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High magnification image of a pea aphid (Acyrthosipon pisum). Pea aphids are one of many species of insects that will be studied in the new University of Saskatchewan Insect Research Facility. (Photo: Berenice Romero)

USask announces new Insect Research Facility

The new University of Saskatchewan (USask) Insect Research Facility (USIRF) will be the first of its kind in a western Canadian university and one of only a handful of facilities in the country specifically designed to conduct research on arthropod plant pests and beneficial insects.

Funding for the design and construction of the USIRF will be provided from a variety of sources. Contributions include $500,000 from Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF) as part of its $32 million Capacity Initiative. Additional funding includes $285,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, $70,000 from the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, $70,000 from Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, $70,000 from the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, and $50,000 from USask.

The USIRF will be led by Dr. Sean Prager (PhD), the first entomologist at USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources. He was specifically recruited in response to increased need for entomological research, training and instruction in Saskatchewan and at USask.

“This new facility will add substantial research capacity to the University of Saskatchewan,” said Prager. “It will allow us to work with the USask Crop Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and USask plant breeders to identify problematic resistance traits to pests that are yet to be established. This provides a massive head start when you consider the time it takes to breed new varieties and cultivars. We will also be providing training opportunities to develop advanced economic entomological skills that have become increasingly important.”

“Insects can be harmful as crop pests or beneficial as crop pollinators or as natural enemies to insect pests,” said WGRF Board Chair Dr. Keith Degenhardt (PhD). “Research at USIRF will be positive for producers and will find new methods for predicting pest outbreaks and decreased pesticide use.”

“This new research facility will result in new and sustainable pest management strategies for important Western Canada field crops including canola, wheat, barley, oats and pulses,” added Garth Patterson, WGRF executive director.

The USIRF will be located inside the Agriculture Building on the USask Saskatoon campus. Architectural planning has already begun and once complete, the USIRF will hold dozens of different species of insects at a time.

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