Pest Monitoring Program Takes Next Steps - PulsePoint
April 16, 2019
Funding through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership providing expanded services for pest monitoring on the Prairies
by Megan Madden
Since 1997, the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN) has been involved in developing monitoring protocols and coordinating field crop insect monitoring for all major crops. This surveillance program is a collaborative effort between researchers from both federal and provincial prairie governments, as well as stakeholders from universities, industry, commodity associations, and producers.
“The PPMN is a highly collaborative project,” says Dr. Owen Olfert, past chair of the PPMN and retired Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). “In the course of its existence, we have learned the value of that collaboration in providing the most timely, accurate, and useful information possible to growers and agronomists.”
Meghan A. Vankosky, Research Scientist in Field Crop Entomology with AAFC says the PPMN has important plans for the future of the program. “In the next five years, we hope to use the experience gained in the past to develop forecasts for insects such as the pea leaf weevil and cabbage seedpod weevil.”
Currently, the annual maps that the PPMN produce show only the distribution and approximate abundance of these invasive weevil species from the previous growing season, and cannot be used to make predictions for the upcoming season. “By filling some knowledge gaps about the biology of these species, we hope to develop models that can be used to forecast these species between growing seasons, to help growers and agronomists make informed decisions, especially regarding the use of systemic seed treatments,” says Vankosky.
Allison Fletcher, Research Project Manager for Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) agrees that gaining a better understanding of insect outbreaks is a critical component of sustainable crop production, given the ability of insect pests to damage crops, reducing both yield and quality. “Potential risks from insect infestations can be identified on a regional basis through monitoring and surveying activities,” she says. “This provides an opportunity to increase awareness and distribute information regarding insect management, increasing the likelihood of successful on-farm Integrated Pest Management (IPM).”
The PPMN blog provides a diversity of useful links and tools for growers and agronomists at prairiepestmonitoring.blogspot.com. During the growing season, weekly updates and monitoring protocols are available online. “This type of information is also rapidly changing, by its very nature,” says Fletcher. “The various communication tools, such as the blog created for this project, allow for timely communications to growers throughout the growing season.”
Forecasts and bioclimate models produced by the PPMN can also be used to assess risk. Olfert says surveillance using consistent protocols is especially important. Here, consistent means between provinces, and between users. The PPMN has developed monitoring protocols that are available online for use by everyone on the Prairies, whether they are conducting regional surveys or simply trying to estimate risk in their own fields.
Fletcher adds that there is significant benefit to having this type of coordinated monitoring. “Successful IPM requires both on-farm and regional information. Regional level information allows for the development of risk forecasts and maps used by producers on-farm when making pest management decisions. Coordinating financial and human resources is a great way for pulse producers to maximize the benefit they receive from this type of network, relative to the funding they provide.”
Between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2019, the PPMN was funded by a consortium of industry/commodity associations, including SPG. PPMN has been successful in gaining financial support for the continuation of the program through the Integrated Crop Agronomy Cluster, funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program, and will span the next five years. This research funding is being led by Western Grains Research Foundation, with funding contributions from numerous industry commissions, including SPG and Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers. This is funded for another five years.
So what has all this research determined? According to Olfert, the pea leaf weevil was detected on the prairies in the late 1990s, first in Alberta and then in Saskatchewan in 2007. “The pea leaf weevil causes economic damage to field pea and faba bean crops and its distribution continues to spread,” he explains.
Fletcher agrees that the surveys for pea leaf weevil have been valuable in providing timely information for producers. “The forecasts, risk assessments, decision support systems, and tech transfer activities of the past five years have all created the opportunity for improved on-farm decision making for producers,” she adds. “The consistent, timely, and accurate information on pests like pea leaf weevil are important to successful pulse production.”