trial farmers needed

One year on from the launch of a project to find solutions to UK agriculture’s £45m slug control problem, farmers are being invited to sign up for trials to take the research to the next level.

A “remarkable” set of data relating to slug behaviour has already been collected from 26 farms across England and Scotland as part of the first year of Strategies Leading to Improved Management and Enhanced Resilience against Slugs (SLIMERS).

But ambition levels are being raised for years two and three with the goal of developing new and sustainable solutions to tackle arable farming’s biggest pest.

Following a ban on metaldehyde, which was used to control slugs for decades, protecting the future of the last remaining chemical control – ferric phosphate pellets – has become of paramount importance.

SLIMERS, a £2.6M Defra-funded project, aims to reduce reliance on pellet usage through precision application of treatments to slug hotspots, and advance alternative biological control.

The British On-Farm Innovation Network (BOFIN) is now recruiting more so-called ‘slug sleuths’ who will be paid to take part in on-farm monitoring and trials to test the results from year one.

“We were delighted with the quality and quantity of data collected in year one which really proves how valuable farmer-led research is,” says BOFIN founder Tom Allen-Stevens.

“Now it’s all about taking what we’ve learnt and testing it on more farms in different locations, and we’ll be paying farmers to do that work for us.”

Prof Keith Walters from Harper Adams University says year two of the project will be about working with real-life farming situations to understand the commercial viability of new techniques to control the pest.

“We know that slugs gather in patches and that this is related to soil factors,” Prof Walters said. “Populations are higher in the middle of the patch than at the edge, so we need to understand better where the boundaries are. This could then guide where the pelleter is turned on and off for maximum effect.

“We are also looking at soil maps to see if this data, which is already routinely collected by farmers, will create a picture of where slugs are likely to gather.

“The slug sleuths will enable us to look at the commercial restraints, and to design our own experiments. The data we have back from farms already has been remarkable. It’s high quality with hardly any missing data points, which is a real gong for on-farm trials.”

BOFIN is also urging farmers to use the Slug Circle – a platform and knowledge exchange hub designed to facilitate discussion, idea sharing and tips for best practice.

“This does not involve doing project trials but is a great place to share information and ask questions about slug control,” Tom added.

More information about the project, including links to project partners – CHAP, John Innes Centre, Harper Adams University and Agrivation – can be found at

The project is funded by Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme (FIP), delivered by Innovate UK.


Notes to editors

  • Strategies Leading to Improved Management and Enhanced Resilience Against Slugs (SLIMERS) is a three-year £2.6M research programme involving more than 100 UK farms and six partners.
  • The project aims are to develop two commercial services from current proof-of-concept technologies: patch prediction and precision mapping, and autonomous slug treatment using nematodes.
  • The project is steered by science, guided by robots and proven by real farm enterprises, with the potential to make a significant difference to slug control strategies, with slug damage currently estimated to cost £43.5M a year.
  • BOFIN (British On-Farm Innovation Network) leads the consortium – alongside technical lead, CHAP – that includes Harper Adams University, John Innes Centre, Agrivation and Small Robot Company.
  • SLIMERS is funded by the Small R&D Partnership Projects, part of Defra’s Farming Innovation Programme. Defra are working in partnership with Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, who are delivering the programme. Project number: 10053286
  • Innovate UK is the UK’s national innovation agency. Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. It connects businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. More information about Innovate UK can be found at:
  • Farmers are encouraged to join the Slug Circle community, a platform and knowledge exchange hub. For more, visit
  • All press enquiries for SLIMERS should be directed to BOFIN Farmers, or contact Skye Melita (, 07483 238577)

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