slug Scouts, we do hope that you will get involved again.”

The trials confirmed previous studies that the unusual landrace wheat variety Watkins 788 is indeed consistently spurned by slugs. “The surprise finding is that other, modern varieties, tested by request of BOFIN members, vary in their palatability to the slimy pests, although none were spurned as much as the Watkins,” reports Tom.

“Watkins 788 has now been crossed into Paragon, a more modern wheat, and the next crucial bit of work will be to see which of these Recombinant Inbred Lines (RILs) carry the curious trait. So that’s what the slugs will feast on once they arrive at JIC.”

Anyone can enrol as a slug scout – gardeners and school children joined around 30 farmers providing valuable specimens for research previously. The slimy pests can be trapped and collected from anywhere dark and moist enough to harbour them, although the research is specifically focused on the grey field slug.

BOFIN provides members with all the support and resources needed to contribute to the project. If you need help identifying which slugs need to be collected or want to know more about how to collect the slugs, please watch this video: https://youtu.be/ph9zI_p6gNY.

There’s more on Year 1’s results in our video here: https://youtu.be/Oxki7QLNcVA

Those interested in becoming a Slug Scout should contact Skye (skye@bofin.org.uk) or Tom (tom@bofin.org.uk) with their name and address.

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