Time is running out to be paid for cutting out metaldehyde

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Farmers in the Midlands have until 15 September to apply for the final Farm to Tap scheme, focused on protecting water from metaldehyde.

The Severn Trent scheme encourages farmers with stocks of metaldehyde, to dispose of them safely, and instead use Integrated Pest Management (IPM), or if pressures are high, ferric phosphate alternatives.

Farm to Tap has run for six years and has been a huge success for the water company, with over 840 farms having signed up, resulting in a 60% reduction in metaldehyde peaks in the region. Due to its success, an updated version of the scheme will be relaunched for 2022, focusing on other pesticides.

Laura Flower, Severn Trent senior catchment management scientist, reminds farmers of this year’s grant offer.

“To help farmers make this switch, we’re offering up to £5/ha of winter wheat or oilseed rape. This will be paid out to farms in priority catchments that maintain drinking water standard targets,” she says.

Using an IPM approach

“Utilising an IPM approach can deliver more than just slug control. With benefits to soil health as well as cutting your carbon footprint, IPM can boost soil infiltration and biodiversity – all likely key parts of the new Sustainable Farming Incentive.”

Ms Flower explains that an effective IPM strategy should be holistic, taking all crop management aspects into account. 

“When setting out an IPM plan it’s essential to analyse the risk factors associated with slug damage before considering the most suitable cultural control options,” she says.

“Cultural controls, including choosing cultivation methods that produce a fine consolidated seedbed, or straw removal, can reduce slug habitats and minimise overall pressure.

“Another important element of any IPM strategy is to monitor slug pressure by trapping and comparing your results to thresholds, to help inform whether you need to treat or not. Record keeping is also essential, as this will aid forward planning and help improve programmes for the next year,” says Ms Flower.

Farm to Tap brings about change of mindset

One farmer who has been reaping the benefits of cutting out metaldehyde since 2014 is North Warwickshire-based Charles Antrobus.

Mr Antrobus explains that he was initially unsure about working with a water company but has seen nothing but benefits over the past seven years.

“We’ve always received a Farm to Tap payment, whether that’s the full amount for keeping metaldehyde levels below the drinking water standard, or a reduced amount from maintaining the standard,” he says.

Mr Antrobus explains that the payments helped him to trial new approaches to slug control. “The scheme has encouraged us to think differently about farming practices, with the financial ‘helping hand’ and advice from our Severn Trent agricultural adviser, Una McBride. 

“In all our farming practices we now choose options that not only maintain productivity, but also those that are most beneficial to the environment. Six years ago, we didn’t know much about ferric phosphate, but working with Severn Trent has not only taught us the benefits of it over metaldehyde, but also what other IPM practices can be used to keep slugs at bay,” he says.

Mr Antrobus adds that he will continue to be a part of the new refreshed Farm to Tap scheme next year, to help further cut down on his remaining pesticide use, should his farm meet the new criteria that is currently in development. 

Farm to Tap 

  • Available for farmers in Severn Trent priority catchments
  • Applications open until 15 September 2021
  • Up to £5/ha available for sub-catchments that meet reduction targets
  • Advice and support available from expert agricultural advisers
  • Check your eligibility and register here:https://www.stwater.co.uk/about-us/environment/catchment-management/farm-to-tap/.
  • From 2022 Farm to Tap will be refocused to target other pesticides

 

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.