AWC - Funded Research

Coordinated surveillance, forecasting and risk warning systems for field crop insect pests of the prairie ecosystem

AWC contribution: $50,000


Insect pest of field crops in western Canada fall into three categories: (i) native insects such as grasshoppers ( all crops), wheat stem sawfly (cereals), lygus (broadleaf crops); (ii) invasive alien species such as wheat midge (wheat and triticales), cereal leaf beetle (all cereals), cabbage seedpod weevil (canola) and pea leaf weevil (pulse crops); and (iii) migratory insect pests such as diamondback moth (canola) and leaf hoppers (transmission of Aster Yellows to all crops). Timely risk warnings, provided in map format and accompanied with interpretive text, will be produced for the industry. In addition, potential new invasive species for Canada and their parasitoids will be continually monitored and the risks quantified. The data will also contribute to the development of risk-reduction strategies required in the future due to changes in agronomic practices, crops and climate. Climate is the dominant force determining the distribution and abundance of most insect species. Bioclimate models have been used successfully to predict the distribution and extent of insect establishment in new environments and, in turn, have contributed directly to the development of reduced-risk strategies for pest control. These simulation models can be used to predict the geographic range and abundance for regions where species of interest do not currently occur.


  1. To coordinate insect surveillance programs prairie-wide that are designed to keep the Canadian agriculture industry informed of the risks to crop production from pest species and to highlight and conserve their natural field crops
  2. To develop assessment technologies and tools for identification, monitoring, tracking and predicting crop pest populations in support of industry's desire to remain competitive, sustainable and to develop new opportunities from bio-resources

Benefit to producers:

Dynamic forecasts, risk assessments and decision-support systems contribute both to the extension aspects of the management system as well as to the decision-making process at the agro-industry and farm level. Wind trajectory analysis can be used to identify regions at risk on the prairies, which can provide the opportunity to develop appropriate awareness and management programs for these regions. Bioclimate models can be used to identify broad patterns related to sustainability issues, and in turn, improve the industry’ s ability to gauge crop risk and to respond accordingly. In addition, recent market developments demand improved monitoring of crop pests to satisfy the industry’s international customers that potential quarantine pests are being controlled in Canada and that the risk of accidental introductions through importations is low.


Dr. Owen Olfert is an insect ecologist with Agriculture Canada, specializing in the management of insect pests and the conservation of beneficial arthropods in prairie agriculture systems. Owen grew up on a farm in southwest Saskatchewan and obtained his Ph.D. in pest management at the University of Saskatchewan.
Owen’ s research involves development of management tactics for control of insect pests in extensive agriculture systems including the development of monitoring and forecasting tools, bioclimate modelling, and alternative control technologies. His research has supported the development of dynamic pest forecasts, risk assessments and decision-support systems that contribute both to the extension aspects of crop management as well as to the decision-making process at the agro-industry and farm level.