New DPIRD app helps growers in fight against snails and slugs

SnapBait app helps in setting up spreaders for snail and slug baiting

Pests
Snails are costing the Australian grains industry about $2 million annually in lost production. PHOTO DPIRD

Snails are costing the Australian grains industry about $2 million annually in lost production. PHOTO DPIRD

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With a single photo a new app can guide snail and slug baiting calibrations on spreaders.

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A new smartphone app is now available to help growers calibrate their spreaders when baiting for snails and slugs.

SnapBait is a simple-to-use app that uploads photos taken by a smartphone to determine the rates for spreading.

Developed by Western Australia's Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD), the app is free to download and is available to growers across Australia.

DPIRD entomologist Svetlana Micic says snails and slugs are becoming an increasing problem for cropping enterprises across Australia's southern grain growing regions.

Recent GRDC investment in research into snails and slugs identified the importance of in-paddock baiting as one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to tackle the issue.

GRDC has produced a video outlining tips for using baits as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy for snails and slugs in WA.

It has also produced a video about the best timing of baiting, featuring South Australian Research and Development Institute snails and slugs specialist Michael Nash.

Getting set up

Ms Micic says it's critical to calibrate spreader machinery to ensure adequate bait levels are applied and that baits are evenly spread.

She says the more even the bait distribution, the more likely pest slugs and snails will encounter the bait.

"Growers have told us that calibrating their spreaders can be time-consuming, so we designed this app to measure the number of baits per square metre," Ms Micic says.

The amount of bait applied is determined by the swathe width (spread width), the speed and settings of the spreader.

A cochlicella barbara or small conical snail, which is widespread in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. PHOTO DPIRD

A cochlicella barbara or small conical snail, which is widespread in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia. PHOTO DPIRD

SnapBait can be used to calibrate the spreader by analysing photos taken across the swathe width. This will give the rate of hectare per bait and the distribution of the bait.

"This is far more convenient than manually counting baits," Ms Micic says.

"The app is easy to use and includes on-the-go tips and 12 sample photos to test-run its functionality."

Tips for optimal app use

DPIRD entomologist Svetlana Micic. PHOTO GRDC

DPIRD entomologist Svetlana Micic. PHOTO GRDC

To use the SnapBait app, Ms Micic says to spread the baits across a gravel or bitumen road, or an area of concrete - or something similar - with a plain background.

"Using their smartphones, growers should take pictures at waist height of these baits and upload these photos into the app," she says.

A standard-sized card, such as a credit card, must be included in the photo for the app to use as a reference of the bait size, and users are advised to take more than one photograph every metre in a transect over the spread width.

The app will calculate the rates to a broadacre scale, which will allow the growers to determine if they are under or over-baiting.

Ms Micic says snail and slug baits are a considerable expense, so it is important for baiting rates to be accurate.

"Obviously you don't want to miss large sections in the paddock if you want the process to be effective - which is why it's important to calibrate your machinery to ensure you are making the best financial decisions," Ms Micic says.

The app will save all uploaded photos, plus GPS co-ordinates, date, time and other relevant information, for future reference for use by the user.

The SnapBait app is available from the App Store or can be downloaded from Google play.

Further resources: Managing Snails - Latest Research Findings and Recommendations https://grdc.com.au/resources-and-publications/grdc-update-papers/tab-content/grdc-update-papers/2018/08/managing-snails-latest-research-findings-and-recommendations

Contact: Svetlana Micic, DPIRD, svetlana.mici@dpird.wa.gov.au

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