Groups fund new U of S bug lab

SASKATOON – The University of Saskatchewan is getting a new insect research facility.

The University of Saskatchewan Insect Research Facility (USIRF) will be the first facility of its kind at a Western Canadian university and one of few facilities in Canada designed to conduct research on arthropod plant pests and beneficial insects, the U of S said in a news release.

Funding for the design and construction of the facility will come from several sources including the Western Grains Research Foundation ($500,000), the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($285,000), the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission ($70,000), Saskatchewan Pulse Growers ($70,000), the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission ($70,000) and the University of Saskatchewan ($50,000).

The facility will be headed by Sean Prager, the first entomologist to be hired by the university’s college of agriculture and bioresources.

“This new facility will add substantial research capacity to the University of Saskatchewan,” said Prager.

“It will allow us to work with the (university’s) Crop Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and (university) plant breeders to identify problematic resistance traits to pests that are yet to be established.”

“We will also be providing training opportunities to develop advanced economic entomological skills that have become increasingly important.”

Keith Degenhardt, an Alberta grain farmer who serves as board chair of the WGRF, said research conducted at the new facility will benefit producers by increasing knowledge about harmful and beneficial insects and reducing farmer dependence on pesticides.

WGRF funding for the project will be furnished through the foundation’s $32 million capacity-building initiative.

“Insects can be harmful as crop pests or beneficial as crop pollinators or as natural enemies to insect pests,” Degenhardt said.

“Research at USIRF will be positive for producers and will find new methods for predicting pest outbreaks and decreased pesticide use.”

The new research facility will be located inside the Agriculture Building on the University of Saskatchewan’s main campus in Saskatoon.

Architectural planning has already begun, the U of S said.