Scientists are working on an enhanced method of slug control which could throw a lifeline to the farming industry and reduce the global economic impact caused by the pest.
International materials technology specialist Lucideon has joined forces with the University of Newcastle to develop a method of controlling the release of metaldehyde products.
According to the Environment Agency, metaldehyde used to kill slugs – is the pesticide that most often causes risks to drinking water sources, especially in the autumn.
It advises farmers to operate best practice to avoid pollution, stating that if metaldehyde enters watercourses it can threaten drinking water quality, which can result in disruption of water abstraction to treatment works and reservoirs.
In a bid to tackle the issue, the application of Lucideons inorganic controlled release technology (iCRT) is being researched by the biology team at the University of Newcastle headed by Dr Gordon Port.
Lucideon is looking to establish a method of delivering the pesticide using the highly targeted and controlled iCRT technology, while the university is investigating the feeding response of slugs to the materials and their efficacy.
The research team is also looking at a second, non-metaldehyde control option.
Both methods are scheduled to move into pilot trials in 2016.
Steve Newman, product manager at Lucideon, said:In some cases metaldehyde can seep into watercourses.
The early findings of the research show that by using our iCRT platform the delivery can be carefully controlled and the quantities of metaldehyde reduced considerably, meaning this situation could be resolved.
The control of slugs is of major significance globally. Without it, billions of pounds worth of damage to crops will occur,creating a serious impact on food production.
Thriving in damp environments, slugs can be found in the Northern Hemisphere from Southern Europe up to Scandinavia. They operate within the same geographical area in the Southern Hemisphere.
This research marks another area of development for Lucideons iCRT platform, which has already been accepted on the market for high value fertiliser applications.
The platform is also being developed for a specific problem in the pharmaceutical industry, where it is being utilised to tackle the global epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
Mr Newman added: Lucideons iCRT is helping to tackle some major societal issues, including within the critical area of agriculture.
By developing better fertilisers and also controlling slugs effectively we can help deliver major improvements to crop production and food security.