Hedgerows, hillsides too steep for tractors to climb and even grassy margins along fencelines serve as havens for beneficial insects and birds that play a pivotal role in pest control. Since the dust bowl days of the 1930s, shelterbelts composed of trees and mixed vegetation have mitigated soil erosion by wind and water. More recently, research has been carried out to assess the additional benefits such uncropped land may provide.
Many Prairie crops did poorly in the high summer temperatures of 2021, but the wheat stem sawfly thrives in such conditions. The beneficial insect populations that prey upon the sawfly were also knocked back by the heat, which has given the cereal pest another leg up. To size up the sawfly situation for the current crop year, GrainsWest spoke with Meghan Vankosky, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada entomology research scientist and co-chair of the Prairie Pest Monitoring Network.
Beneficial insects are old news, at least to entomologists. However, their benefits, hence the name, are in the limelight once again. This is thanks to a recent promotional campaign and the reinforcement of the notion that positive alternatives beyond blanket spraying exist.
From weevils to midges, beetles to spiders, professor and entomologist Boyd Mori examines the secret
life of bugs. He leads a team of researchers with the University of Alberta’s Agricultural and Ecological
Entomology Group. Focused on integrated pest management, the team analyzes the inner workings of
insect ecosystems. This burgeoning area of study focuses on the battles between pests and beneficial
insects within agriculture.
Knowledge is everything in controlling a difficult pest such as wireworm. “You’ve got to know your enemy,” said Haley Catton, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist. With funding from the Alberta Wheat Commission and the Western Grains Research Foundation, she has led a three-year project that will produce a huge amount of wireworm data and contribute to integrated management approaches.
The world’s food demand is increasing, but its supply of agricultural land is not. The challenge faced by the farming industry is to increase productivity, improve food security and boost farm income on a land base that is fixed, or in some cases, shrinking. One of the best strategies to address all these related demands is to encourage innovative scientific research.