Green research funding worth nearly $3 million was announced July 7 for Acadia University in response to global concerns about pesticides.
If potentially harmful effects of traditional pesticides are on the rise, then alternative green solutions to pest management in the agriculture and forestry sectors are of great interest around the world.
That is why Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, was in Wolfville to announce the investment will help Acadia research, develop and transition new technologies into the marketplace.
“The research being done here at Acadia has the potential to create effective and environmentally-responsible pheromone-based products that will be marketed in Canada and internationally,” said McKenna.
“The government of Canada is pleased to support projects such as this, which will bring clean, innovative technologies to the marketplace for use in the forestry and agriculture sectors.”
Researchers at Acadia are developing a commercial line of innovative, clean technology products that will protect the environment and decrease damage to Canada’s crops and forests caused by native and foreign insects.
“Every year, insects damage millions of hectares of Canadian forests and destroy a large percentage of our agricultural crops,” said Kings Hants MP Scott Brison.
“Acadia University is developing natural pest management solutions that will potentially reduce the billions of dollars of damage caused by native and foreign insects,” Brison said, “while protecting the environment and potentially decreasing the use of traditional pesticides.”
This collaborative work is being driven by public and private sector investments and led by a specialized team of scientists and technicians.
Lead researcher Dr. Kirk Hillier, a professor of biology at Acadia, said that the, “Development of effective, affordable tools for pest management using pheromones and other naturally-derived products ensures sustainable solutions for the future of Canada’s agriculture and forest industries.” Research and innovation supported under this initiative will lead to significant advances, Hillier noted, will improve the long-term health of our environment, and enable novel solutions to challenges in food and forest production.”
Acadia’s new president, Dr. Peter Ricketts, noted the funding will help test what happens when universities, government and industry work together to solve real world problems.
Calling Hillier exceptional, Ricketts said, this announcement was the second funding package received. The first was in 2013.
He asked and received a standing ovation for the Acadia researcher, who helps prove that small universities can carry out world class research with leading scientists.
The investment monies come from ACOA’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. The Acadia project is Pan-Atlantic in scope with the participation of a number of federal labs including Natural Resources Canada’s Atlantic Forestry Centre in Fredericton, NB and Corner Brook, NL, universities and private companies, including Forest Protection Ltd. (FPL) and Sylvar Technologies of New Brunswick.
Laura Forbes of Sylvar said the firm hopes to offer safe, effective environmental technologies to protect natural resources.
The plan is to lead in the commercialization of products including traps, lures and sprays that attract, repulse or confuse the mating behaviour of targeted insects, Forbes said.
Insects like the Eastern Spruce Budworm, a massive threat to forests, and the Spotted Wing Drosophila, an invasive global fruit crop pest that causes $500 million in damage per year in North America, are being targeted.
In the entomology laboratory
Dr. Nicoletta Faraone, a post doc from Italy, has an interesting study underway into a waste product utilized for bug management.
She is working with granite dust provided by Heritage Memorials in Windsor. Her focus is on caterpillars, aphids and lily beetles.
The trio of insects appear to be impacted by the granite dust, so Faraone wants to find out how best to deliver the dust.
She has worked on projects at Acadia previously, but came back after a time in Sweden studying seed-eating weevils.
Mike Light and Andrew Collins are budding beekeepers, but foremost they are Acadia University students looking into pest resistance.
According to Collins, most bees in North America are troubled with varroa mites. The insect is their challenge.
There is now a beekeeping club at Acadia and the two young scientists have been loaned a hive by a Valley beekeeper Kevin Spicer. It is located for the summer at the community garden on campus.
One frame full of bees was in the lab July 7 to help demonstrate the testing they carry out.