Growers are being urged to adhere to metaldehyde stewardship guidelines to prevent losing the most widely used active ingredient for slug control.

The plea comes as Defra, the Environment Agency and water companies backed the importance of it in UK agriculture.

The highly soluble ingredient is the main defence against slugs but is very costly for water companies to remove from extracted water to ensure it meets drinking standards.

Defra spokesman Matthew Hampshire says minimising the negative impact on agricultural and the crop protection industry will be vital.

“Our objectives are to address metaldehyde exceedances in drinking water to aim to comply with water quality legislation, as well as to minimise burdens on agriculture.”

Growers have already seen their armoury against UK agriculture’s number one pest take a hit earlier this year, following the ban of methiocarb.

However, Jo Kennedy from the Environment Agency, assures growers a UK-wide withdrawal of metaldehyde would be an absolute last resort.

“It’s not a course of action the EA currently supports or wishes to see. We are focused instead on working with other regulators and industry to find a more targeted, risk-based way of tackling the problem.”

Guidelines

Best practice guidelines have been put in place and there is a statutory maximum of 700g/ha per calendar year for metaldehyde.

In addition, the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG) has set an autumn restriction period from 1 August to 31 December when total doses are restricted to a maximum total application rate of 210g/ha of the active ingredient. This may be reduced to 160g/ha or less upon the recommendation of a BASIS-qualified adviser.

Are you at risk?

Growers can find out if land receiving slug pellet treatment is at risk by visiting the Environment Agency’s WIYBY website 

Simply enter the postcode and if the land is within a “hatched” area, click on it to find out if metaldehyde is an identified risk.