Objective: This Operational Group will test integrated pest management (IPM) strategies to control leatherjackets to below economically damaging levels on grassland farms. To do this the group will consider how leatherjacket populations respond to sward age, grazing strategies, soil conditions, weather conditions, biotic factors etc. and investigate how various agronomical activities impact on these populations. The feasibility of linking these IPM strategies to a weather-based prediction service will also be considered. (600 max)

Activities:

• Determine the number and species of leatherjacket present within the study areas.

• Assess impact of leatherjackets on grassland within the study areas

• Determine correlations between influencing factors and leatherjacket prevalence

• Identify feasible and practical mitigation strategies

• Validate Predictive Model 

• Disseminate project activity and results (600 max)

Context: Leatherjackets (the larvae of crane fly) feed on the roots and stems of grass or cereal plants and can cause significant damage from loss of yield and the presence of large bare patches. In particular, grass reseeds and new leys can be devastated if leatherjackets are not controlled. Grassland covers 92% of the utilised agricultural area in Northern Ireland and is the principal and cheapest feed for the ruminant livestock sector.

The destruction of grass by leatherjackets can therefore have a significant effect on the profitability of dairy, beef and sheep farms. For the past 40 years leatherjackets were controlled by agrochemicals containing chlorpyrifos (e.g. Dursban), however, approval for use of products containing this active substance in grassland was withdrawn in 2016. A move to pre-emptive mitigation strategies is required but there is very little currently known about this or their effectiveness. (1500 max)