Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 03, 2001

U of G part of NSERC's new multi-million-dollar research network.

The University of Guelph will be part of a new $6.6-million research team aimed at reducing the use of pesticides in agriculture and forestry.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) announced today that it is investing $21.7 million to launch three new research networks in environmental studies. They will bring together more than 100 researchers and some 200 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from 25 universities and other organizations. The networks will focus on natural pest-control methods, water quality, climate change and the role of mercury in ecosystems.

U of G is part of the Biocontrol Network, which includes 42 scientists from 14 Canadian universities and seven government research agencies. It will be based at the Université de Montréal. “This is the first of its kind in the world,” said microbiologist Peter Krell, who is spearheading Guelph’s role in the project. The team will research diverse areas and gather input from industry, users and the public. “We anticipate being able to develop effective biocontrol strategies that the industry can market, that growers can use for crop protection, and that the public can accept.”

The network will be divided into seven research programs that will develop environmentally friendly ways to deal with pests that prey on crops and trees. It will focus on replacing pesticides with natural enemies of insect pests and disease pathogens, most immediately in greenhouses and tree nurseries. Canada’s tree nurseries are a major sector of Canada’s forest industry, which is worth more than $60 billion annually, and the greenhouse industry is one of the nation’s fastest-growing sectors, worth more than $1.5 billion a year. The network will also emphasize training young researchers to routinely use ecological approaches such as using microbes, fungi and small invertebrates as more environmentally benign biological control agents.

For his part, Krell, along with Basil Arif, an associate graduate faculty member at Guelph and a member of Sault Ste. Marie’s Canadian Forest Service, will evaluate insect viruses at the molecular to ecological levels. They plan to harness the viruses, make them more efficient and study their effect on insect larvae. They will also study how environmental factors influence viral and host population dynamics. The two will also co-chair one of the seven research programs.

Krell will also participate in the development of DNA-based technologies to allow for more rapid analysis of trees and plants’ responses to pest stress and other factors. “This will all be used to help develop ways to screen novel biocontrol agents and products for agricultural pest and pathogen control.”


Prof. Peter Krell
Department of Microbiology
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 3368

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