The UK’s largest metaldehyde-free farming trial has been expanded after first year results showed a 60% drop in levels of the chemical detected in reservoir tributaries.
Year two of Anglian Water’s Slug It Out campaign will see it extended to include Rutland - the largest natural catchment in the UK for a reservoir at 7,500 hectares - effectively doubling the trial’s hectarage.
The trial will continue for a second year in the natural catchments for six reservoirs in Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. Farmers in these areas will be asked to agree to use alternative slug control options to metaldehyde on their land.
Last year, Anglian Water’s team of advisors worked with 89 individual farmers. The trial area removed an estimated 1,613kg of metaldehyde from the farmed landscape, bringing average levels in reservoir tributaries down by 60%, according to the water company.
Slug It Out was launched to look at how levels of metaldehyde in rivers and reservoirs could be brought below the strict European standard of 0.1 micrograms per litre (or parts per billion) in treated water.
In the past, levels in reservoirs in the region regularly exceed this and removing metaldehyde through treatment is currently not possible. Metaldehyde is not harmful to humans at current concentrations but its presence at the levels found means UK drinking water breaches quality standards, said Anglian Water.
Lucinda Gilfoyle, catchment strategy manager for Anglian Water, said: “We’ve made great strides in the first year of the trial, which at this scale, was an industry first – not only for Anglian Water but for both the water and farming industries as a whole.
“Thanks to the proactive reception and cooperation from the farmers in our region, we’ve built a valuable picture of pesticide movement on individual farms and proved metaldehyde alternatives really do work in tackling slug damage.”