A pesticide used in slug pellets is to be banned because of the danger it poses to other wildlife, the Government has announced.
The ban on the outdoor use of metaldehyde, which is used to control slugs in a range of crops and in gardens, will be introduced across Britain from spring 2020.
The move follows advice from the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides and the Health and Safety Executive that metaldehyde poses an unacceptable risk to birds and mammals, the Environment Department (Defra) said.
While slugs are a top pest for gardeners and cause damage to crops including potatoes, cereals and oilseed rape, there are alternatives to using the damaging pesticide, Defra said.
Sowing seeds deeper into the soil may prevent slugs from reaching them, while alternative pesticides containing ferric phosphate provide effective control of slugs and snails without carrying the same risks to wildlife.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “I recognise that significant effort has been put into encouraging growers and gardeners to use this pesticide responsibly by the Metaldehyde Stewardship Group.
“However, the advice is clear that the risks to wildlife are simply too great – and we must all play our part in helping to protect the environment.
“I encourage companies and growers to look at the alternatives, such as ferric phosphate, which is authorised and does not carry similar risks.”
The outdoor use of metaldehyde will be phased out over 18 months so growers have time to switch over to other ways of controlling the pests.
It will be legal to sell products containing the chemical for outdoor use for the next six months, while use will be allowed for a further 12 months, Defra said.
The restrictions will also reduce the possibility of the pesticide contaminating drinking water sources and help water companies continue to meet tough water standards, although this was not a factor in the advice from the experts, Defra said.