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2010 Annual Report

UC Statewide IPM Program

snail nurserySpecially designed arenas control research snail environments. Photo by C. A. Wilen

UC IPM focuses on slow-moving problem


  • Blind tests of new snail baits show products are effective at much reduced rates.
  • Expanded trials hold promise for alternatives in commercial nurseries.
  • Nursery trial outcomes likely apply to landscapes.

UC IPM Advisor Cheryl Wilen is moving in fast on slow-moving snails. Wilen is testing new, lower toxicity products to expand the range of alternatives available for controlling snails and slugs in commercial nurseries.

The brown garden snail is a major pest that rapidly consumes transplants or seedlings, damages citrus fruit, and impacts landscape quality. In California, the pest traditionally is controlled by one of three pesticides—metaldehyde, iron phosphate, or methiocarb. Unfortunately, metaldehyde and methiocarb are quite toxic, and iron phosphate is slow acting.

During the past year, Wilen carried out blind tests on four new products under consideration for registration for use against snails. She found that several products killed snails when used at considerably lower application rates than traditional snail pesticides, but because the test was blind, she couldn’t conclusively state whether the positive outcomes were from better bait attractants or properties of the active ingredient.

Now she has a chance to find out.

“I have a new project that builds on this work, and we can expand the trials to look at other lower toxicity materials,” Wilen said. “Because nurseries cannot ship product with snails or slugs on the plants or in the soil, we not only can help reduce the direct costs of the snails feeding on the plants, we can help growers reduce indirect costs by cutting down on the number of rejected shipments.”

Although the studies address snail problems in commercial nurseries, the results are likely to apply to landscape situations as well, Wilen added.

The USDA’s IR-4 project funded the original studies and now is supporting the new, expanded research. The work represents one of several research priorities that arose from a 2008 meeting of Western experts, organized by Wilen and sponsored by the Western IPM Center.

Next article >> Retail nurseries, garden centers seek IPM information

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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