Slug damage could cost the UK agricultural industry more than £100m a year according to a recent report, prompting plans for more research into controlling the pest.

Work carried out by AHDB shows that a lack of slug control products could have devastating effects on the industry and work is needed to help mitigate the problem.

The second most commonly used molluscicide, methiocarb, is set to be banned and with increasing pressure on metaldehyde, fears over the lack of control are growing.

To help sustain UK crop production, the AHDB has revealed plans to invest in a programme of slug research by combining £300,000 of levy funds with potential external sources of funding.

See also: Spud growers to be hit hard by slug pellet ban

The £300,000 levy funds would be split, with £200,000 helping growers in the short-term by looking at how chemical and non-chemical control approaches can be deployed across rotations.

The remaining £100,000 is set to unlock further sources of funding and provide longer-term solutions.

“To maintain an acceptable level of slug control over the longer term, we need to think outside of the box,” says report author Caroline Nicholls, HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager.

“These figures highlight the economic importance of slug control to UK growers and can help regulators make informed choices relating to pesticide authorisations.”
Caroline Nicholls, HGCA research and knowledge transfer manager

The findings have been published in a review by HGCA and AHDB’s cereals and oilseeds division. This shows the total average annual cost to the UK industry from not using pesticides to control slugs in wheat and oilseed rape is estimated to be £43.5m/year.

“These figures highlight the economic importance of slug control to UK growers and can help regulators make informed choices relating to pesticide authorisations,” says Miss Nicholls.

The Potato Council and the Horticultural Development Company have also published estimates of the cost of slugs, which showed if left totally uncontrolled, slugs would cause losses of £53m each year across all potato sectors.

“Based on these figures, the total average annual cost to crop production in the UK of a withdrawal of all chemical slug control options would be in excess of £100m,” stated Miss Nicholls.