Grains industry to benefit from snail eradication research

Australian researchers have found an environmentally-friendly means of eradicating the land sail – a major pest to the Australian grains industry. 

The researchers, from Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, used nematodes as a form of bait to poison the snail. 

Lead researcher and plant pathologist, Professor Gavin Ash, at CSU, said the method was similar to a natural process that occurs between nematods and slugs.

“Under the microscope, you can see the nematode swim into the gut of a snail and burrow into it and release bacteria,” Prof.Gavin Ash said in a statement. “The snail gets ‘blood poisoning’ and dies."

The land snail, which can be classified into four species (Cochlicella Barbara, Theba pisana, Cochicilla acuta and Cernuella virgata), is a pest to the grains industry because it infests wheat crops, pulses, vineyards and pastures in southern Australia, clogging up machinery and threatening vital grain export markets.

The snail was first found in South Australia, and later moved into western Victoria in 2009 in grain consignments.

According to Prof. Ash, the next stage of the research project, which is expected to continue for another year, will be to commercialise the idea of using nematodes as bait to kill-off snails.

Previous eradication methods that have been trialed include the use of stubble burn-offs and parasitic flies imported from France. However, Prof. Ash said these methods were either unsuccessful or harmful to the environment. 

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