The Cost of a Slug

Senior Reader
0 0 5,030

You know those little gray or black colored slimy creatures, they run about an inch long, they are gross.  You may have them in your flower beds, they may bother your garden a bit.  Well those darn sleezy slugs are causing more and more of a headache for us grass seed growers here in Oregon.  So much so that I recently attended a Slug Summit (don't feel bad if you're laughing at the name, that's really what it was called!).  Really, these small things are truly causing so much of an issue here, we met with industry researchers, commissioners, university professors and farmers to see what the real issues are and if there has been any success or any ideas on what to do with all the slugs.



This is the field that was so destroyed by slugs you can't even see one green blade of grass out there!


So to prepare for this meeting I sat down and asked myself what is the true price of a slug in our fields.  I looked at a 55 acre field that we had to spray out due to slug damage.  It was in its third year of production and essentially its last year.  I took into account costs such as fuel for working the ground before planting, planting costs, things that should amortized over a three year period, but now would be pushed into two years.  I looked at the costs of applying fall weed control, fall fertilizer, and multiple bait applications to try to save the field for production and kill the slugs that continued to eat at their buffet.  I looked what our alternative spring crops were and how the income from those crops measured up to what we had assumed we would make from the grass seed.




As I was adding up and up and up, it just got more frustrating to me.  Because the last number I came up with, the final tally of what a slug has cost this farm on just that one field was staggering.  I then took it one step further, wondering truly what the cost of one little one inch long slug cost.  The cost was $0.10 per slug!!  A dime of damage for each one.  I was amazed!  In the photo above, that plant alone has $0.80 on it.  It may not seem like a lot, but when you're dealing with acres and acres, the final tally was $35,000 from this one field alone.


The Slug Summit  didn't show any real signs of a silver bullet.  What I came away with was an understanding that these little guys are causing a lot of harm for farmers across all their crops, it's not just a problem on our farm, it's an issue across industry lines.  Bottom line, we need mroe tools in our toolbox to fight these pests.  And with new technology, possibly with technology that in laymans terms could be a sort of birth control for the species, there are a few bright spots in the world of slug battles.  But like anything it costs money, and when you're a specialty seed grower, or small potatoes in some respects, it's hard to get the type of backing or excitement from an industry that tends to focus more on the corn and soybean world.  I do hope that they will continue to look into this issue, and start to think outside of the box with new ways to control such a costly and slimy pest.

About the Author
Brenda Frketich is a third generation farmer from St. Paul, Oregon. She has been farming full time since 2006 and currently manages her family's 1000 acre farm. They raise grass seed, hazelnuts, crimson clover, wheat, vegetable seeds and peas. She grew up on the farm but never thought that farming was what would be her future. She left her small town to Los Angeles to get a degree in Business. But after years of city living she realized farming was in her blood. Brenda is very involved in many parts of her industry and community. She is a volunteer Firefighter and EMT in her small town. She is involved in Farm Bureau, is a Clover Commissioner, and always tries to find new ways to bridge the gap between her urban neighbors and her rural life of farming. One of the ways she does this is through this blog, and also her personal blog, Brenda is married to Matt Frketich who has also recently started farming with her. They also have a son, Hoot, and old hunting dog, Diesel and farm dog Yukon.