Article by Shamela Rambadan, CABI Country Coordinator.
In Trinidad and Tobago many Plantwise plant clinics have been implemented to provide free information and advice to smallholder farmers. To date there are 8 plant clinics in Trinidad and 2 are planned for Tobago. CABI Plantwise is partnered with the Ministry of Food Production with extension workers from the Ministry and the Department of Agriculture in Tobago trained by CABI to become plant doctors at local plant clinics. The plant doctors diagnose plant pest and diseases and provide recommendations as to the control. For plant samples that require further identification they are sent to the diagnostic facility at the Ministry of Food Production in Trinidad.
The plant clinic at St George West County Extension Office in Trinidad and Tobago recently received Merleen, a householder in desperate need to control the slug population on her prized Anthuriums. Merleen came to the clinic to seek advice to resolve the pest problem without the use of harsh chemicals. She noted that many of her Anthuriums died once the slugs started feeding on the leaves and has subsequently lost 24 out of 50 plants since the onset of the slug battle in September 2012. Merleen explained that in an attempt to control the slug population she would go out into her garden late at night armed with a flashlight to identify the slugs and table salt which she applied directly onto the slugs in order to destroy them. Despite a small reduction in population, the slugs kept coming back night after night.
Upon visit to the plant clinic, Merleen brought with her a Anthurium plant sample in a pot along with a sample of the slugs. With this evidence CABI Country Coordinator Shamela Rambadan was able to determine the problem. With the high presence of slug eggs identified it was clear that Merleen had solely been eradicating the adults and not the eggs, therefore the slug problem had persisted. The extent of root damage to the Anthuriums was also discovered. Plant doctor Frankie Solomon recommended manual removal of the slugs as well as setting traps on the ground using shallow containers filled with beer. This along with a thorough explanation of how to care for the existing plants and how to set up the traps was given. Merleen was also told that salt can have toxic effects on plants and was advised against its use.
A follow-up telephone conversation took place two weeks after the clinic visit. Merleen noted that she was able to trap many slugs using the slug trap recommended by Frankie Solomon. She also stated that she was very pleased with the quality of service provided and the level of attention given to her by the staff at the plant clinic.