Saying farewell to pests with a last slug of coffee

 

The fight to protect crops and gardens against a huge snail and slug infestation this year may be aided by two new weapons for the gardener and the farmer.

According to gardening expert and broadcaster, Mr Gerry Daly, this has been an exceptional year for slug and snail activity.

"It's been very bad because the conditions have been ideal for slug and snail activity - and for those who sell slug pellets," he said yesterday.

He explained that snails and slugs need moisture to move around and feed because they need to generate mucus to move.

"When it is wet they can move more freely and that is why they normally only move at night when it is moist and they can avoid the sun," he said.

"There has been little chance of them being caught in the sunshine this summer so they are able to operate day and night," he said.

Mr Daly said he had been dealing with many queries about the problem this year, especially from people who wanted to use environmentally safe materials.

He said he was aware that US scientists announced they were looking at caffeine as a possible safe pesticide. They discovered that concentrations of caffeine as low as 0.01 per cent prevented slugs and snails eating plants. A cup of instant coffee contains about 0.05 per cent caffeine and brewed coffee is stronger.

Mr Daly said the coffee solution was interesting, as were experiments with copper tapes which are laid down to prevent attacks, a kind of electric fence.

"It appears that there is a low electricity charge in copper tapes and snails and slugs don't like crossing them," he said.

Mr Daly said beer traps to catch slugs are now being made commercially.

Mr Daly predicted the attacks on crops and gardens would continue as long as the wet weather remained and the sunshine levels during the day were as low as they had been.

Last week, Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority, warned that main crop potatoes would come under attack from snails and slugs in July if the poor weather continued.