Combatting Invasive of new, high-risk invasive plants in ... Combatting Invasive of new, high-risk invasive

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  • g R o W i n g t o m o R R o W

    Combatting Invasive Plants

    The latest from the Investment Agriculture Foundation of British Columbia | volume 11 issue 3

    inside pages

    2 Bees / Farmer 2 Farmer / Slaughter Waste 3 Hawthorn / Wildlife Control 4 Emergency Livestock Planning

    Fall 2011

    Using a collaborative approach, British Columbia is a Canadian leader in dealing with the complex issue of invasive plants.

    It all started in 2004, when representatives from agriculture, forestry, mining, environment, fisheries, tourism, recreation, transportation, horticulture and conservation groups in BC joined forces and reached consensus. BC’s first Invasive Plant Strategy led to new initiatives, including the formation of the Invasive Plant Council of BC.

    As one of the most serious ecological issues in the world today, invasive species cost BC agriculture an estimated $65 million every year. “I know for certain, in places where the grass was doing well, we may be able to run 100 cows for one month,” observes Arne Raven, manager of Wolf Ranch near Kamloops. “But when an invasive plant like knapweed or sulphur cinquefoil comes in, we can only run about 30 cows on that same piece.”

    Beginning in 2010, the council undertook a series of new projects, including supporting the expansion of regional weed committees, updating educational resources, holding training workshops, establishing an emergency response fund, and developing an updated invasive strategy for BC. Funding for these projects was provided through various programs IAF delivers on behalf of the federal and provincial governments.

    “Thanks to the collaboration with the provincial government, we are pleased to report that the entire province of BC is now covered by a regional weed committee,” says Kristy Palmantier, chair of the council. “We are the only province in Canada to have such a broad range of local and province-wide coordination that links governments, businesses, aboriginals and non-government organizations together to address invasive species.”

    Through mapping, inventory, treatment and monitoring activities, developing Invasive Plant Management Areas is a key activity of many of the 15 regional weed committees in BC. The information is used to not only effectively allocate resources but also to measure success. As Arne Raven notes, “We have been successful in almost eradicating knapweed and hound’s tongue in the Pritchard area in just a few years.”

    Outreach activities to inform and update land owners about detection and treatment are important roles of both the regional and

    provincial organizations. With a new spotters program, farmers and ranchers will be able to report invasive plants using a web-based tool, allowing for more effective monitoring and treatment. “Invasive plants are like a silent forest fire,” explains Palmantier. “If we can respond quickly, we can greatly reduce its spread and impacts. The BC Early-Detection and Rapid Response Fund will be crucial in preventing the spread of new, high-risk invasive plants in BC.”

    And some of the biggest endeavours in the crusade against invasive plants are emerging in the strategic planning process. The council’s research has identified the two human behaviours that, if modified, can have the most impact in reducing the spread of invasive plants in BC. According to Palmantier, “Most invasive plants are often introduced in gardens through horticulture and frequently spread by vehicles. At this time, the updated strategy will consider actions addressing these two activities.”

    The council’s collaboration and pooling of resources across government, industry, non-profit organizations and private donors is a unique model that is being studied by invasive species groups across Canada and internationally. Each regional committee in BC, as well as the provincial council, operate as separate non-profit societies, accessing knowledge, funding and other support from many different stakeholders.

    “Our program brings together dozens of agencies representing at least 150 different interests,” concludes Palmantier. “Invasive plants do not respect administrative boundaries. By working together, we can greatly reduce the economic, social and environmental impact caused by unwanted invasive plants in BC.”

    Funding for these projects was provided through various programs IAF delivers on behalf of the federal and provincial governments. (SI003, A0644 and AF018-AEWF-09-014) For more information, visit:



  • 2 growing tomorrow Fall 2011

    Clean is in the Gene UBC proteomics research helps bee breeders select for disease resistance.

    Since 2006, bee populations have been in crisis around the world. In North America, where bee- keepers typically lose up to 15 per cent of their bees over the winter, bee mortality rates have climbed to 36 per cent. BC has not escaped, and the decline raises the alarm for hundreds of farmers who produce crops that depend on bees for pollination.

    The decline is largely attributed to increases in parasites and diseases including Varroa mite and American Foul Brood. As these diseases develop resistance to chemical treatments used to control them, bee breeders are working to develop naturally resistant bee populations.

    For the past three years, the Apis mellifera Proteomics of Innate reSistance (APIS) project at the University of British Columbia has been working to improve the effectiveness of bee breeding practices by providing a better understanding of the molecular biology of bees. Using molecular research techniques to analyze proteins in the genome, researchers have identified 15 molecular markers to identify bees with resistance to disease.

    The project tested samples of bees from breeders in the United States and Canada who have successfully developed colonies resistant to Varroa mite and other diseases, and BC beekeepers whose bees demonstrated resilience over the past few years. They then compared the bees that were likely to have some resistance to non-resistant bees.

    Initial research found that parasite and disease resistance in bees is closely linked to hive hygiene. Bees that are more effective at detecting and removing impurities from the hive have a lower incidence of infection and lower mortality rates. Comparing the two groups through proteomic analysis found that the molecular fingerprint of hygienic bees is distinctly different from their non-hygienic counterparts. In short, clean is in the gene, or more precisely, the protein.

    “The next step will be to take the fingerprints and see if we can apply them in a commercial setting,” says Leonard Foster, the lead researcher on the project. “Our aim is to develop tools that can be used by bee breeders around the world to select for resistance traits and improve their breeding programs.”

    Funding: $96,682 through former federal adaptation programming provided by IAF and councils in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. (W0125)

    Farmer2Farmer Learning from Each Other

    What happens when you put a group of passionate farmers together in a car? The hatching of an idea to host the first Farmer2Farmer Exchange.

    “We were coming home from Nanaimo and talking about how you get so busy farming, that it can be pretty easy to feel isolated and discouraged,” says Barb Brennan who grows nuts and kiwis and sits on the North Saanich agricultural advisory committee. “We decided to do something.”

    So they did. Representatives from North Saanich, the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable (CR-FAIR) and other local agricultural groups jointly organized an event to bring farmers together to share information and raise hope.

    They weren’t sure what to expect with just 25 people pre-registered. But, they needn’t have worried. Nearly 100 farmers and suppliers from

    as far afield as Qualicum and many of the Gulf Islands arrived at the fairgrounds in Central Saanich one blustery March day.

    Pat Reichert from Salt Spring’s Island Natural Growers kicked off the event by sharing how her community turned its vision of a stronger agriculture and food economy into concrete on-the-ground infrastructure. Her message was simple. Stop talking about what you want and start making it happen. The rest of the morning featured break-out sessions on a range of production practices and business opportunities. Following lunch, a number of roundtable discussions gave participants a chance to share what they can do to address several farming topics identified as needing action in the region.

    “When you’re a small farmer, you need to be pretty adaptable and always on the lookout for new ideas, but as a group we also have to work together to make things happen,” adds Brennan. “It’s a boost...great to get away from the farm for a day and hear from others in similar situations.”

    Everyone agreed that they would like to do it again next year, making it a good model for farmers’ institutes and other agricultural organizations to try in their own communities. Brennan credits CR-FAIR’s Linda Geggie for the event’s success, stating: “Without her, it would not have happened.”

    Funding: up to $5,000 provided through the Agri-Food Futures Fund, Islands Agri-Food Initiative. (AF002-I0499)*

    * The Islands Agri-Food Initiative is accepting applications for funding throu