New tools will help reduce the threats posed by insects on Canadian crops and forests
(Wolfville, NS) — Acadia University researcher Dr. Kirk Hillier and a team of collaborators will launch a $6.9-million project to improve pest management of Canadian crops and forests with a $2.8 million contribution from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF). The funding was announced Sunday, March 20 on Acadia’s campus by the Honourable Peter MacKay.
“Acadia University is thrilled to be at the heart of this initiative,” said Dr. Tom Herman, Acadia’s Vice-President, Academic. “Because of our small size and our deep, long-standing connections to local and regional communities, Acadia is particularly adept at reaching out and building large-scale collaborations. This is a perfect example of how a small institution can have a disproportionately large impact.”
The AIF project focuses on the development, testing, and commercialization of effective and environmentally-responsible pheromone-based products targeting forestry and agriculture insect pests such as the Brown Spruce Longhorn Beetle and Spruce Budworm.
“Together, Acadia University and its partners will create, license, and commercialize products to help sustain Atlantic Canada’s multi-billion dollar agricultural and forest industries,” said Hiller. “This research will help to nurture new business opportunities in the under-exploited, growth markets of alternative, low-risk, pest control technology for use against insect pests that are of significant economic importance at the regional, national and international level.”
The project is based on creating products from pheromones and other semiochemicals, which Hillier explained are natural chemical compounds that pose significantly less risk to human health and the environment than traditional chemical insecticides.
“By using insect pheromones, we may safely monitor pest populations in the field and use non-toxic methods such as mating-disruption to control populations,” said Hillier. “Mating-disruption uses pheromones to confuse male insects and prevent mating, which can reduce overall management costs and pesticide usage.”
The funding will provide Acadia University and its partners with critical infrastructure and personnel to springboard these environmentally-friendly tools into the marketplace, explained Hillier. “The result will be national and international sales of a commercial range of new or improved low-risk products. This will include novel, non-toxic pheromone development and student training opportunities in the academic sector, as well as contract research for public and private sector clients, including employment opportunities and direct economic benefits for Atlantic Canadians.”
This multi-institution, pan-Atlantic collaboration is unique in scope and draws on regional expertise in both forestry and agriculture, and will capitalize on the existing strengths of its partners in pheromone and biopesticide research and development to develop new tools to detect, monitor, and manage invasive insect pests.
Acadia University (Wolfville, NS)
Forest Protection Limited (Fredericton, NB)
University of New Brunswick (Fredericton, NB)
Nova Scotia Agricultural College (Truro, NS)
Canadian Forest Service Atlantic Forestry Centre ( Fredericton, NB)
Agriculture and AgriFood Canada Atlantic Cool Climate Crop Research Centre (St. John’s NL)