Gastropods on the ground

Behind the scenes at slug and snail testing HQ

In my last blog I talked about my ‘Integrated Gastropod Management’ experiment and how it is set up. Now here are some details of what’s actually involved in taking all the measurements!

First up, I’m not working alone, there are a lot of people involved in this project! Myself, Gerard (head of Plant Health) plus Gareth and Jorge, our collaborators at BASF, are responsible for making the big decisions about the direction and protocols for the project. On the ground my team are Lien and Crystal from the Plant Health team, Judi, a volunteer in the Science department and Peter, a horticulturist at Harlow Carr. They have helped me to take all the different measurements of damage to the plants and to type up the data to prepare it for later analysis.

The planting and maintenance of the plots, along with horticultural advice has come from Sabatino and his team. Many hands make light work of course, and that list still doesn’t cover all my colleagues in Science and Advice who have given me horticultural insight and occasional helping hands throughout the project so far.

There are lots of different measures and processes we have used to quantify how well our different slug control measures work. In early spring this year we assessed damage to the daffodil flowers by scoring the proportion damage; for example the photo below shows a 35% damaged flower. The lettuces, potatoes and beans were planted out in late spring and were assessed weekly for leaf damage, along with the hostas. This was measured by counting how many of the leaves were damaged, and taking photographs to visually assess damage severity.

In July we harvested the beans and lettuces and in August the potatoes, giving us a chance to assess the damage in detail, and get an idea of how gastropod damage can affect the yield. Pulling apart the lettuces and cutting open the potatoes also gave us a chance to record ‘contamination’ – slugs that had taken up residence inside!

Now all this data has been gathered I have the unenviable task of sorting it and using statistical analysis to see how our different treatments compare to each other. We should be giving a sneak-peek of the results early next year, before we carry on experimentation. Once we’ve got a second year of data the results will be written up into a scientific paper and undergo peer-review before they are sent out into the world for all to see.

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