Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) have been working together to study the potential of trajectories for monitoring insect movements since the late 1990s.
Jennifer Otani, Ross Weiss, Serge Trudel, Tamara Rounce, Erl Svendsen, Owen Olfert and Meghan Vankosky
Spring has sprung!
Equipment is moving in fields across the prairies this week. In addition to the Weekly Update, the Insect of the Week is back for 2020’s growing season. Please access the complete Weekly Update either as a series of Posts for Week 2 OR a downloadable PDF .
This year, we’re doing things a bit differently for our Insect of the Week. Instead of focussing on a single insect (pest or natural enemy), we’re looking at it from a crop perspective. Each week, we’ll pick a crop and list the insects that attack it along with additional helpful information. The insect list is based on the information found in the Field Crop and Forage Pests and their Natural Enemies in Western Canada: Identification and Management field guide. The field guide offers information describing lifecycle, damage description, monitoring/scouting strategies, economic thresholds (where available) and control options) for each economic pest.
In addition to an Insect of the Week, we’ll also feature one of the entomologists that help support the PPMN, either directly or indirectly.
This week’s feature crops are the Brassica oilseeds (mustard and canola) and Dr. Owen Olfert is our starring entomologist.
Canola has been gaining ground over wheat in terms of production area, yield and value since it was first introduced on the Prairies. In 2019, 20.4 million tons (18.5 million tonnes) were harvested from 20.4 million acres (8.3 million hectares). Mustard, typically grown in warmer and drier regions than canola, was grown on 398,000 acres (161,000 hectares) across the Prairies to produce 148,000 US tons (134,000 tonnes) across the prairies.
Name: Owen Olfert Affiliation: Saskatoon Research and Development Centre, Emeritus Contact Information: email@example.com
How do you contribute to insect monitoring or surveillance on the Prairies?
Before I retired, I was the Chair of the PPMN. In collaboration with provincial, federal and industry colleagues, the PPMN makes decisions on insect priorities, develops standardized monitoring protocols, determines timing of surveillance activities, provides appropriate survey tools to collaborators, conducts field surveys, assembles and analyzes data, drafts and presents visual survey results to the agriculture industry. As an Insect Ecologist, I was involved in all of the field and laboratory activities mentioned above. Over the many years, the crop growing season activities have provided amazing professional opportunities in insect ecology, which overlapped strongly with my farming background. I have been fortunate to explore all of the agro-ecosystems of the Prairies in search of insect populations that threaten field crops.
In your opinion, what is the most interesting field crop pest on the Prairies?
Not to offend other insect groups, but I think grasshoppers (Acrididae) are most interesting! My interest in our prairie grasshopper complex began as a summer student with Dr. Roy Pickford (AAFC-Saskatoon) in the early 1970s. Coincidentally, my first assignment as a research scientist with AAFC involved developing surveillance and management strategies for grasshopper pest species in field crops. Over the years, my colleagues and I have published about 30 scientific papers related to grasshoppers.
What is your favourite beneficial insect?
My favourite is Macroglenes penetrans (Pteromalidae), a parasitoid of wheat midge (Sitodiplosis mosellana). It is the dominant parasitoid of wheat midge in western Canada. It is an egg-larval parasitoid; the female wasp oviposits into the egg of its host. It was discovered very early during the first major outbreak of wheat midge in the early 1980s. All of the pest management tools developed for wheat midge have taken this parasitoid into account. As a result, our estimated total saving in pesticide costs alone due to this parasitoid in the 1990’s was $248.3 million.
Tell us about an important project you are working on right now.
Our most recent project is related to an important agricultural pest – parasitoid – host plant complex, involving wheat midge and its parasitoid mentioned above. The project assesses the interactive population dynamics of the host plant (wheat), wheat midge, and M. penetrans, based on their respective life cycles and weather. These simulation models helped to detail our understanding of the tri-trophic population dynamics. The models will help guide pest management decisions prior to and during the growing season.
What tools, platforms, etc. do you use to communicate with your stakeholders?
In addition to the suite of communication tools used by the PPMN, I still attend conferences and get contacted to conduct interviews by the agricultural news media.