Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

NSERC Presents 2 Minutes with J. David Miller

Department of Chemistry, Carleton University, in partnership with J.D. Irving, Limited


Video Name

2 Minutes with J. David Miller


NSERC Communications



Release Date

February 16, 2016


Annual harvests of coniferous trees are an important contributor to Canada’s economy, but the industry is continually threatened by epidemics of insect pests. J. David Miller and J.D. Irving, Limited, are working together to combat this problem in an environmentally sensitive way. The partnership has led to the production and commercialization of seedlings which, when mature, are more tolerant to insect pests. This partnership earned Dr. Miller one of NSERC's Synergy Awards for Innovation in 2015.

J. David Miller

What my partners at J.D. Irving, Limited, and I have been able to do over a long period of time is ask the question, “Can we produce trees that are somewhat more tolerant of the spruce budworm?”

Greg Adams

Spruce budworm is the most damaging insect pest of the conifer forest across Canada. It will outright kill large areas of forest. When Dr. Miller came to us in 1998 with his knowledge of perhaps increasing the tolerance of the trees that we planted, J.D. Irving was quite interested.

J. David Miller

Some plants allow fungi to live inside them without causing damage. Fungi are eaten by insects and arthropods in nature for their protein. Fungi don't like that, so they make toxins to essentially discourage insects from eating. So I wanted to go and do the experiment: could we re-infect seedlings? Which is just basically taking nature and putting it back into nature. Within two years, we're able to say, “Yeah, we can do this.”

Greg Adams

A company typically produces anywhere between 13 and 20 million spruce seedlings in the run of a year. All the spruce seedlings that we grow today have been inoculated with different strains of these fungi. There's been substantial amount of resources that have been invested into the science to get it to where it is today. The laboratory facility that we're filming in today was developed specifically to further promote some aspects of biosciences that are important to the company's business.

J. David Miller

The reason this is a success is that people with the maximum know-how, growing trees of the type that I was interested in in the Acadian forest, participated not just in a passive way but in an active way with their expertise.