Mild Winter Presents Unprecedented Leatherjacket Danger

UK – Farmers in Scotland and Northern England should take immediate action against leatherjackets or risk major forage problems later in the year, seed producer Barenbrug has advised.
calendar icon 20 February 2014
clock icon 2 minute read

Mild winter temperatures have allowed leatherjackets – crane fly larvae – to survive a lot higher in the soil profile, allowing them to damage roots and stems of grasses and other crops.

Normally, cold weather drives the pests lower where they are far less destructive, Barenbrug regional manager for Scotland Mhairi Dawson explained.

Agronomists are also reporting bigger larvae, which need to eat more.

She said: “If livestock farmers do not take immediate action and try and control the leatherjackets now by spraying with an approved formulation of Chlorpyrifos then they could be looking at major problems with fodder later in the year.”

But she added that ploughing can work as a cultural solution to halve leatherjacket numbers.

“Summer ploughing can destroy up to 50 per cent of leatherjackets and also expose them to predatory birds,” said Mhairi Dawson. “Also, when conditions allow, using a heavy roller can restrict leatherjackets movements.”

Furthermore, she listed high intensity grazing as a means of limiting adult laying opportunities by keeping pastures tightly grazed.

The ADAS monitoring scheme has been flagged up as a helpful tool for leatherjacket populations.

“I am checking fields daily and finding unprecedented levels of leatherjackets everywhere I look,” said Cameron Ferguson, an agronomist at Ayrshire firm Hutchinsons.

He advises farmers to walk fields and spray at the earliest opportunity.

He said that, weather permitting, this should be done before any overseeding or reseeding work is carried out.

Michael Priestley

TheCattleSite News Desk

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