Brandon Researcher Using ‘Good Bugs’ to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides

Brandon Researcher Using ‘Good Bugs’ to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides

Dr. Poonam Singh
Assiniboine Community College agriculture instructor Dr. Poonam Singh, right, discusses how good bugs can fight bad bugs with, from left, Assiniboine student Gopin Patel, Shelmerdine employee Stephanie Walker and Assiniboine research intern Tiffany Nykolyshyn. (HANDOUT)

A $25,000 grant to an instructor and researcher at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon is using so-called “good bugs” to weed out other pests that may injure and sometimes kill plants.

Dr. Poonam Singh is the recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant from the NSERC Engage program.

She’s been using biological control agents to reduce and eliminate the need for spraying chemical pesticides on plants.

“Resistance is developed so fast in this pest world,” Singh said.

“Then you have to go to an even stronger pesticide. This is a pesticide treadmill. Once you are on it, you can never get off it. You are just paving the way for having stronger, more resistant pests.”

Singh is working with Shelmerdine Garden Centre in Headingley as a requirement that the grant benefits an industry partner.

“They were very keen on getting this started, but they hadn’t been as successful as they had hoped,” Singh added.

“We are developing a customized integrated pest management program for them, using biological control agents. They told me they get almost 20 per cent economic loss because of the pests in their nursery. If we can somehow reduce plant damage using bio-control agents, it’s going to reduce their economic loss and increase their sales.”

Though not required, the nursery has also committed $1,000 to the project and made in-kind contributions of plants and staff time.

If successful at Shelmerdine, Singh will make presentations to the Manitoba Landscape and Nursery Association, hoping to spread the practice throughout the industry.

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