Farmers in Oregon's Willamette Valley deride slugs as slimy pests bent on munching their way through crops. But as familiar as farmers are with the mollusks, they acknowledge they're often baffled.
Growers and researchers at a recent Oregon State University "Slug Summit" in Salem agree slugs have grown as a problem in recent decades, but why — and what to do?
Some blame the decline of field burning and rise of reduced tillage farming. Other farmers report persistent slug problems despite tilling heavily and burning fields.
The Capital Press newspaper reports (http://bit.ly/1xCNiLT) that growers say a crop may sometimes be devastated by slugs despite the use of poison bait, but the same field will do well with the bait in other years.
One OSU researcher noted slugs that survive one commonly used chemical quickly develop an aversion to it.
The summit was told it's unlikely more toxic pesticides will enter the market because of harmful consequences for other species. And while many predators love to eat slugs, you need lots of them.
The bottom line: more research is needed.