Metaldehyde pack size cap could lead to alternative controls

The pack size of metaldehyde slug-killer pellets will be capped at 250g for sale to gardeners from mid 2018, which could signal a switch to alternative controls for the pests.

Following new Health & Safety Executive stipulations, the two manufacturers of metaldehyde slug pellets for amateur use, Doff Portland and Chiltern Farm Chemicals, will reduce size of product packs to a maximum of 250g for the 2018 season. The new packs will launch at the Glee trade show at Birmingham NEC (11-13 September 2017). New Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stipulations have prompted the move.

There will be a sell-through grace period that will enable retailers to wind down stocks of existing 800g and 1kg packs over the 2018 season. This could lead to gardeners switching to ferric phosphate as an alternative to slug killer, with slugs and snails being persistently the most complained about garden pest. Metaldehyde is toxic to wildlife and pets.

The HSE said: "Authorisation holders for amateur use products containing metaldehyde will be moving to smaller pack sizes in future. These changes are consistent with Chemical Regulation Division recommendations." 

The Crop Protection Association advised: "Where you need to supplement natural predators through the use of slug pellets then it’s crucial that you follow the common sense approach by reading the label carefully, avoiding over application and only applying slug pellets thinly around plants that need to be protected. Properly used slug pellets are a safe and highly-effective way of controlling slugs."

Neudorff director Jude Beharall said ferric phosphate, which is in Neudorff’s Sluggo product and barriers such as Vitax’s Slug Gone wool pellets, could ultimately replace metaldehyde, although he added that large control companies such as Scotts, Westland and SBM are likely to step into the market from later 2018.

He said the threat of smaller pack sizes could lead to lower prices for metaldehyde products in 2018 as wholesalers and retailers try to sell out stocks of large packs. Neudorff is set to extend its Sluggo range at Glee 2017. Beharall added that the metaldehyde issue is overtaking glyphosate as a legislative debate.

Monsanto has launched a new type of glyphosate-free Roundup for sale in Austrian, German and French garden centres, using acetic acid instead. A Roundup spokesperson said there are "no plans at this stage" for a UK launch, but increasing restrictions and legislation around actives are making manufacturers think hard about introducing alternatives.

Glyphosate is due to come up for a 10-year EU re-registration in late 2017 or early 2018. Some studies have cited the chemical as a carcinogenic, which other studies from the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency contradict.

Beharall said: "Everyone will be leveraging big packs in a final flourish, but for Glee 2018 it would be safe to say everyone will be trying to obtain their own ferric phosphate licences. Everyone will focus on ferric phosphate then."

Richard Jackson, gardening presenter on television shopping channel QVC, said demand for less harsh chemical garden controls has been building for three years. "We introduced iron phosphate slug pellets on QVC around three years ago and have sold over 100,000 packs of them so far. Encouraged by the demand, we introduced a 'Garden Health Kit' this year as a special pack containing the slug pellets plus ant killer and pest-control concentrate, all of which are approved for organic gardening, together with a precision sprayer. It launched on Easter Sunday and sales have exceeded our expectations to date."

Jackson said the kit provides gardeners with the organic solution to garden pest problems including slugs, snails, ants, greenfly and lily beetle. Neudorff is the supplier.

Included in the kit are:

  • Organic slug pellets based on naturally occurring iron phosphate
  • Organic ant control granules containing natural pyrethrum derived from the chrysanthemum flower that can be either scattered dry or dissolved in water to reach the ant nests
  • Organic pest-control concentrate based on natural pyrethrum to help protect plants against pests including greenfly, blackfly lily beetle and caterpillars
  • A 2.5-litre precision sprayer with a special trigger action and metal lance for extra easy application. The three organic products have been certified for organic use by Organic Farmers & Growers.

In August 2016, the Health & Safety Executive issued Amateur (Home Garden) Pesticides Guidance on Pack Size Limits, and stated: "The pack size of all amateur products must be limited to the maximum that would be used in a typical garden in one season. This will help to ensure that most products are used up within one or two seasons."

Garden size was given as:

  • 200sq m lawn
  • 50sq m ornamentals
  • 50sq m edibles
  • 50sq m paths/patio.

Meanwhile, the RHS has announced its endorsement of three "chemical-free" lawn fertiliser products — Viano MO Bacter, Viano Bio-Lime and Viano Recovery. All three are manufactured by Viano in Belgium and distributed in the UK by DJ Turfcare Equipment.

Viano MO Bacter is an organic-based, slow-release fertiliser for lawns that destroys moss by secondary action. It claims to "contain no chemicals, is child- and pet-friendly and will not harm plants and shrubs".

Viano Bio-Lime combats the acidic and sour conditions that can be ideal environments for moss to become established in lawns, sweetening the soil and raising its pH. It also contains magnesium for winter colour. Viano Recovery is an organic fertiliser containing Humifirst, an ingredient that creates biological activity and acts as a plant-growth stimulant. The product is designed for use before laying turf, before seeding and as an autumn feed, as well as after drought, hard play or scarification.

All three products will be available from September onwards. RHS licensing executive Shereen Llewellin said: "All RHS-endorsed products have to meet very high standards but especially chemical-free gardening products. These Viano/DJ Turfcare products are both effective and environmentally safe."

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