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Viable slug control as options reduce

With slug pressure forecast to be reminiscent of 2012 and as available slug control options decrease, it is crucial that growers plan control programmes now in anticipation of the season ahead.

With slug pressure forecast to be reminiscent of 2012 and as available slug control options decrease, it is crucial that growers plan control programmes now in anticipation of the season ahead.

As further pressure is placed on metaldehyde and with the impending loss of methiocarb, ferric phosphate is being presented as a desperately needed industry solution where pellet efficacy and strong environmental credentials are central to sustaining the pellet armoury.

“Sluxx (ferric phosphate) is a high quality, wet process, pasta pellet, and doesn’t have the same application restrictions as methiocarb or metaldehyde products,” notes Certis’ Technical Officer, Nigel Riches. “With no harvest interval, no buffer zone and no water related issues, it really does deliver on all fronts, making it an attractive choice.”

Given the strong environmental profile, ferric phosphate formulations are naturally suited for 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.”

The Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG) came into being after exceedances of the active ingredient, above the drinking water standard of 0.1 parts per billion, were detected in water in 2008.

Certis Marketing Manager Robert Lidstone comments, “The guidelines were introduced as a proactive industry measure, to ensure that the limit on metaldehyde use was not exceeded and to reduce, and ultimately prevent, this active ingredient reaching watercourses.”

He says that whilst as a business Certis has 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.”

Robert adds that few need reminding of the threat posed by the kind of exploding slug populations witnessed in 2012. “As we approach slug season, with the prediction of another high slug pressure year, it is important that dose rate restrictions are adhered to if the metaldehyde is to be maintained, and further exceedances in water, avoided.

“Yet if we are to effectively steward the control options currently available, then it’s clear that ferric phosphate has a vital role to play.

“We’ve had strong, positive feedback from both 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 concludes.

Case in point

James Green, Farm Manager at Roding Valley Farming Ltd based in Essex, has been using ferric phosphate as a tool in their slug control armoury for the past two years.

“We switched to ferric phosphate to gain complete control of the slugs during the high pressure season in 2012. We now routinely use Sluxx on the headlands, on our winter wheat and oilseed rape crops, whilst continuing to employ metaldehyde as part of a programmed approach.”  

James adds that for them, it is vital to remain in line with the MSG guidelines, “Ferric phosphate’s strong environmental profile enables us to get the coverage without leading to detections in watercourses.”

In 2012, James conducted a non-scientific field trial to compare ferric phosphate and metaldehyde. “We compared four metaldehyde applications to two metaldehyde and two Sluxx, and found that slug grazing stopped across both sides of the field; control was comparable and effective.

“We’ve been very pleased with the results in general. Sluxx also spreads well and the pellets last longer in wet conditions, controlling slugs equally as well as metaldehyde,” he concludes.