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What’s bugging Prairie farmers this summer?

AAFC Field Technician Ross Weiss using a sweep net to collect red clover casebearer moth from a clover field near Beaverlodge, Alta. Photo courtesy of AAFC

Jul. 8, 2013 - Crawling, jumping or flying - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC)'s Prairie Pest Management Network (PPMN) in Saskatoon helps farmers know what pests to watch for this growing season.

The PPMN provides an in-depth analysis of insects in different parts of the prairies and what farmers should look for as they scout their own crops for infestation and damage. The network is a coordinated monitoring program that keeps the Canadian agriculture industry informed of the risks from pest species as well as providing information on how to protect and conserve their natural enemies.

PPMN data has been collected by farmers and researchers all over the prairie region since 1996. Prairie-wide, approximately 1,800 sites are monitored annually during the course of the various surveys. AAFC entomologist Dr. Owen Olfert and his group pull together this information about pests - their location and abundance - to compile weekly mapping and analyses. Based on current conditions and forecasted weather patterns, the group works closely with provincial governments and industry organizations to ensure that growers have the information they need to make informed decisions about pesticides or other pest deterrents.

So, what's going to be bugging prairie farmers this summer? According to Dr. Olfert, it appears this year will see different pests than last year. Last year there were a lot of leafhoppers and Diamondback moths in the area due to strong southerly winds blowing them in from the United States. This year, the winds haven't been from a southerly direction so those particular pests haven't been coming up in large numbers. Grasshoppers aren't expected to be a major problem in most regions this year either – they like it hot and dry and so areas that have received above-average precipitation will be less at risk.

The PPMN is just starting to receive counts from traps set for the Bertha Armyworm. Once the collections are done and the insects are identified and counted, the PPMN will analyse the results to see if the numbers are high enough to cause economically significant damage to crops. If this is the case, they will let farmers and growers' groups know so that they are aware of the risk an insect pest might pose. Producers can then prioritize their in-field scouting efforts based on the level of risk in their geographic region and implement whatever additional monitoring or control action that needs to be taken.

In early July, the PPMN starts looking for the Cabbage Seedpod Weevil. They will analyse data to see where they are, their abundance and if they are spreading. Once they know if there's a problem, they offer solutions as to how to combat the insects.

Another important function of the PPMN is annual analysis and forecasting. The PPMN analyses data over the winter and then forecasts predictions for the next growing season by January. This allows farmers to make decisions about which crops to plant – since certain crops often attract specific insect pests. Farmers might also prefer to adjust their seeding stages in order to avoid certain insect pests; for example, if wheat is planted early enough, it may already be past the flowering stage when wheat midge emerge and become active.

Additionally, the monitoring program promotes tracking and preserving beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and certain flies, spiders and mites that are already in the field working to protect prairie crops. Adherence to economic thresholds when applying pesticides not only protects crop yields, but also protects the beneficial insects.

The PPMN can be found online at:, or the provincial canola growers' websites.

July 8, 2013  By Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada


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