Sharing results is important. As part of this research project, the Healthy Forest Partnership wants to keep everyone up to date on the progress of the research program.
The early intervention research focuses on monitoring, detecting, targeting and treating small areas of relatively low but growing populations of spruce budworm before it reaches infestation or epidemic levels.
Currently, a spruce budworm infestation is approaching New Brunswick from the Gaspe Peninsula. Research is focused in targeted areas in Northern New Brunswick close to the Quebec border, where detailed sampling in 2013, 2014, and 2015 showed that budworm populations are present and increasing.
The severe uncontrolled outbreak in Quebec grew by 2 million hectares in 2015, reaching over 6.3 million hectares in size (New Brunswick has 6 million hectares of forest). Not only is the outbreak growing in size, but it is on the border of New Brunswick.
Based on monitoring, 2016 areas of focus have been identified near the towns of Dalhousie, Campbellton, Charlo, Balmoral, Tide Head, Atholville, an area about 50km northwest of Kedgwick and another are about 35 km northwest of Miramichi.
Here’s what we are currently doing.
Spruce budworm population dynamics during the rise of an outbreak
Lead: Dr. Jacques Régnière
The research will address questions regarding at what density of spruce budworm we should initiate an Early Intervention Strategy, what products may be most effective, and what are the consequences of control options on natural enemy populations attacking spruce budworm in subsequent years. The work is proceeding in Gaspé, Quebec.
Impacts of Early Intervention Strategy on spruce budworm and associated natural enemies
Lead: Dr. Rob Johns
The research will test the efficacy of control options and evaluate possible unintended impacts on very low density spruce budworm and its parasitoid complex. It will include detailed assessment of proposed Early Intervention Strategy and other pesticide and pheromone trials of increasing sizes from 2014 to 2017. Trials occurred in northern NB in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Barcoding: Innovative DNA-based diagnostic for spruce budworm, its natural enemies
Lead: Dr. Alex Smith
The research will develop novel genomics tools to quantify and identify parasitism of spruce budworm larvae and pupae. This will permit identification of parasitoids in living larvae and those killed by treatments and evaluate the impact of those treatments on natural enemies of spruce budworm. This technology will then be used in projects 2 and 8.
Aerial application of pesticides and pheromones
Lead: Peter Amirault
The research aerial application program for the Early Intervention Strategy to prevent spruce Budworm began on approx. 5,000 ha in northern NB in 2014. Trials involve testing Health Canada approved Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), Mimic, and pheromones on low populations. Continued trials are planned using increasing areas (approx. 15,000ha 2015, 30,000ha 2016, 80,000ha 2017).
In support of many other research objectives the aerial applications are an attempt to maintain spruce budworm at population levels below those required to cause defoliation on an area-wide basis. This is a previously untested strategy that commenced with an unprecedented sampling effort designed to locate budworm population as they enter the pre-outbreak phase. As candidate populations are recognized they are treated in an attempt to maintain the populations at endemic levels. This commenced in 2014 with approximately 4000 ha being treated. In 2015 the area being treated was increased to some 15,000 ha: 60,000 ha was treated in 2016. The extent of future treatment areas will not be known until determined by future sampling of spruce budworm populations. If successful the strategy would limit the extent and intensity of spruce budworm outbreaks.
Epicenter formation and migratory behavior of adult spruce budworm in eastern Canada
Lead: Dr. Rob Johns
The research will monitor spruce budworm moths over large areas, and provide insight into migratory behavior from ‘epicenters’ and the associated formation of epicenters. We are addressing the role of moth migration in starting new outbreak epicenters – is it necessary or not? This project is monitoring a network of plots from the Quebec North Shore, through the Gaspé Peninsula, northern NB, and southern NB.
Spruce Budworm sex pheromone: effect of blend composition on mating
Lead: Dr. Peter Silk
The research will develop and register a more potent 4-component sex pheromone blend for use in mating disruption of spruce budworm and evaluate whether pheromones promote dispersal of female moths.
Use of endophytic fungi to reduce spruce budworm impacts
Lead: Greg Adams
The research will expand our knowledge of the impact of inoculating reforestation seedlings of spruces with insect toxin-producing endophytic fungi. Although a plant/fungi interaction has been commercialized for other species, this is the first application in forest trees. The first trials of endophytic-treated spruce seedlings are underway in spruce budworm outbreak areas.
Modeling and Decision Support System development, economic analyses
Lead: Dr. Dave MacLean
The research will develop spruce budworm population-derived defoliation scenarios for alternative early intervention strategies, integrate insecticide efficacy models, develop and test models of spruce budworm ‘hot-spot’ protection decisions and optimum operational blocking, and evaluate effects of alternative spruce budworm control strategies in NB timber supply, cost-benefits, and economy-wide impact. Study of the influence of hardwood occurrence in stands in reducing defoliation of balsam fir is underway near Amqui, Quebec.