Okanagan – Kootenay Sterile Insect Release program up for international award

The achievement award will be handed out next month at the International Pest Management Symposium in Utah.

The Okanagan-Kootenay Sterile Insect Release program has been nominated for a prestigious integrated pest management (IPM) achievement award, to be handed out this spring at the eighth annual International IPM Symposium, to be held  held in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 23 to 26.

The OKSIR program has been successfully controlling codling moths in the apple and pear growing areas of the Okanagan and Similkameen areas for more than the last 20 years.

The program has garnered a lot of international interest from areas and companies looking to recreate its success with codling moths elsewhere, such as in  the US, New Zealand and France). Other areas, in Switzerland and France, are also looking to use the local SIR program’s approach with other pests.

The Okanagan-Kootenay program operates from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos, and into the Similkameen Valley, and is led by the general manager, Cara Nelson.

“It’s an honour to be formally recognized by the international integrated pest management community,” said Nelson.  “Our whole valley can be proud of the OKSIR program—not just for the amount of pesticides kept out of the environment because the program is in place, but also for the support it provides for our fruit growers, who are important to our local economy and our Okanagan way of life.”

Since the the program started, the amount of pesticides used to fight codling moth has been reduced by 96 per cent.  Many orchardists in the valley have not had to spray their trees for codling moth for the last 15 years, she said.

If a chemical spray is required, most growers need only use a single, well-timed application, instead of the three or more they needed prior to the program’s implementation.

Fred Steele, president of the British Columbia Fruit Grower’s Association praised the OKSIR program in a letter of support he sent with the program’s nomination for the award.

“The Okanagan-­Kootenay Sterile Insect Release program is an asset for both our  fruit growers and the residents of the valleys that live near, and amongst, the orchards,” said Steele. “The success of the program has led to other local fruit industries, including cherry and grape growers, expressing interest in applying the area-­wide approach to their own pests.”

Program staff spend the spring and summer releasing sterile codling moths in apple and pear orchards.  Those sterile moths attract and mate with wild moths.  Because the released moths have been sterilized, they can’t produce healthy eggs—the eggs can’t hatch, so the fruit is not damaged, and the moth population doesn’t increase.

The achievement award winner will be announced later this month and awarded at the symposium in Utah next month.

Nelson will make a presentation about the program at the symposium as a part of a session organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The session will focus on the role of partnerships and stakeholder collaboration in the success of region-wide IPM programs.


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