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July 22, 2017 July 22, 2017

Bees, drones and greenhouses — LRDC demos and displays teach locals about ag

Posted on July 4, 2017 by Sunny South News

By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News

It’s not every day Lethbridge County and area residents get a chance to visit the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, located just off Jail Road (Highway 512).
Some southern Alberta motorists drive by the centre and wonder just what goes on in “that” place.
It’s simple — lots of exciting and interesting things to do with Canada’s ag sector. Last week, the centre hosted an Open House for those interested in learning about what the centre is all about. The event featured displays, tours, hands-on demos and cake.
One of the displays featured local bees of the honey and wild variety. According to a few official bee enthusiasts at the Open House, there are 325 species of wild bees in Alberta, which includes managed bees.
Lynae, from the LRDC, is an agriculture research technician. “It means I’m a professional beekeeper, basically,” she noted.
“We’re just teaching people about bees and letting them taste honey. A lot of people don’t really understand the difference between honey bees and all the other different bees we have. We have some wild bees and some bumble bees,” she explained. There was an observation unit on location, where visitors could see an actual queen and drones working their bee magic.
“We do a lot of research because there’s leaf-cutter bees and honey bees used to pollinate seed canola,” she added.
“Bees are great,” she joked.
Honey bees on display at the Open House are managed by beekeepers and are from Europe, according to Lynae.
Another display at the Open House featured drones. Anne Smith, a research scientist in the applications and remote sensing for ag department, noted she was talking to visitors about satellites, airplanes and drones and how they are used as tools for the ag industry.
“The latest thing we’ve been working on is drone technology and putting our sensors on the drones. We have things like just regular cameras, we have specialized cameras and a thermal camera. We’re actually trying to develop tools for plant breeders and agronomists, so we can look for stresses in plants or we can look for variations in the field,” she explained.
Smith added work is being done locally in mapping noxious weeds.
“Down in the river valley there’s a lot of leafy spurge out right now. We have colleagues that work on biological control, so they release insects or beetles to control it. But their question is, ‘where is it?’ ‘And how effective have we’ve been?’ We’re using drones and flying over their areas trying to map that,” she said.

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