Work by AHDB’s crop divisions has estimated that a lack of slug control products could potentially cost UK crop production £100 million annually.
To help sustain UK crop production, AHDB has revealed plans to invest in a programme of slug research by combining £300,000 of levy funds with potentially significantly greater external sources of funding.
Published in a new review by HGCA, AHDB’s cereals and oilseeds division, the total average annual cost to the UK industry from not using pesticides to control slugs in wheat 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 estimated average 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 crop value).
For wheat, approximately 22% of the total area is affected by slugs. The estimated average annual yield loss caused by this pest is 5% of the area affected. Without pesticides, the calculated annual tonnage lost is 53,280 tonnes, costing the industry approximately £25.5 million per year (1.1% of the total crop value).
Report author Miss Caroline Nicholls, HGCA Research and Knowledge Transfer Manager, said: “These figures highlight the economic importance of slug control to UK growers and can help regulators make informed choices relating to pesticide authorisations.”
Potato Council and HDC have also published estimates of the cost of slugs. If left totally uncontrolled, it is estimated slugs would cause losses of £53 million each year across all potato sectors. For field vegetable production, it is estimated that slugs already cause £8 million pounds of damage each year and the true cost of not treating slugs would be significantly higher.
“Based on these figures, the total average annual cost to crop production in the UK of a withdrawal of all chemical slug control options would be in excess of £100 million,” stated Miss Nicholls.
With the recent announcement that the European Union has voted to revoke the use of methiocarb, the second most commonly used molluscicide in the UK, and the close eye being kept on the most widely deployed metaldehyde-based slug pellets, AHDB has announced it intends to fund a suite of slug research projects to develop new methods for control.
Miss Nicholls said: “The AHDB crop divisions have united to fund a programme of research to improve integrated pest management (IPM) of slugs in arable, potato and field vegetable crops.”
Two calls for new research have been issued by AHDB:
For the first, £200,000 has been set aside to help growers in the relatively short term.
It is anticipated that this research will last three years and will look at how current chemical and non-chemical control approaches can be deployed to best effect across rotations.
For the second, £100,000 has been set aside to unlock further sources of funding and provide longer-term solutions.
"To maintain an acceptable level of slug control over the longer term, we need to think outside of the box.
“We hope this funding will be used to tap into the significant funding potentially available through sources such as the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform, the UK Agricultural Technologies Strategy and the UK Research Councils, such as the BBSRC.
“This funding could kick-start pioneering research to advance our knowledge of slug genomics, slug behaviour, new control techniques and novel delivery systems,” concluded Miss Nicholls.