Accelerating the adoption of integrated pest management and risk management strategies in wheat and other cereals

Project Code PRR06-870

Project Lead

Dee Ann Benard - Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta

Objective

To determine the existing level and encourage the increase in adoption of integrated pest management and pesticide risk reduction strategies in cereals, particularly wheat

Summary of Results

Background

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) uses a variety of scientifically sound techniques and tools to protect agricultural crops from insect, weed and disease pests. This diverse approach has the potential to substantially reduce the use of chemicals while providing a high level of effective pest management; however, IPM programs require a higher degree of commitment and education from growers to achieve successful implementation than conventional, chemical based approaches. Thus, the effective transfer of IPM knowledge and methods represents an ongoing challenge. This project was undertaken to determine the impact of targeted applied research and extension on the acceleration of adoption of IPM and pesticide risk reduction (PRR) strategies in cereal crop production. The project was conducted throughout the Province of Alberta from 2006 to 2009 in collaboration with member organizations of the Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta (ARECA).

Approaches

A baseline survey of close to 300 Alberta growers’ adoption of IPM practices was conducted between November 2006 and January 2007 to gather information about IPM awareness and implementation at the start of the project. The results of this survey were also used to identify the three specific IPM practices in cereals that could be targeted for change through applied research, extension and demonstration activities within the project. The three priority IPM practices identified for promotion through this project were:

  1. Reduce pesticide use by increasing crop competitiveness through the use of competitive cultivars and seed treatments, and optimization of seeding date and rate
  2. Reduce the risk of pesticide resistance through herbicide rotation
  3. Reduce pesticide use and risk through effective field scouting

In the same survey, growers also indicated that they preferred receiving information through (in order of preference): printed information, attending a presentation or workshop, and on-farm demonstrations.

Consequently, a variety of activities were implemented throughout Alberta in 2007 and 2008 using these preferred methods to promote the adoption of identified IPM practices of interest. Some examples include: research and demonstration plots for the competitive ability of barley cultivars, and demonstrations featuring herbicide rotations, crop scouting and performance of different wheat varieties. Research and demonstration trials were also conducted in growers’ fields featuring the benefits of pulse/wheat rotation as opposed to the traditional wheat/fallow system, and trap cropping for pea leaf weevil control.

The three priority IPM practices, along with results from project activities and trials, were presented through summer field tours, diagnostic field schools, workshops and other events to more than 800 growers each season. In addition, 3 colour brochures, each featuring one of the chosen IPM practices (crop competitiveness, herbicide rotation and field scouting), as well as newsletters and other publication (e.g. Farming Smarter magazine) articles, and fact sheets were distributed to tens of thousands of Alberta growers. Information was also made available on the ARECA website.

A second, follow-up survey was conducted at project completion (between November 2008 and February 2009) to assess changes in awareness and implementation of the best agriculture and pest management practices targeted as a result of the extension activities carried out in this project.

Results

One of the most significant findings of the follow-up survey was the significant increase in the proportion of respondents familiar with the term IPM: 87% in 2008, as compared with 64% in 2006. Follow-up survey results also indicated that growers had altered some of their previous practices to incorporate IPM strategies: growers were using less herbicide, more crop rotation, and an integrated fertility management program. Crop scouting activity had increased and the use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) for soil fertility management was significantly higher. There were improvements in rotating pesticide groups, adjusting planting or harvesting dates, and using mechanical weed control. More farmers selected competitive crops or varieties. Few respondents had poor results when implementing IPM practices, though cost and time were identified as barriers to the adoption of these techniques. More growers overall found IPM useful, leading to decreased input costs. Electronic sources such as e-mail and web sites were found to be increasingly important to growers for receiving IPM information.

The best practices for implementing IPM according to survey respondents were crop rotation and zero till, with crop rotation being the most cost effective option. The pulse/wheat rotation under zero tillage was shown to be a valuable approach as it can reduce input costs, while improving economic returns, crop quality and soil health. Similarly, planting a trap strip of winter peas or early seeded spring peas around the pea field edges was shown to provide a sustainable method for pea leaf weevil control. Early emerging trap strips attract a high concentration of weevils which can be controlled by spot spraying instead of treating an entire field, thus reducing pesticide use and production costs and promoting the establishment of parasitic insects.

Overall, this project successfully demonstrated that targeted applied research and extension can positively influence the behaviour of a significant number of producers. Projects such as this one are important in identifying the best means to communicate information effectively, ensuring that Canadian growers have the means to access and implement the most up-to-date, safe and cost effective IPM practices.

For more information, please contact Ty Faechner.

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