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The new landscape of UK slug control

After decades of being dominated by just two stalwarts of the UK slug pellet industry, the relative newcomer 3% ferric phosphates rose to the challenge that the slug stricken 2012 season posed in putting the treatment to its biggest test yet, and in gaining credence as a worthy third option.

Dr David Ellerton, Hutchinsons technical development director

After decades of being dominated by just two stalwarts of the UK slug pellet industry, the relative newcomer 3% ferric phosphates rose to the challenge that the slug stricken 2012 season posed in putting the treatment to its biggest test yet, and in gaining credence as a worthy third option. 

According to agronomy experts, Sluxx and Derrex (containing ferric phosphate) deliver a desperately needed industry solution where pellet efficacy and strong environmental credentials are central to sustaining the pellet armoury.

Speaking in Cambridge this week, Hutchinsons technical development director, Dr David Ellerton said that last year’s wet weather and high slug pressure, highlighted the significance of the addition of a robust third slug pellet option in tackling the industry’s number one pest. 

“Few need reminding of the threat posed by the kind of exploding slug populations we witnessed in 2012,” he said. “Yet if we are to effectively steward the control options currently available, then it’s clear that ferric phosphate chemistry has a vital role to play.

“And with agronomists and farmers reporting efficacy levels with ferric phosphate on a par with metaldehyde, it is clear that this newer alternative isn’t a compromise in any way.”

He emphasised the intense pressure that metaldehyde is currently under, noting that this active is subject to close scrutiny by the water companies and regulatory authorities; meaning that dose rate restrictions must be adhered to if the active is to be maintained, and further exceedances in water, avoided.

Certis marketing manager Robert Lidstone said that whilst as a business they have interests in both metaldehyde and ferric phosphate slug pellets, there is a clear case for adopting a programmed approach, coupled with cultural controls. “This offers farmers a choice and will ultimately help preserve the range of treatments currently available,” he said. 

“Sluxx (ferric phosphate) is a high quality, wet process, pasta pellet, and doesn’t have the same application restrictions as methiocarb or metaldehyde products, with no harvest interval, no buffer zone and no water related issues. It really does deliver on all fronts, and adds a welcome third and different active ingredient option. Derrex is a lower cost, high compression, dry process pellet.”

Dr Ellerton added that, given the strong environmental profile, the ferric phosphate formulations are naturally suited to applications to crops situated in vulnerable water catchment areas, on fields directly adjacent to watercourses, and for treating headlands, as well as to fields where drains are flowing and on poorly drained, heavy soils. “It also presents benefits on multi-treatment crops such as potatoes, where a following cereal crop imposes calendar year dose rate limitations for the alternatives. 

“I can see ferric phosphate becoming a component part of every integrated slug control programme,” he claimed.

Market research

Outlining recent results from independently conducted market research on slug pellet use following the 2012 season, Robert Lidstone says it backs up positive experience from farmers and agronomists who reported fields ‘greening up’ after Sluxx applications in intense slug pressure scenarios - clear evidence that slug activity has ceased.

“And whilst it was interesting to find out that the motivation for opting for ferric phosphate in control programmes was most commonly ‘environment’ and the fact that it represents an alternative active,” said Robert, “it was gratifying to see 82% of those satisfied with Sluxx, identifying that effective slug control was actually their subsequent reason for reaching that conclusion.

“This backs-up previous trials results consistently demonstrating efficacy equal to the best products based on both metaldehyde and methiocarb.”

Highly encouraged by the market research, and buoyed by the very strong autumn 2012 season for ferric phosphate, he noted that respondents clearly held the view that if a slug pellet has worked in the past, it will be employed again.“This sets down an excellent foundation for the future of ferric phosphate and the role it can play in sustaining the wider slug pellet armoury,” concluded Robert.