Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Leafy Spurge

Funded by Greencover Canada Technical Assistance Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

In 2004, the Greencover Canada Technical Assistance Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada awarded the Rural Development Institute with funding support for a three-year project aimed at increasing the use of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for leafy spurge in pastures and wildlands in the Prairie Region of Canada.

Leafy spurge is a perennial weed species native to Europe that spreads rapidly in pastures and wildlife areas. Leafy spurge is highly competitive and considered impossible to eradicate. The highly invasive, adaptable and pernicious nature of leafy spurge allows the plant to grow in a variety of soil types and eco-zones including aspen forests, marshes, native grasslands and pastures. Infestation levels of leafy spurge are highest across the northern plains of the US and into the three prairie provinces of Canada. Manitoba is the most severely affected with more than 650,000 acres although leafy spurge is also a significant problem in many areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The control and containment of leafy spurge affects a variety of individuals and agencies including landowners and managers, municipalities, land developers, government services, highways, railways and wildlife organizations. The economic costs of leafy spurge are estimated at more than $25 million each year.

The Greencover Canada project builds on RDI’s work in monitoring of biocontrol, technology transfer activities and with the coordination of the Leafy Spurge Stakeholders Group (LSSG). The LSSG is a broad coalition of stakeholders in Manitoba. Through RDI, the LSSG has had several years of successful experience in coordinating efforts, seeking project funding, offering technology transfer opportunities and identifying opportunities to create co-venture or joint-venture arrangements with stakeholders. 

The overall aim of the project is to take a comprehensive, regional approach to leafy spurge. Specific objectives of the project are to:

  • Develop a pan-western organization or network of stakeholders involved in leafy spurge control and containment.
  • Undertake technology transfer activities such as plot demonstrations and the establishment of a common database on biocontrol across the Prairies;
  • Provide an economic assessment of various IPM strategies
  • Provide a database of infestations of leafy spurge as well as locations of biocontrol sites

Throughout the project RDI provided employment opportunities for Brandon University students. The project has also provided a student internship for a Masters student in Rural Development.

Karen Rempel, Research Affiliate with the Rural Development Institute will manage the project with input from a pan-Western working group of representatives from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. In late 2006, a representative from British Columbia joined the working group. Partners in the project include the Brandon Research Station, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Canada Rural Economy Research Lab at the University of Saskatchewan. Over the three year period the overall value of the project is estimated at more than $300,000 with contributions from the Greencover Canada Technical Assistance program amounting to $200,000.