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Following the last issue of PestFacts, we have received another report of slaters damaging a lentil crop in the Wimmera district of Victoria. Agronomist, Andrew Newall (NEWAG Consulting), says slaters have damaged part of an early-mid podding lentil crop near Horsham by chewing into the stems of plants. The affected plants have started to turn yellow, and it was initially suspected that mice might have been the cause. Up to 4 slaters were observed on each plant, along with many others running around on the ground. The paddock has a high stubble load from the previous 2 years of cereal crops. Andrew says slaters have not been noticed in the paddock prior to this year.

Slaters appear to have gained importance as a pest of broad-acre crops over the past five years, and this is thought to reflect increased levels of stubble retention and minimum tillage. Stubble provides a cool, moist refuge that facilitates survival and population development. Crumbly clay soil surfaces and cracking clays also seem to favour the survival of slaters as they can readily seek shelter under clods of dirt or in soil cracks.

There are no insecticides registered against slaters in broad-acre crops, and reports indicate they are relatively unaffected by foliar sprays of chemicals applied to control other crop pests. There are chemical baits registered for use against slaters in horticulture, and there is evidence to suggest some success with chlorpyrifos baits in Western Australia. Removing stubbles over summer is likely to be the most effective way to reduce slater numbers. Refer to PestFacts Issue No. 9 for further information.

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