Insect inspectors hope to be less intrusive in Alta.

Pest monitoring | Growers who grant access will receive information about field history

Strangers in the field is an almost sure way to arouse farmers’ radar.

Who are they and what are they doing there?

These are legitimate questions, and ones that the Alberta insect surveillance team understands.

Sensitivity to that issue is one reason why the pest monitoring network is moving away from random field surveys and instead developing a list of farmers who are willing to have their fields checked for pests.

Scott Meers, an insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture, said all members of the team are appointed as pest inspectors and thus have the legal right to go into fields unannounced to do insect surveys.

The team conducts 4,200 field visits a year while compiling surveys of seven insect pests.

Getting permission for each field entry is impractical.

“But it is people’s property and it’s always been kind of a source of discomfort, and now and then we run into a person who is very upset with us,” said Meers. “Not often, but now and then. So we want to take that out of the equation.”

A database of willing landowners will also provide access to field history, which is useful in tracking pest populations and the reasons for their rise and fall. Meers said it will also reduce the possibility of false negatives.

“From a pure scientific standpoint, we should stay random, but this is about management information and we’d much rather, if an insect is in an area, we find it, and then people know that they need to be watching for it in their management.”

Participating farmers will be informed of the findings, usually by email, if their field is surveyed, Meers added.

Crops surveyed include peas, canola, wheat and alfalfa.

Fababean fields will also be checked this year.

The seven insects surveyed are cabbage seedpod weevil, pea leaf weevil, diamondback moth, bertha armyworm, wheat midge, wheat stem sawfly and grasshoppers.

Team members follow strict biosecurity protocols, said Meers.

“We go into the field with sterilized boots or plastic booties, and if we use any equipment there, it is sterilized between fields,” he said.

“We’re very aware of biosecurity. We’re very careful with it. And we never, never drive into a field. We always walk.”

Meers said the program will register all Alberta farmers who contact it, though it won’t necessarily mean their fields will be surveyed every year.

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