Close up of water vole eating in field HelenWalkerz65/iStocl/Thinkstock
SEED-EATER: Unincorporated cover crop seeds are ready rations for voles and slugs.

Slugs and voles are related

No, not species-wise. But voles and slugs often dine together on cover crop seed.

While not species-related, voles and slugs often show up together at the broadcasted and unincorporated “dinner table” of cover crop seed. That assumes they survive winter, says Jim Hoorman, Northeast regional soil health specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“There’s about an 80% to 90% overlap in what they like and dislike,” he says. “The most effective best management practice, so far this year, has been the cold winter with up and down temps. It should greatly reduce vole and slug populations.”

Drilling or planting forces them to work for it. For voles, drilling large-seeded cover crops deeper than 2 inches reduces their ability to smell the seed. Most damage in the spring occurs when the soil is too wet. 

When the seed slot doesn’t close, voles and slugs can just follow the seed furrow. They both like emerging cotyledons or lush growing vegetation. If possible, delay planting until the soil dries out.

After a national NRCS webinar in March, Hoorman expects to release new slug and vole fact sheets on scouting, predators, alternative feeds and baits and BMPs through Cooperative Extension in April.

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