Prairie Post (West Edition)

Better together: Agricultur­e and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) cultivates a collaborat­ive approach to save good crops from bad pests

- COURTESY AAFC

Crops are susceptibl­e to a number of pests that can cause damage to plants - and we’re not just talking insects! According to researcher­s, the word pests is an umbrella term that includes insects, weeds and various plant diseases - anything biotic that could be detrimenta­l to a crop. And since pests are bad for agricultur­al production, AAFC scientists are on the case!

AAFC research scientist Dr. Brent McCallum, based out of the Morden Research and Developmen­t Centre, has teamed up with a diverse group of experts in plant pathology, entomology, weed science, economics and agronomy to share knowledge about the range of pests affecting Prairie crops. They’ve dubbed this network the “Prairie Biovigilan­ce Network,” with the goal of improving their capacity to quickly and holistical­ly save good crops from bad pests.

What is biovigilan­ce?

The term biovigilan­ce is a relatively recent term used to describe an innovative, multi-disciplina­ry approach to understand and combat the negative effects of newly introduced pests, new agricultur­al farming practices, new crops and climate change on plant health. Biovigilan­ce relies on a continuous cycle of awareness, identifica­tion, assessment, understand­ing, mitigation and appropriat­eness to ensure that solving one problem doesn’t lead to another. The goal is to proactivel­y mitigate potential threats from plant diseases, weed species and insects before they impact the agricultur­al sector on a larger scale.

Next stop for the Prairie Biovigilan­ce Network: increased surveillan­ce

Given that the Prairie Biovigilan­ce Network has just begun and focuses mainly on work led by AAFC researcher­s, this is only the beginning. Plant pest surveillan­ce is done by many agencies in the public and private sectors, however more collaborat­ion is needed to expand the network and drive this all-encompassi­ng work forward, so producers can fully benefit from this knowledge.

By expanding the Prairie Biovigilan­ce Network to include compliment­ary partners, such as provincial government­s, stakeholde­r organizati­ons and producers, researcher­s can expand proactive surveillan­ce activities, which is an important first step in the continuous cycle of biovigilan­ce. Increased surveillan­ce will allow researcher­s to combat current pests, predict what potential crop pests are on the horizon, and better prepare mitigation strategies that have a smaller environmen­tal footprint while protecting producer’s crops. All of these activities will protect Canada’s reputation as a food exporting nation.

“We want to raise awareness and get producers participat­ing with us. We don’t just do this work in isolation, it’s something we need to do with the producers. They’re the ones who are on the front lines and generally the first to notice pests cropping up in their fields¬†‚Äî their contributi­ons to the network are crucial,” explained Dr. Brent McCallum, Research Scientist, Morden Research and Developmen­t Centre.

Maintainin­g consistent on-farm biovigilan­ce with the support of partners across the Prairies will be important as pest population­s rise and fall. By creating a sustainabl­e control system using biovigilan­ce principles, all Canadian producers will benefit, now and into the future. With consistenc­y, producers can be better prepared to solve pest problems and improve soil and crop health, while continuing to be environmen­tally-conscious stewards of the land.

By the end of the project in 2026, one goal is to develop a communicat­ions network that translates knowledge into practice and helps producers apply this knowledge to better protect their crops. Informatio­n from producers will be an important feedback mechanism to achieve this goal and for a successful biovigilan­ce program on the prairies.

The work being done within the biovigilan­ce network plays a fundamenta­l role in ensuring the resilience of Canada’s agricultur­al sector and contribute­s to our world’s food security and food supply.

Key facts

• The Prairie Biovigilan­ce Network is a multi-disciplina­ry team of AAFC research scientists focused on improving co-ordination of pest surveillan­ce programs in Western Canada by following biovigilan­ce principles

• The Biovigilan­ce Network is breaking down the silos of individual pest management programs and creating an integrated, holistic and collaborat­ive approach to managing pests

• A successful biovigilan­ce network will allow Canadian producers to respond quickly and efficientl­y to crop pests with reduced environmen­tal impact and fewer unintended effects

• One early success of the Prairie Biovigilan­ce Network has been the publicatio­n of a comprehens­ive review of plant pest surveillan­ce in western Canada: We stand on guard for thee: A brief history of pest surveillan­ce on the Canadian Prairies

 ?? Photos courtesy AAFC ?? AAFC research scientist, Dr. Brent McCallum, inspects wheat seedlings in an AAFC greenhouse.
Photos courtesy AAFC AAFC research scientist, Dr. Brent McCallum, inspects wheat seedlings in an AAFC greenhouse.
 ?? ?? Pea leaf weevil sitting on the leaf of a pea plant.
Pea leaf weevil sitting on the leaf of a pea plant.
 ?? ?? Diamondbac­k moth larva eats the leaf of a canola plant.
Diamondbac­k moth larva eats the leaf of a canola plant.

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