Farming News - Metaldehyde ban a big blow to British farmers and growers

Metaldehyde ban a big blow to British farmers and growers

19 Dec 2018
Frontdesk / Arable / Livestock

A ban on the outdoor use of metaldehyde, a pesticide used to control slugs in a range of crops and in gardens, is to be introduced across Great Britain from Spring 2020, the Environment Secretary announced today.

The decision to prohibit the use of metaldehyde, except in permanent greenhouses, follows advice from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals.

Metaldehyde ban a big blow to British farmers and growers

Slugs can cause significant damage to plants and crops, particularly potatoes, cereals and oil seed rape. However, there are other ways to mitigate their impact through soil preparation. For example, sowing the seed deeper into the soil may prevent the slugs from reaching them. There are also alternative pesticides containing ferric phosphate which provide effective control of slugs and snails without carrying the same risks to wildlife.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

“I recognise that significant effort has been put into encouraging growers and gardeners to use this pesticide responsibly by the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group. However, the advice is clear that the risks to wildlife are simply too great – and we must all play our part in helping to protect the environment.

“I encourage companies and growers to look at the alternatives, such as ferric phosphate, which is authorised and does not carry similar risks.”

The outdoor use of metaldehyde will be phased out over 18 months to give growers time to adjust to other methods of slug control. It will be legal to sell metaldehyde products for outdoor use for the next six months, with use of the products then allowed for a further 12 months.

Industry Reaction

The decision has been met with great disappointment from both the professional and amateur metaldehyde stewardship groups.

David Cameron, chairman of the group representing professional uses, the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG), says the news comes as a blow to the agricultural industry, who have worked collaboratively to safeguard this key active ingredient for slug control, since 2008.

Ben Shapiro, representing the Amateur Metaldehyde Stewardship group (MSA) says; “We are continuing to consult with Defra surrounding the sell-out period for the amateur uses of metaldehyde products.

Guy Smith, NFU Deputy President, said: “Today’s announcement is very disappointing and will have a major impact on British farmers and growers. These products have been reauthorised for use in 21 EU member states and this ban is another decision that will have an impact on food production in this country. It simply gifts a competitive advantage to farmers abroad who will export into our markets using crop protection materials banned in the UK.

“Slugs are a significant pest for agricultural and horticultural crops like oilseed rape, cereals and potatoes which, if left unchecked, can cause considerable damage. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has estimated that a lack of slug control products could cost UK crop production £100 million a year.

“Metaldehyde products play a key role as part of an integrated approach to slug control. Farmers are acutely aware of the need to use these products judiciously and to ensure their use has minimal impact on the environment. In autumn 2017, the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group introduced enhanced stewardship guidelines to help increase protection of watercourses and minimise the risk to other wildlife. Uptake of, and engagement with, these enhanced guidelines has been high and initial observations suggest that less metaldehyde was used in autumn 2017.

“Farmers and growers already use a holistic approach to slug control to keep the use of slug pellets to a minimum. While ferric phosphate can be used as an alternative slug control treatment it is possible that resistance could develop, as we have seen with other pesticide products when alternatives have been removed and farmers and growers have been left to rely on one active ingredient.”