December 2020 - Iris Bitterlich, PAg

December 2020's Agrologist of the Month is Iris Bitterlich, PAg; Okanagan/District 2

What are your areas of practice? What is your expertise?

I work in the horticultural food production sector, collaborating with people from grower associations, commercial companies, and government on various projects. Much of my work has a focus on crop protection, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and (bio)pesticides. In practical terms, this means chairing grower meetings to identify problematic pests and diseases, researching management tools, and working to make the tools available to growers.

Other times, I work to prepare documents for a (bio)pesticide registration submission to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency. In addition, I manage projects whose goal is to generate data that proves a particular (bio)pesticide controls a particular pest on a certain crop. At the moment, I also sit on the Canadian Horticultural Council’s Crop Protection Advisory Group. The Group identifies IPM policy issues and works to change these government policies so the policies will better support grower needs.

While much of my work is focused on crop protection, I have worked on many other issues of importance to the horticultural sector from Food to Worker Safety, from Agricultural Waste Stewardship to Bee and Bumble Bee Biosecurity. Just recently I worked for a commercial operation to bring new, small-fruiting, plant varieties from Europe to Canada.

Why did you choose the career which you are in currently?

I grew up on a small farm in a rural setting. Ever since I can remember I have loved the outdoors and all things in nature – plants, wildlife, insects – you name it. All of this nudged me in the direction of horticulture and I ended up at UBC doing a B.Sc. in Horticulture and a M.Sc. in Weed Science.

Why did you decide to become a member of BCIA?

I think the BCIA is a very important institution, not only for the networking and continuing education opportunities for myself, but for providing assurance to others outside the BCIA that I am a professional. There is a set of ethics that I as a BCIA member stand by, so that clients who hire me know that I am there to represent their best interests and provide quality work.

What do you do in a typical work day or week?

I cannot say I ever have a typical day or week. It’s all about what projects or work happen to be on the table at any one particular time. Sometimes I am working to organize and chair grower conference calls. Other times I am on conference calls as a participant providing technical advice. I might be surfing the internet “data mining” for pesticide residue or efficacy data or researching pest control options. Alternatively, I could be reaching out to government staff about some regulatory issue or emergency pest problem. Or I could be working to update databases of pesticide registrations and Maximum Residue Limits. It’s pretty much a mixed bag.

Please share some interesting bonus "perks" and experiences of your previous or current work.

One of the best perks I have is to be able to work and collaborate with other people on common goals, not just here in British Columbia, but also across Canada and the United States. Recently, through meetings such as the Global Minor Use Summit, the circle has expanded to the whole world. The people involved in horticulture production, be they from the private sector or government, are all dedicated, passionate and professional. If only the public knew more about what goes on behind the scenes to bring delicious, blemish-free produce to their super market shelves!