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.
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.
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.
Possible catchment options available:
Source: Affinity Water
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.
Source: Colin Myram/MSG