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Expanding Biocontrol of a Cereal Pest in the Prairies

The cereal leaf beetle is a major threat to wheat, oat, and barley crop production in North America and has spread into new areas in the prairies. Where introduced, the parasitoid wasp Tetrastichus julis, has become an effective natural way to control this pest. With funding through the Pest Management Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientists have monitored the spread of the pest and its parasitoid to identify target areas for new releases. They are also examining the role of adjacent landscape features to identify fields where T. julis can establish best.

From 2013-2016, the team collected, reared and relocated thousands of T. julis to cereal regions across the prairies where the cereal leaf beetle has become an emerging pest. This activity has attracted attention from farmers who are becoming interested in releasing T. julis instead of using insecticide sprays for cereal leaf beetle control in their fields. AAFC has trained personnel to rear and release the beneficial parasitoid to new regions as required.

Results from this research were communicated to the farming community and incorporated into the illustrated Field Guide to Pests and Natural Enemies of Prairie Field Crops. A new project continuing this work focuses on quantifying impacts of natural enemies such as T. julis on cereal leaf beetle control. This study aims to redefine the economics of using insecticides by establishing an action threshold that considers the presence and impact of both the pest and beneficial species to make spray decisions.

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