Following a three-year virtual hiatus due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Pest Management Centre (AAFC-PMC) held its 21st annual national pest management priority setting workshop in a much-anticipated return to an in-person format in Gatineau, Quebec from March 21 – 23. The exercise was broken into three workshops, one per day, focusing on entomology, pathology and weed science over the course of the three days.
The meetings brought together a wide range of participants from across Canada, the United States, and other international partners including Brazil and the Netherlands. Participants included university and federal researchers, crop extension specialists, private consultants, provincial specialists, provincial minor use coordinators (PMUCs), registrant representatives, Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and AAFC-PMC staff, growers and grower organization representatives.
The meetings were held to review the top priorities identified by each of the provinces’ horticultural and ornamental crop industries to establish the top national priorities for the minor crops sector. Priorities which were selected in the final ‘A’ round will guide AAFC-PMC’s field research program as research projects in the 2024 season and eventually support future minor use label expansion submissions sent to PMRA once complete. The goal of the workshops was to elevate 35 ‘A’ priorities for capacity analysis consideration – eight mainstream and two organic projects per discipline, plus five regional selections at the end of the workshops.
The opening day of the workshop was focused on entomology, and began with participant introductions, welcoming remarks from PMC staff and executive director Marcos Alvarez, and featured a moment of tribute where colleagues past and present came together to remember the memory of the late Gavin Graham, former provincial weed management specialist and PMUC for New Brunswick. The workshops commenced following a short break, and by end of day, resulted in the selection of six mainstream priorities, two below the day’s target of eight priorities, and two organic priorities for capacity consideration.
Day two focused on pathology and began with similar introductions, then featured a PMRA update and question period with acting executive director Frédéric Bissonnette. The priority setting process began, and then had a break between sessions just before lunch to celebrate 20 years of partnership between AAFC-PMC and stakeholders. The break featured an address from AAFC associate deputy minister Suzy McDonald highlighting many of the key accomplishments of the organization in the past 20 years. The workshop resumed after the lunch hour, then concluded with a full eight mainstream priorities being chosen, along with one organic priority for later capacity consideration.
Finally, the last day of the workshop was focused upon weed science, beginning with opening remarks and introductions, and a thank-you session recognizing the contributions of Ian Gardiner, longtime submissions manager for AAFC-PMC who is retiring later this year following more than 22 years of public service. The workshop itself moved quickly, with seven mainstream priorities being chosen, and selection of the five regional upgrades occurring all before the scheduled lunch break, marking conclusion of the 2023 workshops far ahead of schedule.
Continuing from last year, the capacity analysis process first introduced in the 2022 Priority Setting Workshops occurred throughout the month of April following the end of this year’s meetings. This process was implemented to ensure projects are completed in an efficient, and timely process in the coming years according to several factors including: staffing resources, funding, and the number of ongoing projects already underway for a particular crop, crop availability in residue crop zones across Canada, whether a selection would support a crop group registration, selected solution product availability, selected pest pressure, registrant support conditions, new, invasive, or emerging pest status, whether or not the priority was selected as an ‘A’ priority but not taken on in 2022, and ‘category A’ new use project statuses.
Following this capacity analysis process, a total of 18 projects were intended to remain as final picks broken into 11 mainstream projects, two organics, and the five regional upgrades. Attendees were able to narrow their selections below the elevations target with a total of 29 projects being raised to an ‘A’ following careful discussion and negotiation, thus resulting in fewer projects needing to be analyzed. However, following discussions during the capacity analysis process between PMUCs, AAFC-PMC, and PMRA staff, several efficiencies within the projects selected this year were found and three additional projects were selected by AAFC-PMC for a total of 21 projects going forward for research. This marks 13 mainstream selections, five regional upgrades, and two organics projects being committed to by AAFC-PMC. A further seven projects are expected to be selected as joint projects between the U.S. IR-4 project and AAFC-PMC at the IR-4 workshops scheduled for September and October 2023 including a piloted process of selecting one environmental horticulture program to partner on, in addition to six food uses.
Thus far, AAFC-PMC has committed to returning to a virtual selection process in winter 2024 in an effort to preserve programming funds while targeting a return to another in-person meeting in winter 2025. Project capacity for 2024 is expected to be confirmed closer to the meetings in late fall or winter 2023–2024.
The attached table summarizes the projects agreed upon as ‘A’ priorities for the 2023 workshop. Lines which are bolded indicate projects which will move forward as AAFC-PMC projects in 2024. Lines which are italicized were not selected as part of the piloted capacity analysis process; certain projects not selected may still be elevated as a 2024 project if the project aligns with those set at the IR-4 selection OR if AAFC-PMC cannot find six projects which align with Canadian growers’ needs during the workshop.
Ideally, the projects selected this year will have their data requirements completed and submitted to the PMRA by AAFC-PMC with a target of submission by 2028. Subsequent registration decisions for these submissions are expected from PMRA one to two years following submittal.
Table 1: Selected ‘A’ priorities for the 2023 workshop. Lines that are bolded will move forward as PMC projects in 2024 while those that are italicized were chosen as an ‘A’ priority but will not move forward at this time.