decorative slug graphic

Slugs as Pests of No-till Field Crops in the Mid-Atlantic US

The gray garden slug, The most problematic slug species in Mid-Atlantic crop fields (Image by M. Douglas, PSU)
The gray garden slug, The most problematic slug species in Mid-Atlantic crop fields (Image by M. Douglas, PSU)

Slugs are among the more challenging pests of field and forage crops in Mid-Atlantic States.  The pest mollusks are most problematic in residue-rich, no-till fields that are common in and around the Chesapeake Bay watershed.  According to many agricultural professionals, it seems that trouble with slugs has become more common over the past 10 years or so.  Unfortunately, for growers, there are few commercially available control options available, which makes damaging slug populations even more challenging.  The goal of this website is to provide information on slug biology and management, and provide users an opportunity to provide information on their slug-infested fields.  The data we collect from growers, extension personnel, and other agricultural professionals will help provide insight on some of the causes of slugs outbreaks.

Several species of slugs are common in Mid-Atlantic gardens, yards, and farms. While slugs can be pests in each of these settings, this website is geared toward the field crop grower. Nonetheless, the information here may also be useful for vegetable growers and home gardeners. In field crops, slugs are particularly prevalent in no-till or reduced-till fields with heavy residue and little soil disturbance. They can eat virtually all crops and inflict most of their damage during crop establishment and early growth in the spring and fall. This damage tends to be most severe under cool, wet conditions, which slow crop growth and favor slug activity. Slugs typically feed at night and hide in residue or soil during the day. The increased adoption of no-till methods in recent years, as well as the limited control options available to no-till farmers, has elevated the importance of slugs as pests of field crops in Mid-Atlantic states.