Welcome to what I hope will become part of your regular reading — The Bug Counter blog, here on RealAgriculture.com. As Insect Management Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development my role is largely to count insects. Along with my technician, Shelley Barkley, and in-season help from summer students we have set out to create a system that keeps a finger on the pulse of insect issues in crops across the entire province of Alberta.
Alberta is a big place; it is a province of over 660,000 square km. Within its boundaries, farmers seed over 24.7 million acres of annual crop production. How can two people possibly keep a handle on the insects over such a vast area? The short answer is that we have help, a lot of help. Before we go any further we would like to acknowledge all of those people who support the insect monitoring network. If you are reading this we want you to know that we really appreciate your input.
Here are the principals of how we approach monitoring insects in Alberta crops:
- Capturing the footprints in the field. Agrologists and producers are in the fields on a regular basis, how can we capture and or leverage what they are doing anyway?
- Keep the load light. No one person should have to do a lot of work to support the network. Many hands make light work. Plus we go out of our way to acknowledge those that help us.
- Turn the information around. What we learn through our and your efforts is of little value if is not accessible. We work very hard to turn the information we gather into a usable format and get it out to the people who can use it and we strive to do it quickly.
- Be relevant. Information you need when you need it.
- Be creative. We use internet (our own webpage), radio, meetings, Youtube, email and Twitter (and now blogs) to communicate. For example: look for our QR code on our insect monitoring traps.
We survey seven insects on an annual basis and developed methods of following a couple more in 2012. In addition we work on surveillance of several insects that we do not have yet in Alberta. We also collaborate on research projects on crop insects. It’s a busy program but we are always looking to improve what we do. Send us a note at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @ABbugcounter. We are looking forward to working with you! For more on the insects we monitor, including how to collect and send in samples, visit: www.agriculture.alberta.ca/bugs-pest.