Green solutions send orchard pests packing

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Over the course of his 35-year career, Dr. Gary Judd, an entomologist at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) in Summerland, has contributed to the evolution of agricultural pest management — from the 1970s, when pesticides were the go-to resource for managing pests, to the environmentally-friendly approaches Dr. Judd researches today, which are non-chemical and targeted at specific pests so they don’t impact crops or other organisms.

Dr. Judd has been a research scientist at PARC since 1989, and focuses his work on managing pests that damage tree fruit crops in the Okanagan. He specializes in insect chemical ecology, with a large amount of his research applied to understanding the biological and behavioural responses of insects to their sex pheromones — the unique chemicals members of an insect species use to communicate with each other — and he applies this knowledge and synthetic copies of these pheromones to control insects by disrupting communication between male and female insects, thereby preventing the mating process.

Collaboration yields success

Dr. Judd has also lent his expertise to a number of innovative projects aimed at controlling pests using targeted, non-chemical approaches. Examples of his work include researching and consulting with the Okanagan-Kootenay Sterile Insect Release (SIR) Program — "simply put, a very large birth control program," explains Judd — which raises, sterilizes, and releases codling moths to breed with the wild population, thereby reducing the number of successfully fertilized eggs produced with each successive generation.

The Okanagan SIR Program is Canada’s only commercial sterile insect program for codling moth, the world’s key apple pest, and is also one of the most unique pest management programs because it involves collaboration between scientists, citizens and the agriculture community. Thanks to this program and scientists like Dr. Judd, growers in the Okanagan region can often go many years without needing to spray any pesticides for codling moth in their orchards.

"If we can reduce pests and reduce the use of pesticides in a way that is economical for the grower, we can see the benefits everywhere — from the health of the orchards and the financial stability of farmers to the quality of the apples and juice you feed your children. I am happy to be a part of that."

– Dr. Gary Judd, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Pest problem? There’s an app for that.

Dr. Judd is also involved with Vancouver-based start-up SemiosBIO Technologies, developing a pest management system that will allow producers to control aerosol delivery of pheromones on demand using wireless communications systems, in order to disrupt pest mating practices. The system also has wireless add-ons such as automated camera traps, water sensing devices, and weather monitoring equipment that will help producers manage their crops.

"Gary Judd has been an invaluable resource for us," says Dr. Michael Gilbert, Founder and CEO of SemiosBIO. "As one of the foremost researchers in pheromone technologies in the world, Gary’s experience has helped develop and test future technologies that may provide the impetus to introduce pheromones on a worldwide scale."

AAFC leads research, development and knowledge transfer activities in agri-innovations to enhance both the economic and environmental sustainability of Canadian agriculture.

Photo Gallery

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Nicola apples ripen in a sunny Okanagan orchard
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The codling moth is a pest for apple growers around the world

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