Arable News

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New research call for slug control as AHDB flags up potential 100 million annual cost to industry

Work byAHDBs crop divisions has estimated that a lack of slug control products couldpotentially cost UK crop production 100 million annually.


To helpsustain UK crop production, AHDB has revealed plans to invest in a programme ofslug research by combining 300,000 of levy funds with potentiallysignificantly greater external sources of funding.


Published ina new review by HGCA, AHDBs cereals and oilseeds division, the total averageannual cost to the UK industry from not using pesticides to control slugs inwheat and oilseed rape (OSR) alone is estimated to be 43.5 million per year.


For OSR,approximately 59% of the total area is affected by slugs and the estimatedaverage annual yield loss caused by this pest is 4% of the area affected.Without pesticides, the calculated annual tonnage lost is 54,354 tonnes,costing the industry approximately 18 million per year (2.4% of the total cropvalue).


For wheat,approximately 22% of the total area is affected by slugs. The estimated averageannual yield loss caused by this pest is 5% of the area affected. Withoutpesticides, the calculated annual tonnage lost is 53,280 tonnes, costing theindustry approximately 25.5 million per year (1.1% of the total crop value).


Reportauthor Miss Caroline Nicholls, HGCA Research and Knowledge Transfer Manager,said: These figures highlight the economic importance of slug control to UKgrowers and can help regulators make informed choices relating to pesticideauthorisations.


PotatoCouncil and HDC have also published estimates of the cost of slugs. If lefttotally uncontrolled, it is estimated slugs would cause losses of 53 millioneach year across all potato sectors. For field vegetable production, it isestimated that slugs already cause 8 million pounds of damage each year andthe true cost of not treating slugs would be significantly higher.


Based onthese figures, the total average annual cost to crop production in the UK of awithdrawal of all chemical slug control options would be in excess of 100million, stated Miss Nicholls.


With therecent announcement that the European Union has voted to revoke the use ofmethiocarb, the second most commonly used molluscicide in the UK, and the closeeye being kept on the most widely deployed metaldehyde-based slug pellets, AHDBhas announced it intends to fund a suite of slug research projects to developnew methods for control.


MissNicholls said: The AHDB crop divisions have united to fund a programme ofresearch to improve integrated pest management (IPM) of slugs in arable, potatoand field vegetable crops.


Two callsfor new research have been issued by AHDB:


For thefirst, 200,000 has been set aside to help growers in the relatively shortterm.


It isanticipated that this research will last three years and will look at howcurrent chemical and non-chemical control approaches can be deployed to besteffect across rotations.


For thesecond, 100,000 has been set aside to unlock further sources of funding andprovide longer-term solutions.


“Tomaintain an acceptable level of slug control over the longer term, we need tothink outside of the box.


We hopethis funding will be used to tap into the significant funding potentiallyavailable through sources such as the Sustainable Agriculture and FoodInnovation Platform, the UK Agricultural Technologies Strategy and the UKResearch Councils, such as the BBSRC.


Thisfunding could kick-start pioneering research to advance our knowledge of sluggenomics, slug behaviour, new control techniques and novel delivery systems,concluded Miss Nicholls.


For furtherinformation on the research calls, visit the Procurement pages ofthe AHDB website.


For furtherinformation on HGCAs review of slug control (Research Review 79), visit


For furtherinformation on Potato Councils estimates of the cost of slugs, read ResearchReport 415.


For furtherinformation on the cost of slugs in field vegetable production, read HDCFactsheet 02/09.



  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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