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Agronomists, Julian Mineham (Landmark) and Don McCaffery (NSW DPI), have received reports of a high number of slaters present in some paddocks near Mudgee, in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales. These paddocks will soon be sown to canola and it is unclear whether any feeding damage to emerging seedlings is likely to occur.

In the past two years, there have been some isolated cases where slaters have caused economic damage to broad-acre crops. In particular, the ‘flood bug’ (Australiodillo bifrons), has caused extensive damage to cereal crops around Moree in northern New South Wales. The flood bug is a native species, approximately 7-8mm long and 4mm wide. They are oval shaped and have a flattened body, with light coloured legs. For images of the flood bug, click here.

The species of slater observed near Mudgee has not been identified.

Slaters are known to be a minor pest in other parts of Australia and overseas. In South Africa, they often attack lupin and canola crops. They are generally controlled via cultivation but problems have worsened under minimum-tillage. Peter Mangano (Department of Agriculture, WA) has received unconfirmed reports in the past of slaters damaging canola plants in the south of Western Australia. Problems appear to have occurred in paddocks containing a large amount of stubble.

Contrary to common belief, slaters are crustaceans, not insects. They have a hard skeleton on the outside of their bodies and many pairs of jointed legs. Although they have not been considered a pest previously, it is best to keep an eye on them. Slaters need damp conditions and will die if exposed to open and dry situations.

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