The Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG) is pre-empting the autumn slug season with the message to ‘kill slugs, not metaldehyde’ as the active ingredient continues to be subjected to intense pressure, and exceedances in water continue to be detected.
“If metaldehyde from slug pellet applications is ending up in watercourses, then it’s not doing its job, and that’s to no one’s advantage. But this is what’s happening, and as an industry we have to act,” said Dr Paul Fogg speaking at a briefing meeting this week.
“Yet, despite high level official concerns about metaldehyde due to the fact that it is the biggest pesticide issue preventing the Environment Agency from meeting the objectives of the Water Framework Directive, it’s not a lost cause.”
Cross industry recognition of the importance of metaldehyde as the primary tool available to farmers tackling the UK’s number one pest facing arable farmers is clear. The Environment Agency’s (EA’s) senior advisor Jo Kennedy said that the EA are committed to working with Defra, other regulators, the pesticide industry, farmers and water companies to ensure the necessary action is taken. “In order to be confident of long-term compliance for metaldehyde we will need to employ extra measures in some catchments,” she said. “Above and beyond those currently promoted by MSG.”
Potential measures are currently being explored, and specific MSG advice may change in the future, further to the findings from pilot studies taking place this year. But with treatments to autumn sown oilseed rape and cereals imminent, Paul Fogg said that there are three priority MSG actions for 2013, that apply to all, but that are all the more pertinent in high risk areas.
“Use the minimum amount of active ingredient per hectare; do not use metaldehyde when the drains are flowing and heavy rain is forecast; and thirdly, stop using metaldehyde when the maximum 210g/ha limit is reached. This is the maximum single application, and also the maximum seasonal treatment level from August through to the end of December.”
He points to the Environment Agency’s ‘What’s in Your Backyard’ interactive maps as a means for individuals to find out – by entering their postcode on www.wiyby.co.uk – if they are in a high risk area. If land you farm is highlighted as a red Drinking Water Protected area (DrWPA), then you can find out if metaldehyde is a problem issue by double clicking on the red area. “But, the black hatched Safeguard Zones are equally important,” notes Paul. “These are areas upstream of a DrWPA. Find the associated red area, and again double click to see if metaldehyde is highlighted.
“The results from using www.wiyby.co.uk can help growers and advisors to create targeted slug control programmes that are up-to-date and tailored to the individual situation, whilst incorporating the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group Guidelines and best practice advice.”
MSG Chairman Dr David Cameron reiterated the MSG’s commitment to promoting best practice stewardship at farm level to prevent exceedances occurring. “Since the formation of the Group in 2008 a number of important measures have been introduced. They include the removal of the highest dose metaldehyde products, the addition of a statutory maximum rate of 700g/ha/year on the label, and the introduction of voluntary restrictions for doses applied as single and seasonal treatments.
“Specific operator training – the PA4S – has also been introduced; a 6 metre buffer zone set; and guidelines issued that clearly set out the conditions under which metaldehyde should not be used – such as when heavy rain is forecast and when drains are flowing. This has all been supported by the high profile ‘Get Pelletwise’ campaign to raise awareness and ensure best practice is communicated and understood.
“Today, the urgent need to abide by MSG best practice is more pertinent than ever,” added David.
Hazel Doonan of AIC (Agricultural Industries Confederation) stated that the AIC members have made a firm commitment to the MSG campaign, with agronomist members highlighting the importance of following the MSG IPM and stewardship measures to growers and members endeavouring to supply a range of alternative solutions where metaldehyde cannot be used.
“It is vital that the industry retains a number of active ingredients for slug control to allow products to be alternated in the interests of sustainable and long-term pesticide best practice. It is also important in terms of ensuring a constant supply of slug pellets in circumstances where demand can fluctuate drastically depending on the conditions of the season.”