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Farming must act now on metaldehyde

Metaldehyde slug pellet applications made this autumn will be the last ahead of a Government review of future use of the active ingredient in spring 2017 – a year earlier than originally planned.

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With metaldehyde continuing to be detected during water quality sampling it now seems likely growers in high risk areas will face a ban on use of the slug control active.


Water companies were originally due to report their progress on tackling metaldehyde contamination of watercourses to the Government’s Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) in March 2018 but that date has now been moved forward by 12 months as a result of changes to the water industry planning timetable.


The news comes at a critical point in the agricultural timetable for slug pellet applications, as growers seek to protect establishing crops this autumn.

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The revised metaldehyde timetable

  • Autumn 2016 – final season to generate evidence of benefits of catchment management prior to development of guidance for water industry business plans
  • Spring 2017 – submission of water company reports to Drinking Water Inspectorate detailing the benefits of activities delivered to date. Review of effectiveness of autumn 2016 measures
  • Date to be confirmed – consultation paper issued by Defra on options available to manage metaldehyde

Source: MSG

Speaking at a briefing organised by the slug pellet manufacturers’ Metaldehyde Stewardship Group, DWI deputy chief inspector Milo Purcell acknowledged the progress made by the MSG, water companies and farmers and advisers in devising and implementing initiatives to reduce levels of metaldehyde in water.


But the active ingredient was still being detected at levels above the very stringent standard set by the Drinking Water Directive.


Mr Purcell said: “Little progress has been made in reducing metaldehyde in raw water at a national level. Outcomes are not being delivered.


“In terms of where we are now, we have to look at the agricultural industry to up its game.”


Fiona Waller, head of water quality at Affinity Water, said water company catchment management reports submitted next spring would inform policymakers.


“There are many locations where metaldehyde-based slug pellets deliver a good, effective and reliable pest control solution. But there are some parts of the landscape where their use is more of a problem.


‘What we are looking to see is a situation that maintains access to metaldehyde for the vast majority of farmers but we must acknowledge there will need to be restrictions to metaldehyde application in some fields,” she said.

Managing metaldehyde

Possible catchment options available:

  • Product substitution – voluntary/paid
  • High risk only or all arable fields
  • Payment for ecosystem (PES) options
  • Abstraction management
  • Treatment pilot trials

Source: Affinity Water

Prepare for high slug pressure this autumn

Prepare for high slug pressure this autumn

Farmers and agronomists are being urged to prepare for high slug pressure this autumn and should consider evaluating control strategies to prevent metaldehyde reaching watercourses.


According to Suffolk-based agronomist Colin Myram slugs have thrived as a result of the mild winter and wet weather this year and populations could approach the very high levels seen in 2012.


“This is a concern, especially with the increasing pressure on water companies to reduce metaldehyde exceedances in water,” he says.


He advises that there are, however, a number of cultural control approaches which can help limit slug damage, including drilling deeper and rolling to consolidate seedbeds.


Predicting the timing of slug attacks, however, can be difficult, Mr Myram acknowledges.


Bait trapping is an option but is not practical over large areas; an alternative option is to treat a single bout.

Predicting slug attack – an alternative approach to baiting

  • Treat a single bout in a field – check next morning to judge slug activity and numbers (can only use metaldehyde for this)
  • Also allows another check of spreading distance to avoid throwing pellets into field edge or watercourse
  • More practical in management time

Source: Colin Myram/MSG

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