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Traditional slug and snail deterrents are waste of time, study suggests

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Traditional slug and snail deterrents do not protect prized plants after all, a study suggests.

Popular home remedies – from copper tape to eggshells – were tested by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and found to make no difference in protecting lettuce.

Experts are recommending that people try to encourage natural predators such as birds, use traps or even physically remove them.

Dr Hayley Jones, entomologist at the RHS and lead researcher, said: “Our study reveals that many gardeners could be wasting time and money by turning to home remedies in a bid to protect their prized plants.

“With the likes of eggshells, barks and mulch so far proving no discernible deterrent to slugs and snails we would recommend using proven formulas like nematode biological control if the damage is just too much to bear.”

Other deterrents such as nematodes or slug pellets are also effective, so long as the manufacturer’s instructions are followed to minimise risks to wildlife and pets.

Slugs and snails are known to cause unsightly damage to crops
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Slugs and snails can damage fruit and vegetable crops

Garden slugs thrive in a high moisture environment and are most commonly found under pots, containers and rocks, as well as deep in overgrown vegetation.

They will eat any kind of vegetation but prefer tender leaves, and are known for damaging fruit and vegetable crops.

The study saw 108 lettuces sown in a series of pots and raised beds and treated with various methods, including nothing at all, at the RHS research facility in Wisley, Surrey.

The five methods were copper tape, horticultural grit, pine bark mulch, wool pellets and eggshells.

The lettuces were grown for six weeks before being harvested, with the leaves of each lettuce examined to work out the proportion of damage.

Results showed that slugs and snails inflicted equal damage to the treated and non-treated lettuces.

The RHS said it would continue to test home remedies and look at whether other factors such as environmental conditions and local slug populations make a difference.

Other classic methods such as beer traps will also be tested.

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