Clock ticking for future metaldehyde use With a “high-level” decision on the future use of metaldehyde expected in 2017, this autumn and winter is the final chance the industry has to demonstrate that it can reduce the level of the slug active being found in watercourses. Dominic Kilburn reports. A ministerial decision will be made next year to determine the future direction in the use of the slug pellet active metaldehyde. All water companies will report their findings to the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) in March 2017, which, in turn, will report direct to Defra – one year earlier than had been originally scheduled. And, the stark reality facing current users of metaldehyde, should the situation over exceedances not improve in the next few months, is that anything from increased regulation to an outright ban of the product could be put in place. That’s according to the DWI’s deputy chief inspector of drinking water, Milo Purcell (right) who was invited to speak at the latest briefing staged by the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group (MSG) – the
industry-led voluntary approach to manage the issue of metaldehyde in water. Mr Purcell acknowledged the gains that had been made in the stewardship of metaldehyde over the past few years, praising MSG, farmers and water companies in their approach to catchment management, however, he said that, despite “a huge amount of progress”, there had been little change in the levels of metaldehyde being found in water and that the results had not been delivered. “I want to emphasise the significance of this season in the hope it will deliver the evidence of a downward trend in metaldehyde being found in water, but it’s the cyclical nature of the exceedances being found year after year that means that we need to get concentration levels down,” he commented.
MSG guidelines – Autumn 2016 • Use minimum active per ha to avoid drainage and runoff losses • Maximum application rate 210g metaldehyde ai/ha (for additional
protection of water, suppliers/BASIS advisers may recommend rates reduced to 160g ai/ha or less) Maximum total dose from 1st August to 31st December: 210g metaldehyde ai/ha* (for additional protection of water, suppliers/BASIS advisers may recommend rates reduced to 160 g ai/ha or less) Maximum total dose rate: 700g metaldehyde ai/ha/calendar year* No pellets to be applied within 6m of a watercourse Do not apply when heavy rain is forecast If drains are flowing do not apply metaldehyde based slug pellet
• • • • •
*from any combination of metaldehyde products. 700g is also the statutory limit
“We have to look at the agricultural industry to up its game,” he stressed. Mr Purcell explained that the water companies would report their findings of the effects of metaldehyde over this coming season to the DWI in March (as they do every year) and then options would be considered, including maintaining the status quo, introducing regulation and a partial or a full ban of metaldehyde – all these are on the table, he suggested. “There’s a range of options and I’m very wary of ‘one solution for everyone’, but if we didn’t have confidence in the stewardship process then we wouldn’t have a range of options available to us. “A lot of progress has been made and we are strong supporters of all those involved in the stewardship of metaldehyde, but from my perspective these are the decisions that are coming up,” he added.
Water UK Outlining Water UK’s position at the event was Fiona Waller (right) of Affinity Water and she said that the organisation, which represents water and wastewater service providers, did not believe an outright ban on metaldehyde was required, and that nonmetaldehyde slug control techniques used in the worst affected, high risk areas where exceedances are recorded is the effective way to significantly reduce the risk. “The joint approach
to addressing metaldehyde in drinking water has delivered demonstrable benefits over the past five years or so, however the risk is still evident and all parties need to continue with the positive work,” she commented.
Slug pressure Agronomist Colin Myram (right) warned of the likelihood of high pressure from slugs this autumn and reiterated the urgent need for control strategies to be evaluated to prevent metaldehyde reaching water. “Think soil, slope and stream,” advised Mr Myram. “Think about the amount to apply, when and where, as well as the guidelines. Fill the spreader in the field, and not in the yard or on hard standing, and apply product at least 10m from the edge of the field or a watercourse,” he highlighted. He also suggested that a better way, and better use of management time for checking slug levels was to treat a single bout in a field and re-visit it the next morning to judge slug activity and numbers. “Metaldehyde is the only bait to use for this method and it also allows another check of spreading distance to avoid throwing pellets into the field edge or water. “Bait traps take up too much time at this busy period of the season and are impractical for agronomists with many farms to oversee,” he added. ■
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www.farmersguide.co.uk October 2016
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Published on Sep 27, 2016