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Agriculture scientists on the lookout for canola killing bug

Inspectors will comb fields in the Peace Region this week on the lookout for a pest that has northern canola producers shaking in their boots.
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The cabbage seedpod weevil.

Inspectors will comb fields in the Peace Region this week on the lookout for a pest that has northern canola producers shaking in their boots.

As part of the Peace Canola Survey, Agriculture Canada scientists will inspect several hundred canola fields in the Peace over the next few days. They'll be keeping a close eye out for the cabbage seedpod weevil, a three to four millimeter-long insect that can decimate canola crops.

Once a concern limited to producers in Southern Alberta, the weevil appears to be trending north.

While the bug hasn't been observed in the B.C. or Alberta Peace, Canola Council of Canada Agronomist Gregory Sekulic said farmers are keeping an eye out for the weevils as the warming climate allows them to spread north.

"We didn't think they would move this far north, but we are monitoring for them," he said. "They can be quite devastating."  

The weevils lay their eggs in canola pods and eat the plant's seeds. Last year, adult weevils were spotted as far north as Lacombe, Alta. They are also spreading east into Saskatchewan.

Sekulic said scientists monitoring for the bug will tend to recommend pesticide if more than two adult weevils are spotted in a given area. Introduction of a parasitic wasp that preys on the weevils has also proved effective at containing the threat.

According to a Canola Council report, the weevils can reduce yields on affected crops by 15 to 20 per cent.

Last summer canola accounted for 98,000 of the 280,000 hectares under cultivation in the B.C. Peace.

reporter@dcdn.ca