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Agronomist, Rob Launders (AgriTech), has reported a lucerne paddock that has experienced damage, which may be due to slaters. Entire seedlings are missing in parts of the paddock, which is located near Kaniva, in the Wimmera district of Victoria. Rob has inspected the paddock and only found high numbers of slaters present. Farmer, Bronwyn Hunt, also reports the presence of slaters across many paddocks south west of Kerang, in the Mallee district of Victoria. Although the slaters are not causing any damage at present, Bronwyn will closely monitor paddocks for feeding damage as crops establish.

Slaters can attack broad-acre crops, and in some instances can cause serious damage. In the past few years, we have received reports of slaters causing damage to cereals, canola, lentils and pastures in New South Wales and Victoria. Feeding results in uneven rasping-type damage that often appears as ‘windows’ of transparent leaf membrane. However, the presence of slaters within a paddock (even in high numbers) does not necessarily mean a pest issue. Slaters typically feed on decaying organic matter and only rarely feed on emerging crop seedlings.

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. Slaters need damp conditions and will die if exposed to open and dry situations. There are no insecticides registered against slaters in broad-acre crops, and reports indicate they are relatively unaffected by foliar sprays of both synthetic pyrethroids and organophosphates applied to control other crop establishment pests. There are chemical baits registered for use against slaters in horticulture, and reports suggest some success with chlorpyrifos baits in Western Australia.

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