A new testing facility for pesticides has been launched by Fera, in partnership with the Centre from Crop Health and Protection (CHAP).
Opening the facility, based near York and supported by Innovate UK, Kevin Hollinrake MP says: “Farming decisions going forward should be based on science and there is no better example than this of how we can get the best science and make the best decisions. Crucially we need to blend productivity, profitability and to improve the environment.”
The testing facility is known as an E-Flows mesocosm. It is an outdoor experimental system that can simulate natural aquatic environments such as ponds, ditches and streams under controlled conditions. Mesocosms are used by the agrochemicals industry during the development and registration process to demonstrate that their product is safe for aquatic environments, according to Fera.
Historically, many standard mesocosms have lacked the scale, water flow and realism of real-life aquatic environments. These small and constrained studies also encounter high levels of variation across repetitions which results in the data having poor statistical power, according to Dr Rachel Benstead, senior aquatic ecotoxicologist at Fera.
She says: “Large mesocosm units are better able to support diverse aquatic communities.
“If we can give regulators better data they are more likely to approve actives.”
The E-Flows mesocosm provides a test-bed of 60 realistic streams, each up to two metres wide and 10 metres long. Flow can be varied according to the water body the facility is emulating with fresh water flowing through a closed system, explains Fera.
Currently the facility, said to be the largest in Europe, is undergoing testing but there has been considerable interest from industry, according to Steve Mattock, senior ecotoxicologist. “We hope to begin conducting studies sometime in 2019.”