Minor Use Pesticides Research Sites

As any grower of low-acreage, high-value crops will tell you, stopping a pest in its tracks can spell the difference between a good year and a bad one. Insects, diseases, and weeds can hack big chunks out of a small operation's bottom line almost overnight, so growers of these "minor crops" - fruits, herbs, vegetables, nursery stock and landscaping plants, to name a few - are always looking for better ways to keep the pests at bay.

Such crops are called "minor" not because they're of little value but because they're grown on small acreages, and they face the same pest management challenges as major crops. Manufacturers worldwide have developed a broad range of minor-crop pest-control products, which are in common use outside Canada, but many of these controls have remained beyond the reach of our growers since they've never been registered here. This is because Canada's minor-crop operations don't have the collective acreage to constitute a large enough pesticide market, so manufacturers haven't found it cost-effective to pursue Canadian registrations for many potentially useful products.

Minor Use Pesticide Program to the rescue

The PMC's Minor Use Pesticide Program (MUPP) is helping to change all that. Through field trials carried out at its minor-use research sites, the MUPP generates data to support regulatory submissions to the Pest Managament Regulatory Agency (PMRA), and by doing so encourages pesticide manufacturers to register their products for Canadian use.

The MUPP is built on a foundation of seven research sites across Canada, where its field research teams carry out a variety of tasks for the PMC. Each team consists of a test site manager, a principal investigator, a technical assistant, an archivist and, during the summer, student assistants. Together they conduct the field, greenhouse and growth-chamber trials that determine pesticide efficacy, crop tolerance to pesticides, and, for food crops especially, the magnitude of pesticide residues. These teams, whose members must all have Good Laboratory Practice training and certification as required by the PMRA, conduct about 350 such trials every year.

Because they're strategically located in farming communities across the country, the team members are very much on the PMC's front lines, and participate regularly in local grower meetings, field days, seminars, tours and conferences. By sharing their experiences among themselves and with the rest of the PMC, they create an important forum for exchanging information and help keep the PMC's programs abreast of minor-crop issues in Canada.

How it works

The PMC holds a research planning meeting each winter at which it assigns MUPP trials to the seven research sites according to climatic conditions, growing zones and the likelihood of pest occurrence. This allows the research teams plenty of time to plan and refine the trial designs and protocols in cooperation with the project coordinators and study directors involved. Each site is responsible for at least 25 trials.

The principal investigators conduct most of these trials in the sites' own experimental fields, although others may be carried out on land belonging to growers collaborating with the PMC. Such collaboration provides the growers with first-hand knowledge of the MUPP and gives the investigators an opportunity to work with them on the acreages where the pests are naturally active. This improves the likelihood of achieving successful trials, particularly in pesticide efficacy.

Unity in diversity

The research sites are located across all but one of Canada's growing zones. This diversity helps the PMC find places where the target pests are a particular problem, which is also where the MUPP trials will provide the most revealing data. This variety of available environments has allowed the PMC to conduct most of its MUPP trials in-house, on its own research sites.

Despite the wide geographic distribution of the sites, however, the research teams are in continuous touch with PMC headquarters staff. This regular communication is vital to the success of the trials, because it ensures that the research teams are involved in activities such as experimental design, pesticide application rates, the selection of equipment and, where necessary, the controlled introduction of the target pests to the trial site.

The PMC operates from its headquarters in Ottawa and at seven research centres where field, greenhouse, and growth chamber trials are conducted:

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