To borrow from the popular Ghostbusters theme, if you're a farmer and you want to know what pests are eating your crops, "who ya gonna call?"
UFV's Alicia Powell of Chilliwack should be the top person on your go-to list. Powell, 20, is graduating this month from UFV's horticulture crop production and protection certificate program. For somone who loves being outdoors, wants to protect the environment, enjoys nurturing plants to full potential, but wasn't quite sure of a career goal, the 10-month program was the perfect choice. Powell graduated from Sardis Secondary two years ago and it was there that she first made the connection with UFV's agriculture department. UFV partners with the high school, and instructor Tom Baumann teaches an introductory horticulture course that students can take while also taking their Grade 11 and 12 agriculture classes.
"There was a real connection between the UFV staff and the students at Sardis," said Powell. "They helped us with our plant sale and I remember visiting the UFV campus and I just loved it."
Powell is a fast learner. Not only has she graduated and landed a job in her chosen field, she also won the Lieutenant Governor's silver medal for her academic accomplishments. The medal is awarded annually to students in vocational or career programs that are less than two years long who have excelled in their studies and also contributed to their post-secondary institution or their community.
Baumann says Powell is the perfect candidate for such recognition. She is an enthusiastic and natural leader in the classroom and consistently produces excellent work in class, on exams, and for all assignments. Her hands-on approach to learning and helping in the classroom was remarkable and she is a great example to other students.
"It was always a pleasure having Alicia in my classes, as she actively contributes to class discussions in a very professional and intelligent manner, drawing from science studies and experience," Baumann said. "She adds a lot of spark to discussions and in my opinion will do very well in her further schooling and horticulture career.
Baumann said it is Powell's volunteer work that makes her stand out from the crowd. She continues to volunteer at Sardis Secondary and helped with the school's plant sale this year--one of the most successful sales in the school's history.
The university's horticulture crop production and protection certificate program is an intensive option that teaches innovation production techniques and pest biology methods to protect cash crops. Powell is currently working with E.S. CropConsult Ltd. as a "scout" and scans farmers' fields looking for destructive pests.
"My job is to walk through the fields, and inspect selected rows of plants for bugs, diseases, viruses or other pests," she said.
Once Powell determines if pests are in the area, her team at E.S. CropConsult comes up with a pest control management plan. While it sounds easy, agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Lower Mainland and correct pest management is vital. Integrated pest management is a science that controls destructive pests with a combination of tools--cultural, biological, physical and chemical--in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.
As a scout, she monitors fields for insects, viruses, and disease on a regular basis until the crop is harvested. Pest scouts are used by field and greenhouse growers of most plants, including potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and the lucrative berry crops. To be good at her job, not only does Powell have to know how to identify the pests (and know which ones might be beneficial to a particular crop), she also needs to know pest life cycles, what helps the crop thrive, how to collect the correct data, and how to make recommendations based on what she finds.