Targeted treatment techniques for slugs will be refined, thanks to continued investment by AHDB.
The fresh injection of funds will help develop approaches to predict where slug patches are most likely to form in arable fields.
The new project will also explore the potential to modify off-the-shelf technology to assist with the application of molluscicides to the most slug-prone parts of a field.
Charlotte Rowley, who manages pest research at AHDB, said: “Plans to withdraw metaldehyde-based slug pellets were derailed earlier this year, but authorisation remains fragile.
“There is tremendous interest in more precise application, as it will help reduce input costs and pollution risks to watercourses. It will also increase the viability of options associated with higher treatment costs, such as ferric phosphate and biological control.”
The team at Harper Adams University will build on an AHDB-funded PhD project that used radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag technology to monitor slug movements.
The student found that, despite varying in size, patches were sufficiently stable for targeted treatment. Slug patches could also be located using commonly assessed soil characteristics, according to the research.
The latest £120,000 investment will be used to identify the optimum combination of soil characteristics needed to pinpoint patch locations. It will also be used to investigate how to create targeted application plans based on soil maps.
By working with industry, the team will also identify commercially available technology that can be adapted to allow the variable application of slug treatments.
Charlotte said: “This is an ambitious and exciting project that aims to develop a complete system for targeted slug treatment. Critically, the commercial viability of this system will be looked at throughout the project.”
The new project is entitled: ‘Development of a commercially viable and environmentally sustainable approach to slug control’ (project number 21120078). Funded by a contract for £120,000 from AHDB, the project started in August 2019 and will finish in April 2021.
The PhD project is entitled: ‘Utilising slug distribution to develop precision application’ (project number 2140009118). Funded by a contract for £34,000 by AHDB, the work started in October 2015 and finished in September 2018.
UK metaldehyde withdrawal key deadlines:
31 December 2020: deadline for the sale and distribution of metaldehyde slug pellets
31 December 2021: deadline for the disposal, storage and use-up of existing stocks