The University of Guelph has received a $750,000 donation to help support and preserve pollinator health through sustainable pest management.
The donation from Bayer CropScience Inc. was made to the BetterPlanet Project, the University’s $200-million fundraising campaign for teaching and research in food, environment, health and communities.
Among other projects, the gift will support the creation of the Centre for Beneficial Insect Health through the School of Environmental Sciences. The centre will emphasize sustainable pest management in agriculture, including work on field and horticultural crops, greenhouse production, insecticide resistance and biological insect control.
“This investment will support new teaching, research and outreach efforts of critical importance said U of G president Alastair Summerlee. “Pollinator health is important for sustainable agri-business, the food chain and the economy.”
“Through our support over the next five years, critical work will be done to champion the issues of beneficial insect health and sustainable pest management in agriculture, says Kamel Beliazi, president and CEO, Bayer CropScience Canada. “This includes world-class research and collaborative work with industry, government and other researchers globally in the area of pollinator conservation and bee health.”
The diversity and numbers of insect pollinators are falling globally because of such factors as disease, pesticide exposure, malnutrition, habitat loss and climate change. In Canada, 28 species of butterflies and moths and two bee species are known to be at risk. In the United States, honeybee populations have declined by 30 per cent in the past 20 years.
Of some 300 crops used for food, feed and fibre worth about $200 billion-plus a year, about 80 per cent need pollinators to set seeds and fruit.
“The health of beneficial insects is vital to the health of our planet and more specially our agricultural ecosystems,” said Rob Gordon, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC).
Established in 1874, OAC is home to North America’s largest research and teaching apiary.
Gordon said the new Centre for Beneficial Insect Health is intended to build on these strengths, leading to the development of effective and progressive pest management strategies while protecting pollinators. The centre will also promote outreach and awareness among farmers, industry and the general public.
The Bayer gift complements an earlier $3-million campaign donation from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation that established a chair in pollinator conservation. Nigel Raine, a leader in pollination conservation and ecology from Britain, will join U of G this month as the Rebanks Family Chair in Pollinator Conservation.