The Alfalfa Seed Commission’s mandate is to fund and partner on research which will enhance all aspects of the alfalfa seed and leafcutter bee industry in Alberta. concerns raised by our growers, and our research priorities range from integrated pest management, leafcutter bee health, pesticide safety and efficacy trials, to crop disease studies.
Our current projects include:
ASCA partners with Farming Smarter to conduct plot trials including the Desiccation Product Timing trial which aims to compare various desiccation timings, chemicals, and surfactants. The Alfalfa Weevil Control Product project examines the efficacy of new control products on weevil populations in order to combat concerns over pesticide resistance of this pest. The Plant Growth Regulator trials continue to study PGRs that may help prevent lodging and improve harvestability without affecting overall seed yield.
In 2023, we have a new trial beginning, testing Tough 5EC herbicide for crop tolerance, in hopes that we will be able to register another product that can help control kochia (and other weeds).
We have been partnering with Dr. Maya Evenden and her lab from U of A, whose project seeks to understand the movement habits of alfalfa weevils in Southern Alberta and explore new practices for trapping and control. The second year of sampling was completed in 2022 and this summer we anticipate further emergence trapping, insect sweeping, and pheromone studies to take place in the Brooks area.
In 2023, ASCA is partnering with Dr. Gail MacInnis of Northwestern Polytechnic to address the loss of access to the insecticide, dichlorvos, which was previously used to control a severely damaging pest to leafcutter bees, the parasitoid wasp, Pteromalus venustus. Since 2018 we have supported research looking at the efficacy of different plant powders for repelling, killing, and reducing reproductive capacity of the parasitoid, and some options have shown promise. Dr. Gail MacInnis will continue this work exploring alternatives for wasp control.
For several years ASCA has supported research by Dr. Boyd Mori from U of A and colleagues, exploring the diversity of insects in alfalfa fields, understanding and monitoring the presence of pyrethroid resistant weevils and looking at alfalfa weevil parasitism. The Mori lab found pyrethroid resistance to be widespread in the Brooks area in 2022, further eliciting the need to evolve our understanding of pest management through continued research into resistant weevil management.
Dr. Mori, in partnership with Dr. Carcamo (AAFC- Lethbridge) and Dr. Dumonceaux (AAFC-Saskatoon) are planning the next phase of research with their project titled: Diagnostic tools in support of alfalfa weevil, Hypera postica, management in alfalfa seed production fields. This work will use molecular diagnostic tools including loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA), which would allow parasitism rates to be determined on farm. There are plans to build on previous insecticide resistance studies to develop an insecticide resistance test kit for on farm use. Given that alfalfa weevil resistance to synthetic pyrethroids in areas of southern Alberta has significantly reduced the number of control options available, this work will aid farmers’ decision making and assist their management choices.
In addition, there are plans to re-evaluate alfalfa weevil and lygus economic thresholds, taking into consideration the complex variables that may influence tolerance for these pests in fields. We plan to begin a threshold strip field survey this coming season, where we will collect insects by sweeping, shake-bucket method, and leaf damage surveys to assess pest threat, as well as looking at beneficial insect populations, and yield at the end of the season.
ASCA has completed 2 seasons of data collection for the Blossom Blight trial with Drs. Syama Chatterton and Mike Harding, where in-field and field edge weather data was collected at five field sites. Field surveys were conducted looking for the presence of Botrytis and Sclerotinia, and flower samples were taken from fields and plated on selective media to check for the presence of these diseases. After 2 hot and dry summers, results show that little to no blossom blight was found in field, and some detected in the lab. Upon completion of data collection in 2023, we hope to see a predictive model be developed that can be used within existing Alberta weather services.
View the results from 2021 season here (page 105):
Our Research Partners
Leafcutter Bee Production
Alfalfa Seed producers rely on pollination by the small, solitary leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata. Alfalfa flowers grow as an elongated cluster of parts, with a keel, wings and standard taking the place of the normal arrangement of petals. The pistil is held deep in the keel and must be exposed or “tripped” for pollination to occur. Leafcutter bees are the preferred managed pollinator for this crop as others such as honeybees, will simply reach in from the side and “steal” nectar without tripping and pollinating the flower.
Careful management of leafcutter bee populations is necessary to maintain high levels of pollination, good bee return and the health of leafcutter bees through storage and incubation.
Below you will find resources. Please login into the members area for access to ASCA’s Alfalfa Seed and Leafcutter bee Production and Marketing Manual for more information.
Members of the Alfalfa Seed Commission (Alberta) who are in need of paraformeldahyde for their leafcutter bees can purchase the chemical at: ClearTech
The Canadian Cocoon Testing Center (CCTC) located in Brooks, Alberta, is the national testing centre for alfalfa leafcutter bee cocoons. The CCTC is operated under governance of alfalfa leafcutting bee organizations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Services provided include x-ray imaging to identify live bee counts, disease prevalence (Chalkbrood and A. larvis), machine and pest damage, and parasitism levels. Sex ratio studies are also available. For more information, click here.
Please login into the members area for access to ASCA’s Alfalfa Seed and Leafcutter bee Production and Marketing Manual for more information.
Much of the irrigated alfalfa seed produced in Canada comes from southern Alberta, with much of it grown within the Eastern Irrigation District (EID). There is also seed production in the Bow River Irrigation District, near the towns of Enchant, Bow Island, and Lomond, and in the Peace Region of Northern Alberta.
As of December 2023, Authority Supreme Herbicide (sulfentrazone/pyroxasulfone) and Authority® 480 Herbicide (sulfentrazone) are now registered for use on alfafla seed crops.
As of February 2020, Assail 70 WP Insecticide has been registered for suppression of alfalfa plant bug in alfalfa seed crops.
Beleaf 50SG has been approved for control of aphids and suppression of tarnished plant bugs .
Express plus glyphosate was approved as a pre-seed burn down for labeled weeds on alfalfa seed.
AFA published the 2023 edition of their Alfalfa Variety Ratings – Winter Survival, Fall Dormancy & Pest Resistance Ratings for Alfalfa Varieties which you can access at: Welcome to the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance and you can explore their searchable variety database at: alfalfa.org/varietyratings.php
National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance’s 2023 Alfalfa Variety Ratings
Alberta’s Crop Protection Guide
Canadian Seed Growers Association
CSGA Certified Seed Locator
Current and historic weather and climate information
Alberta Irrigation Management Model (AIMM)
Government of Alberta’s Alfalfa Seed Marketing Guide
Alfalfa Leaf Cutting Bee Producer Guide to the National Bee Farm-level Biosecurity Standard
For insect pest risk maps, field guides and more