New Insect Research Project with UBC

DF&WT recently began a three-year research project in partnership with the University of British Columbia. The study is examining the impact of DF&WT planted hedgerows, grassland set-asides (GLSA) and floral strips on beneficial insects and pests, and how these insect populations impact crop yields of blueberries. Other studies have shown that increasing semi-natural habitat on farmland can increase yields of pollinator-dependent crops.

The overall goal of the project is to evaluate (1) how restoring portions of agricultural land with semi-natural or natural habitat (e.g. hedgerows, GLSAs, and floral strips) can support populations of beneficial versus pest insects in the region and (2) what impact alterations of these populations have on blueberry crop yields and overall profitability for growers located throughout the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.

In order to address this overall goal, the following specific objectives will be assessed:

  1. Evaluate invertebrate diversity with a specific focus on pests, natural enemies of pests and pollinators in various types of semi-natural or natural enhancements (i.e. hedgerows, grassland set-asides with forbs, and grassland set-asides without forbs) and compare against control unmanaged edges located on agricultural land in Delta, BC.
  2. On blueberry crop fields with and without adjacent floral strips:
    a. pest and natural enemy diversity will be measured and pest exclusion and sentinel prey experiments will be conducted to determine effects of floral strips on pest control for blueberry.
    b. pollinator diversity will be measured and pollination exclusion experiments will be conducted, to determine effects of floral strips on pollination services for blueberry.
  3. Assess the impact of these insect populations on crop yields and farm operation profitability (i.e. increase or decrease in total yields, increased or decreased need for pesticide applications, increased or decreased need for supplemental pollinators (i.e. honey bee and bumblebee rentals), and so on) for both subprojects, with or without GLSAs.
  4. Determine ideal plant composition for a grassland set-aside seed mix that will at once support pollinator communities and best avoid potential to harbour pests, while being practical from a farmer’s perspective. This will be informed by the data collected in previous subprojects, and by interviewing local experts and key stakeholders.

Funding for the project has been provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The program is delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC.