It’s a matter of trust

It’s a matter of trust

If you ask a group of random Canadians about whether they trust farmers

Wiry wireworms

Wiry wireworms

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Bob Vernon

SIR spreads its wings

SIR spreads its wings

A non-descript building in an industrial park

Everything old is new again

Everything old is new again

The B.C. tree fruit replant program

March 27, 2017, Ridgetown, Ont – The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has released its 2017 schedule for integrated pest management (IPM) workshops for those who will be scouting horticultural crops this year. To register, please contact OMAFRA’s Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300. Planning is also underway for scout training workshops for hops, hazelnuts and berry crops. Details for these workshops will be available soon.           Introduction to IPMMay 2, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.Conference Rm 1, 2 and 3, 1st Floor, 1 Stone Rd. West, GuelphWorkshop Leader: Denise BeatonNotes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. Pay parking ($12/day).  Tomatoes & PeppersApril 28, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.           Room 126 (Main Floor), Agronomy Building, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus Workshop Leader: Janice LeBoeuf Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. See Resources for Vegetable Crop Scouts. Asparagus     Field sessions available upon request Email: Elaine Roddy, Vegetable Specialist – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Cole Crops     May 8, Time: TBD Conference Rm 2, 1st Floor, 1 Stone Rd. West, Guelph Workshop Leader: Dennis Van Dyk Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. Pay parking ($12/day). See Resources for Vegetable Crop Scouts. Lettuce, Celery, Onions, Carrots     May 10, Time: TBDConference Rm 2, 1st Floor, 1 Stone Rd. West, GuelphWorkshop Leader: Dennis Van DykNotes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. Pay parking ($12/day). See Resources for Vegetable Crop Scouts. Sweet Corn, Bean and Pea May 11, 9:30 a.m. to noon Room 126 (Main Floor), Agronomy Building, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus Workshop Leader: Elaine Roddy Notes: Lunch on your own Cucurbit Crops May 11, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Room 126 (Main Floor), Agronomy Building, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus Workshop Leader: Elaine Roddy Notes: Lunch on your own Apples May 4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Auditorium, Simcoe OMAFRA Resource Centre Workshop Leader: Kristy Grigg-McGuffin Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. If possible, bring OMAFRA Publications 360 & 310 (available for purchase as well). Tender Fruit and Grape       May 9, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Rittenhouse Hall, Vineland OMAFRA Resource Centre Workshop Leader: Wendy McFadden- Smith Notes: Bring a laptop with WiFi capability. Lunch on your own. Ginseng (IN-FIELD)   June 15, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Rain date: June 16, 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.) C&R Atkinson Farms Ltd., 228 Charlotteville Rd. 1, St. Williams Workshop Leaders: Sean Westerveld and Melanie Filotas
If you ask a group of random Canadians about whether they trust farmers and Canada’s food system on the whole, you’ll likely hear a variety of responses.
March 24, 2017 – On the long journey from the farm to the retailer's shelf, fruits can quickly perish. In particular, the refrigeration inside the cargo containers is not always guaranteed and existing methods for measuring the temperature are not sufficiently reliable. A sensor developed at Empa solves this problem. It looks like a piece of fruit and acts like a piece of fruit – but is actually a spy. Some fruit travel long distances by the time they reach shops. They are picked, packaged, refrigerated, packed in refrigerated containers, shipped, stored and finally laid out on display. However, not all the cargo makes it safely to its destination. Although fruit is inspected regularly, some of it is damaged or may even perish during the journey. This is because monitoring still has significant scope for improvement. Although sensors measure the air temperature in the freight container, it is the core temperature of the individual fruit that is decisive for the quality of the fruit. However, up to now, it has only been possible to measure this "invasively", i.e. by inserting a sensor through the skin and into the centre. And even this process has drawbacks. To carry out the measurement, the technician usually takes a piece of fruit from a cardboard box in the front row of pallets in the container, which in turn distorts the result. Fruit that is closer to the outside of the transport container is better refrigerated than fruit on the inside. Sometimes whole container loads have to be destroyed because the temperatures on the inside of the container did not meet the prescribed guidelines. The U.S. and China, in particular, are extremely strict regarding the importation of fruit and vegetables. If the cargo has not been stored for three weeks at a certain minimum temperature, it is not authorized for sale in the country. Not only does refrigeration serve to maintain the freshness and quality of the fruit, it also kills any larvae, such as moth larvae, which can nest in the fruit. It is therefore essential to prove that the refrigeration has actually penetrated all the fruit in the whole consignment for the required period of time. In order to guarantee and monitor the temperature within the fruit, researchers at Empa have now developed an artificial fruit sensor. It is the same shape and size as the relevant fruit and also simulates its composition, and can be packed in with the real fruit and travel with it. On arrival at the destination, the data from the sensor can be analyzed relatively quickly and easily. From this, the researchers hope to gain information about the temperature during transportation. This is important information, primarily for insurance reasons: if a delivery does not meet the quality requirements, the sensor can be used to establish the point in the storage and transport chain at which something went wrong. Initial results are certainly very promising. "We analyzed the sensors in the Empa refrigeration chamber in detail and all the tests were successful," explains project leader Thijs Defraeye from the Laboratory for Multiscale Studies in Building Physics. Up to now, a fruit had to be sliced up and a sensor be placed inside. The "spy fruit" is then stuck back. However, this distorts the results as the fruit is damaged. However, the same sensor does not work for all fruits, as Defraeye explains. "We are developing separate sensors for each type of fruit, and even for different varieties," he says. There are currently separate sensors for the Braeburn and Jonagold apple varieties, the Kent mango, oranges and the classic Cavendish banana. In order to simulate the characteristics of the individual types of fruit, the fruit is X-rayed, and a computer algorithm creates the average shape and texture of the fruit. From the literature or based on their own measurements, the researchers then determine the exact composition of the fruit's flesh (usually a combination of water, air and sugar) and simulate this in exactly the same ratio in the laboratory, although not with the original ingredients, instead using a mixture of water, carbohydrates and polystyrene. This mixture is used to fill the fruit-shaped sensor mould. The mould is produced on a 3D printer. The researchers place the actual sensor inside the artificial fruit, where it records the data, including the core temperature of the fruit. Existing measuring devices on container walls only provide the air temperature, but this is not sufficiently reliable because the fruit can still be too warm on the inside. Although such fruit core simulators already exist in the field of research, they are not yet sufficiently accurate, explains Defraeye. One such example that has been used is balls filled with water with a sensor inside. "We have conducted comparative tests," says the researcher. "And our filling provided much more accurate data and simulated the behaviour of a real piece of fruit much more reliably at different temperatures." Initial field tests on the sensors are currently under way and the researchers are now looking for potential industrial partners to manufacture the fruit spies. The investment is certainly likely to be worthwhile. It is estimated that the cost of such a sensor is less than 50 Swiss Francs. The data would only have to be analyzed if something was wrong with the delivered goods. This would then make it possible to efficiently establish where in the process an error had occurred. Another desirable feature would be to be able to receive the data from the cargo container live and in real time, so that appropriate countermeasures could be taken in the event of abnormal data – thereby potentially saving the fruit cargo. That would require a wireless or Bluetooth connection. "However, our current fruit sensor cannot do that yet. And the price of the product would, of course, go up," says Defraeye. But the profits for the companies would probably also go up if the fruit sensors enabled them to supply more goods in perfect condition.
March 24, 2017, Kentville, NS – Loblaws recently recognized Pazazz apple with its top honour – selection as a President’s Choice product. President’s Choice status is only bestowed on produce and other food items that demonstrate truly exceptional quality, taste and great value to customers. Grown locally in Canada by Van Meekeren Farms, Pazazz is a premium winter apple variety and has been in development in conjunction with Honeybear Brands for more than nine years. A descendent of the crowd-pleasing Honeycrisp, Pazazz has a unique blend of sweet and tart flavours and explosive crunch that has attracted a loyal following of customers in just a few short years on the market. “Each year there are literally hundreds of candidates for President’s Choice status,” says Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs for Loblaws Atlantic. “We consider each very carefully for perfect taste, appearance, premium quality and a uniqueness they offer to our Loblaws customers. Pazazz scored highly across the board and was an easy selection for us to make.” Available now, Pazazz will be sold in 2lb special President’s Choice branded bags in select Loblaws stores while supplies last. “This is a huge honour and we’re very excited,” says Michael Van Meekeren, co-owner of Van Meekeren Farms. “Pazazz is a young variety compared to many available today and because it’s a winter variety that peaks in flavour in the winter months, it gives apple lovers something that is very difficult to get at this time of year – a premium apple variety with that just-picked freshness.”  Pazazz is harvested in late October but reaches the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavours during the winter months, arriving on Loblaws and other retailer shelves in early January each year. This season the variety has shattered all retail goals and expectations. For more information about Pazazz or Honeybear Brands visit PazazzApple.com or honeybearbrands.com.
March 24, 2017, Mitchell, Ont – Ontario growers and processors of fruits and vegetables have successfully concluded an agreement for the 2017 vegetable season, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processing Association (OFVPA) announced. "For the first time we could sit down directly with our partner growers and resolve many issues," said Steve Lamoure, president of OFVPA. "This happened because the Wynne government stepped in to get both parties to the table. We were within hours of losing significant parts of the growing season." "The results of working with our grower partners, the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission and the Ontario government yielded positive results," he added. "The professional handling of the negotiations of all crops made for a more constructive dialogue on the issues that affect us all. We will continue to work with all parties for the advancement and growth of all processing vegetables." As part of the deal, growers successfully negotiated to get back more than 100,000 tons of tomato production previously cut. "The changes to the negotiation process was never about price,” said Lamoure. “This was about a working relationship that can protect and grow the industry. Our workers, growers, companies and communities all benefit. This is a major win for the growers, worth approximately $10 to $11 million.” "Cooperation, trust and willingness to work together does make a difference," said Don Epp, executive director of the OFVPA. "Hopefully we have marked a turning point that will allow us to focus on growing our industry and open new opportunities for growers and processors. This will benefit everyone and strengthen the local economies of Southwestern Ontario." The agreements cover fruits and vegetables processed in Ontario.
Incredible. Unbelievable. Disneyland.
Sweet potato consumption is on the rise across the nation and Canadian horticultural growers will soon have the chance to get more of the action.
Planning not to replant is planning to get out of business, according to Hank Markgraf, grower services manager at the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative.
March 21, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – Getting into On-Farm Sales takes place April 4, 2017, at the Agri-Food Business Centre, 6547 Sparrow Drive, Leduc. “This workshop examines selling your food products direct to consumers from your farm,” says Delores Serafin with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “It’s a chance to learn about the different options available to you from u-picks to farm stands and seasonal sales centres. Discover the behind-the-scenes considerations that help to make the consumer experience memorable and your business successful, such as parking and traffic flow, signage, scales, cash handling systems, washrooms, and more.” Jim Hill with Hidden Valley Garden near Sylvan Lake will talk about the way they implemented a simple sales solution into their u-pick operation, and Vicky Horn with Tangle Ridge Ranch near Thorsby will share how customers access their lamb both on-farm and through off-farm deliveries. The workshop will also help participants to understand which regulations apply to their business, who to contact and why they matter. Getting into Farm Sales runs from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The $25 fee includes GST and covers lunch and refreshments. To register, call 1-800-387-6030 by March 27.
March 1, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Total organic agricultural land is increasing in Canada. The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA)'s latest research has revealed 5,053 certified organic operations in Canada, accounting for 2.43 million acres of land. "Canada's organic sector continues to rely on the voluntary disclosure of data by certifiers and provincial organizations,” said Tia Loftsgard, COTA's executive director. “In 2016 we finally have universal participation, resulting in the most rigorous production data yet. However, year-over-year change and inconsistencies remain a risk until a national mandatory data system has been implemented." Key findings: Organic acreage in Canada increased by more than 70,000 acres to 2.43 million acres, or 1.5 per cent, between 2014 and 2015. Organic areas now account for approximately 1.5 per cent of total agricultural land in Canada. While pasture still occupies the largest share of all organic acreage, its proportion has decreased from 65 per cent to 63.8 per cent primarily due to significant increases in vegetable & root crop acreage, as well fruit & nut acreage. In 2015, Canada imported at least $652 million worth of organic products, representing a 37 per cent increase from 2012. There are 5,053 certified organic operations in Canada, over half of which are in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Of the certified operations, there are 4,045 primary producers, 618 livestock operations and 1,542 processors, manufacturers and retailers in Canada. Despite the growth of Canadian organic acreage in recent years, demand for organic is significantly outpacing supply. Organic retail sales in Canada are now worth $4.7 billion annually, a 13.6 per cent growth per year since 2007, while organic production is experiencing much slower growth. "Our organic agricultural production in Canada cannot keep up with the exponential growth of the demand, this is resulting in an increased reliance on import organics," said Loftsgard. "Our government must introduce incentives to encourage farm operators to transition to certified organic agriculture." During the three-year transition period to organic, farmers often experience temporary decrease of yield without benefiting from the organic premiums. Programs to support organic transition and its associated financial risk needs to be put in place.
March 1, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – P.E.I. potatoes fetched good prices in 2016, continuing a trend that stretches back to 2004. The strong performance for Island spuds was shown in the farm product prices indexed released by Statistics Canada Feb. 27. READ MORE
February 22, 2017 – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s potato breeders saw remarkable results with their 2016 red-skinned selections. In fact, red-skinned varieties made up half of the total selections AAFC breeders released to industry during the annual Potato Selection Release Open House. From adaptability to the processing market and high yields to disease resistance, these potential new varieties have it all. For the first time, the breeding program unveiled a multi-purpose red-skinned selection showing promise for processing as wedges, and as a traditional table potato. Breeders have also developed Russet selections that have a longer shelf life in cold storage while maintaining stable sugars, making them attractive new selections to French fry processors. These were among 15 new potato selections that AAFC’s breeding team unveiled this year. The selections were narrowed down from more than 100,000 hybrid seedlings grown and tested and measured over six years in AAFC greenhouses, laboratories and fields across the country. The selections are the result of continuing technological advances that are allowing AAFC researchers to probe the complicated DNA of potatoes to identify genes and strands of DNA linked to favourable traits. This will lead to the development of germplasm with the potential for better yields, nutritional value and cooking and processing qualities.The selections also featured disease and pest resistance that make them less demanding on the environment and offer alternative choices for organic growers. With each genetic marker that is identified, researchers are able to more quickly and accurately search through hundreds of different kinds of potatoes, including centuries-old heritage varieties and wild species, for potential breeding lines that will produce new hybrids with the desired traits.
March 28, 2017, Calgary, Alta – Four new crops have been added to the Presidio fungicide label as the result of Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) minor use approvals. Presidio is now approved for use on ginseng, tobacco, brassica leafy vegetables and greenhouse ornamentals for a variety of troublesome diseases. The PMRA has also approved Presidio for control of pink rot on potatoes. “These Presidio label additions are really important news for Canadian growers that depend on minor use approvals to protect their high value crops,” says Maria Dombrowsky, horticultural specialist at Nufarm Agriculture Inc. “Now more growers can access Presidio as part of their integrated pest management (IPM) program with a unique class of chemistry for better resistance management.” Presidio (Group 43) provides growers with preventive and some curative reach-back action against downy mildew and Phytophthora spp., including late blight, on a variety of crops. In addition to these new crops, Presidio is also registered for use on head, stem and root brassica, cucurbits, fruiting vegetables and leafy vegetables. “Presidio offers a great new option for domestic potato growers managing pink rot,” says Dombrowsky. “Growers should check with their processors before using Presidio on potatoes, because maximum residue limits (MRLs) for potatoes have not been established in all export markets.”
March 27, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Engage Agro Corporation has announced the release of two new products to serve horticultural producers across Canada. Property 300 SC fungicide is a suspension concentrate fungicide that offers protection against powdery mildew in grapes, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash and melons. Pyriofenone, the active ingredient in Property, is the newest generation chemical found in the FRAC U8 group. It demonstrates extremely fast translaminar activity that is complemented by a “vapour effect” that is stronger and longer lasting than that of other chemistries found in the same group. Property is the only group U8 fungicide that can be applied up to the day of harvest on grapes. Cosavet DF is a dry flowable sulphur fungicide that prevents powdery mildew and controls erinium mite of grape. Its patented formulation ensures a low dust, easy to mix product that helps to minimize the risk of scorching. Cosavet DF also controls a wide variety of diseases in tree fruit, Saskatooon berries, cucumbers and peas. Variations in particle size ensure immediate, mid-term and residual activity through contact and vapour action to protect against target fungi. For more information contact Engage Agro at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 1-866-613-3336.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Bob Vernon continues his work with wireworm controls for good reason.
A non-descript building in an industrial park in the Okanagan region of B.C. could be the setting of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  
March 1, 2017, Calgary, Alta – Chateau herbicide, by Valent Canada, Inc. is now registered for use on broccoli and caneberry. Broccoli and caneberry growers in Canada now have another tool to assist in the control of Group 2-acetolactate synthase (ALS) resistant weeds, such as red root pigweed, green pigweed, eastern black nightshade and common ragweed. Chateau, containing flumioxazin (51.1 per cent), is a residual pre-emergent herbicide. A PPO inhibitor, Chateau’s mode of action is different than many other herbicides, so it helps fight resistance, while providing long-lasting control of tough weeds including Group 2-resistant weeds. “Chateau has proven to be an effective herbicide on a wide range of crops” says Maria Dombrowsky, horticulture specialist at Nufarm Agriculture Inc. “I am pleased that this tool is now available to broccoli and caneberry growers for incorporation into their IPM program.” Chateau should be used in rotation with other herbicide modes of action. Chateau is also registered for use on other crops, including pome fruit, blueberries and strawberries. For more information, consult the complete product label at www.nufarm.ca/product/chateau/.
February 21, 2017, Ridgetown, Ont – The Ontario Pesticide Education Program has released a new manual for farm workers.  If you work on a farm where pesticides are used, you need to know how to work safely around pesticides. The information in this manual explains how farm workers can work safely on a farm that uses pesticides. It can be downloaded from their website (5 MB). For those without Internet access or with a need for a print version, you can request the manual from OPEP at 1-800-652-8573 (Ontario only) or 519-674-2230. A Spanish version will be released very soon. Please ensure that all your farm workers are familiar with the information in this manual.
January 24, 2017, St. Paul, MN – Fire blight is a serious disease of apple and pear plants that causes rapid wilting and discoloration of shoots and leaves resembling fire damage. The bacterial pathogen has been traditionally managed with streptomycin applications, but antibiotic resistance is limiting the effect of this control measure.The Plant Management Network (PMN) has released a new presentation entitled Fire Blight and Streptomycin Resistance to help apple growers understand why the resistance has intensified and spread, and to discuss viable management options and new techniques currently under development. The webcast, developed by Quan Zeng, assistant plant pathologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, covers the biological mechanisms of the Erwinia amylavora pathogen and its history of growing resistance to streptomycin antibiotics. The presentation also discusses management strategies such as: Over-winter pruning, copper spraying, and canker treatments In-season antibiotic applications, insect control, and other biological controls Promising alternate, non-antibiotic management tools and techniques The 18-minute presentation is fully open access in the PMN Education Center webcast resource.
January 9, 2017 – Syngenta and DuPont Crop Protection recently announced the publication of a joint patent, focused on the development of a new herbicide chemistry class.Collaboration on the project started in 2015 and has resulted in the joint patent entitled "Substituted cyclic amides and their use as herbicides." The new herbicide has entered into the pre-development stage and is expected to be launched in 2023.“We are very pleased that our collaboration with Syngenta has extended into a joint research project for a new herbicide chemistry class,” said Timothy P. Glenn, president of DuPont Crop Protection. “Partnerships for the advancement of crop science and development of crop protection solutions help growers realize the potential in their fields.”“We are excited to be working again with DuPont on this herbicide research and development project,” said Jon Parr, president for crop protection at Syngenta. “Success in this field will bring much needed new technology to farmers in the increasingly challenging area of weed management, including resistance.”
September 28, 2016, Lawrence, KS – A greenhouse experiment featured in the most recent issue of the journal Weed Technology shows that herbicide spray drift from the 2,4-D and dicamba can severely damage wine grapes planted near agronomic crops.
October 5, 2016, Guelph, Ont – A potato IPM training module has been launched and can be found on the Ontario CropIPM website. The module is a great educational tool with information for the common insect pests, diseases, viruses and disorders of potatoes in Ontario. For each pest or disease, summarized information can be found in the Beginner tab and more detailed information can be found under the Advanced tab. In the “often confused with” section of the entries you can view side-by-side photos of insects, disease, and disorders that cause similar symptoms. You can also find more information on soil diagnostics, weed identification, herbicide injury, and links to additional resources. Make sure to bookmark the page today and use it as a resource for any IPM and pest related issues on potatoes.
April 28, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – Christine Noronha, an entomologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Charlottetown Research and Development Centre, has designed an environmentally green trap that could be a major breakthrough in the control of wireworms, an increasingly destructive agricultural pest on Prince Edward Island and across Canada. In this exslusive webinar hosted by Potatoes in Canada magazine, Christine will share details about the Noronha Elaterid Light Trap (NELT). Don't miss the opportunity to ask questions and learn more from Christine Noronha. Date: May 12, 2016 Time: 2 p.m. ADT (1 p.m. EDT) Cost: $20 Register today!
March 14, 2016, Prince Edward Island – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada entomologist Dr. Christine Noronha has designed a simple and environmentally green trap using hardware store items that could be a major breakthrough in the control of wireworms, an increasingly destructive agricultural pest on PEI and across Canada./span> The Noronha Elaterid Light Trap, or “NELT”, is made with three pieces - a small solar-powered spotlight, a plastic white cup and a piece of screening. The light is set close to the ground to attract the source of the wireworms, the female click beetles that emerge from the ground in May and June. Each of these beetles can lay between 100 and 200 eggs that produce the larvae known as wireworms. In a six-week test with 10 traps, more than 3,000 females were captured in the plastic cups, preventing the birth of up to 600,000 wireworms. The screening prevents beneficial predator insects from being caught in the trap. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Office of Intellectual Property is trademarking the trap name and design and work is underway to find a manufacturer who might be interested in mass-producing the trap. The NELT is the latest in a series of wireworm control measures being developed by a team that includes Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the PEI Potato Board, the PEI Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Cavendish Farms, the PEI Horticultural Association, growers and consulting agronomists. Wireworms live in the soil and drill their way through tuber and root crops like potatoes and carrots. The PEI Potato Board estimated wireworm damage to the province’s potato crop alone at $6 million in 2014. To learn more about the NELT, be sure to sign up for an exclusive webinar with Christine Noronha, hosted by Potatoes in Canada magazine, on May 12.
March 9, 2017, Wenatchee, WA – The Trump administration’s immigration enforcement directives are adding to existing anxiety about U.S. farm labour availability and fueling interest among growers for robots to stand in for migrant workers. Two technology companies showed off progress on robotic pickers at the International Fruit Tree Association conference in Wenatchee, Wash., in late February. READ MORE  
February 8, 2017 – Walki, a producer of technical laminates and protective packaging materials, has developed an organic mulching solution based on natural biodegradable fibres instead of plastic. Walki Agripap is made from kraft paper that is coated with a biodegradable coating layer, which slows down the degradation of the paper. Without the coating, the paper would degrade in the soil within a few weeks. Walki’s new organic mulching solution has been the subject of extensive field-testing in Finland. The tests, which were carried out in 2016 by independent research institute Luke Piikkiö, compared the performance of different biodegradable mulches for growing iceberg lettuce and seedling onions. The tests demonstrated that Agripap was easy to lay on the fields and delivered excellent weed control. The results in terms of yield and durability were also good. Following the successful testing and approval of Agripap in Finland and Sweden, the next step will be to complete testing in Europe’s main mulching markets: Spain, France and Italy.
When a new crop takes off, it’s not unusual that specialty equipment is designed and commercialized in order to make things easier. In this case, the crop is garlic, and the equipment is a planter and an add-on under-cutter (both pulled behind a tractor), designed and manufactured by Garlic-EEZ of Dundalk, Ont., owned by garlic grower Ken Hunt.
January 17, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The HortSnacks-to-Go 2016-2017 Webinar Series continues on January 30, 2017, at 3 p.m. MT (5 p.m. ET). “The webinar will feature Rebecca Shortt from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “An expert in irrigation management, Rebecca will discuss scheduling with drip irrigation and how to get the most bang for your buck from your irrigation system.”There is no charge to attend the webinar. To register, call Dustin Morton at 780-679-1314 or via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For more information on the HortSnacks-to-Go Webinar Series, go to AF's horticulture homepage.
December 5, 2016, Jerusalem, Israel – Farmers of the not-so-distant future may be able to accurately project their fruit yields with the help of an automated “AGRYbot” currently taking shape in central Israel. Known more formally as the “Robotic Sonar for Yield Assessment and Plant Status Evaluation,” the AGRYbot is a sonar system mounted on the end of a robotic manipulator that is capable of identifying the acoustic signature of different entities in the agricultural plot. READ MORE
November 28, 2016, Halifax, NS – A sewing needle has been found in a dish of cooked P.E.I. potatoes, the latest in a string of incidents involving metal objects discovered in Island spuds. Halifax police Const. Dianne Penfound said they received a report Sunday evening that a sharp object was found in the potatoes after they had been peeled and cooked at a local home. READ MORE
November 8, 2016, Pocatello, ID – An invention called a “humigator” is helping potato growers across the U.S. have yearlong control over their potatoes. Garry Isaacs, the creator of the humigator, developed the first prototype in 1985. He said the name is a combination of the words humid and fumigator. Its primary function is to clean the air of potato storage sites, by doing so the pathogens known for inflicting diseases like silver scurf and black dot disease are taken out. READ MORE
October 24, 2016, Elmwood, PEI – Up until this fall, Alex Docherty, chairman of the PEI Potato Board and a potato farmer in Elmwood, P.E.I., would do what most potato farmers on the Island still do today — hire rock pickers. This year, he purchased a Spudnik AirSep Harvester, a piece of equipment instead that eliminates one of the more mundane tasks of the potato harvest — separating the rocks from the spuds. READ MORE
June 24, 2016, Guelph, Ont – An all-natural spray, developed by University of Guelph researcher Jay Subramanian and his team of scientists, could do wonders to reduce food waste and enhance food security by extending the shelf life of fruit by up to 50 per cent. The spray uses a nanotechnology-based application of hexanal, a natural plant extract that prevents fruit spoilage. READ MORE
June 22, 2016, Vancouver, BC – Semios, a provider of real-time agricultural information for precision farming, is offering two years of free soil moisture monitoring for their customers to optimize irrigation efficiencies, improving crop quality and yield. “Water shortages have been tough for farmers,” says Michael Gilbert, company CEO. “By fine-tuning irrigation to where and when it is most needed, farmers can protect their crops from drought conditions and time the irrigation sets throughout the season to enhance growing conditions.” With more than 200 customers and 50,000-plus sensors reporting every 10 minutes, Semios is a leading precision platform and is committed to helping the industry with the challenges of drought. “We know it will improve the farmer’s bottom line and conserve a vital, depleting resource in the process,” Gilbert says. Current soil moisture monitors are costly and generally comprised of data loggers that require farmers to go into the field every one to two weeks to get historical data. Integrated into the Semios network, the soil moisture module includes time domain transmissometry (TDT) sensors that measure temperature (+/- 0.1 F), eletroconductivity (EC) and water content (+/- 1%). The sensor stations include water probes at depths of one and three feet. The data from the sensors is relayed wirelessly every 10 minutes through the Semios network to the grower’s computer and/or mobile phone through Semios applications. Combined with integrated weather forecasts, farmers can now react to current conditions and forecasts to ensure crops get the right amount of water where and when they need it most. The Semios soil moisture module is part of a custom designed controller and sensor network that gives fruit and tree nut farmers remote access to conditions in the field 24/7. The soil moisture module conserves water and fertilizers by ensuring irrigation flows do not continue beyond the root zone and that crops do not suffer from a deficit of water. Other modules offered by Semios include pest management, chilling hours, frost management and disease control. Semios will deliver, install and service the soil moisture solution demo stations to its customers for two years at no additional charge. Modules have video tutorials and Semios customer support is available 24/7.
June 8, 2016, South Rustico, PEI – A P.E.I. potato farmer has taken to social media to show people what exactly he does for a living. "I have a bunch of friends that, you know, they just don't know what I do for a living," said Marten Nieuwhof. READ MORE
  Since a blueberry is mostly water, any touch has the potential to bruise it. While most human pickers are gentle enough to pick the berries without bruising them, the same cannot be said for mechanical pickers. Bruising is almost guaranteed when berries drop more than 30 cm onto a hard surface, generally the case on today’s picking machines. As more growers turn to machine picking to offset the increasing cost and decreasing availability of labour, bruising has become more of an issue. Researchers have developed a new BIRD (blueberry impact recording device) sensor to more accurately measure bruising in mechanical pickers and on packing lines. Roughly the size and shape of a blueberry, the BIRD weighs about six grams and can be dropped in a machine just like a blueberry. “It’s very good at measuring impact,” says U.S. Department of Agriculture research horticulturist Fumiomi Takeda, who is based at the Appalachian Fruit Station in West Virginia. The BIRD has shown that no two packing lines are the same and has pinpointed transition points as creating the most impacts. Even if each impact is small, the cumulative effect of multiple impacts is enough to create bruising and reduce overall fruit quality. While the BIRD sensed little damage in hand harvesting, it found severe impacts in picking machines, particularly from the catch plates. Even if bruises aren’t apparent to the naked eye, they exist, Takeda told growers and packers at the recent Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C. “Ten per cent of the [machine-picked] fruit you put into cold storage is damaged.” Primary ways to lessen bruising are to develop a firmer berry that can stand up to machine picking or to build a picking machine that can handle berries more delicately. Berry breeders, researchers and engineers are working on both options. “Growers have identified machine harvestability and firmer fruit as their highest priority and that’s one trait we’re focusing on,” says B.C. berry breeder Michael Dossett. Success is still a long way away. The commercial release of a new variety can take up to 15 years and the B.C. blueberry breeding program is in its ninth year. Even if Dossett releases a new variety in the next six years, there is no indication his earliest selections have the firmness growers want and need. Takeda says engineers are making some headway, noting they have created a new catcher plate design that “virtually eliminates bruising.” Another promising design picks from the top using angled rotors and drops the berries onto a soft surface. “It has the same fruit quality as hand harvesting,” Takeda says. Researchers have also tried a walk-a-long unit (not much improvement) and a semi-mechanical machine with multiple shakers to eliminate some of the mechanical movement. Last year, Naturipe Farms – one of the world’s leading blueberry growers and marketers – issued the Blue Challenge, inviting “innovators, developers and technology integrators to help transform the way we will harvest blueberries in the future.” It has promised $10,000 and a joint development agreement for up to five semi-finalists, which were selected in January and February. The first person to deliver a working prototype with a demonstrable ability to be a viable commercial automated system will receive a $200,000 prize. While they await a winner, Takeda says one thing growers can do is pad their catch plates so berries don’t drop straight onto hard plastic. Packers should also consider rejigging their lines to reduce the number of transition points.      
March 27, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – Keith Kuhl, outgoing president of the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC), recently presented Gary Linkletter with the 2017 Doug Connery Award for leadership excellence during CHC’s annual general meeting in Winnipeg, Man. Linkletter is a seventh-generation potato farmer from Prince Edward Island who has been advocating for the potato industry at a national level for many years. He provided important grassroots feedback on the fresh pack industry as CHC worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on harmonizing packaging and grade regulations with the U.S. He was also involved in the committee looking at harmonization of maximum residue limits (MRLs) for potato crop protectants between Canada and the U.S. Linkletter has been a dedicated and active committee participant and has contributed to making regulations for the Canadian horticultural industry more effective. He has participated in Canada-U.S. Potato Committee meetings for several years, and his calm and knowledgeable perspective is well respected by grower and industry representatives on both sides of the border. The Doug Connery award was created in 2012 in honour of the late Doug Connery, a past president and driving force behind CHC who suffered an untimely passing in 2011. CHC was honoured that Paulette Connery, Doug’s widow, was in the audience and helped to present the award that bears his name.
March 27, 2017, Churchbridge, Sask – Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ (OYF) program is once again offering two $1,000 scholarships to Canadian agriculture students. Applications for the 2017 awards will be accepted until June 30, 2017. The OYF Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to one individual entering post-secondary education from high school, and one individual who has already completed at least one year of post-secondary study. Applicants must be pursuing a diploma or degree in agriculture. The late Martin Streef, OYF alumnus, established this scholarship program to help future generations of Canadians pursue their passion for agriculture. Streef was the 1997 winner of both Ontario’s and Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers and president of Streef Produce Ltd, a family-run fresh fruit and vegetable business in Woodstock, Ontario. Scholarship application forms are available here. Celebrating 37 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year. The program is sponsored nationally by CIBC, John Deere, Bayer, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through Growing Forward 2, a federal, provincial and territorial initiative. The national media sponsor is Annex Business Media, and the program is supported nationally by AdFarm, BDO and Farm Management Canada.
March 22, 2017, Barrie, Ont – Ontario start-up FreshSpoke is tackling the distribution challenges that, until now, have kept most farmers and micro-producers out of the wholesale market. “Consumers are demanding more local and sustainable sourcing on the part of institutions, retailers and food service,” states Marcia Woods, CEO of FreshSpoke. “But the existing food system doesn’t make it easy or economical to buy or sell on a commercial scale.” FreshSpoke is tackling this problem with an app that handles the order, payment and delivery for the producer and gives food service and retailer buyers a direct pipeline to fresh, local food, delivered to their door. “We’re building a shared delivery system on a commercial scale starting with our own food producers so they can make extra cash delivering for producers who don’t,” explains Woods. By the summer of this year, FreshSpoke expects to have third-party commercial drivers on board to keep up with the pace of demand as it expands across the province. FreshSpoke is the latest in a growing list of peer-to-peer platforms referred to as the sharing economy, an economic movement that has experienced rapid growth over the past five years. “To get fresh, local food onto menus, chefs had to spend precious time or be willing to pay a premium to distributors,” states Mia Andrews, president of the Canadian Personal Chef Association. “Now with FreshSpoke they can easily buy directly from the producer and get orders delivered at a fair price.” FreshSpoke’s sellers range from breweries, wineries and artisanal food makers to farmers and growers like garlic farmer Bart Nagel, who operates Bulbs of Fire near Mildland, Ont. “Small farmers like myself know there’s a wholesale market for our product but finding those buyers and figuring out delivery on top of everything else we do in a day is impossible,” says Nagel. “FreshSpoke is the first solution I have seen that offers a way to reach the market directly and get my orders where they need to go for a fair price.” FreshSpoke’s web and mobile applications give wholesale buyers in food service and retail businesses free access to a growing inventory of locally produced products from more than 100 producers across the greater Golden Horseshoe region. The fees for local food producers range from free to $900 per year. To find out more about FreshSpoke or register for an information session, visit their web site at freshspoke.com.
You have to hand it to government and bureaucracy – they sometimes have a way of making even the most honest and supportive member of society turn into a negative naysayer with the mere swipe of a pen.
March 20, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – Government officials were in Winnipeg recently to provide remarks at the Canadian Horticultural Council 95th Annual General Meeting, where he announced more than $274,000 in Growing Forward 2 funding to help expand markets for Canadian potatoes.  This project, funded under the AgriMarketing Program, provides the CHC with up to $274,714 to help grow foreign and domestic markets for Canadian potatoes, through trade shows, targeted advertising, incoming missions, market research and development, and product promotion.“The Canadian Horticultural Council and the Canadian Potato Council appreciate the funding received through the AgriMarketing Program, Market Development Stream, to support the export growth of high quality Canadian seed and fresh potatoes,” said Keith Kuhl, outgoing president of the CHC. This investment is part of the federal government’s plan to help Canadian farmers expand markets at home and abroad.  “The funding has allowed Canadian growers to maintain a presence in international markets by participating in tradeshows, international standard setting processes, and in phytosanitary market access activities,” said John Bareman, chair of the CHC’s Potato Committee.
March 15, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario’s newest vegetable crop specialist, Travis Cranmer, joins the ministry from the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, where he worked on applied and molecular research in plant biology. With OMAFRA, he will work with vegetable crops including bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chives, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, leeks, onions, shallots and spinach. In 2015, Carnmer graduated from the University of Guelph with a Master of Science in plant production systems.  During his studies, Cranmer coordinated complex research trials, conducted statistical analysis and interpreted data, providing team leadership to research assistants, technicians and students.  Cranmer grew up on a farm in Bright’s Grove propagating, growing and selling various vegetables including bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, chives, garlic, kale, leeks, onions, lettuce and spinach. He also spent time working at Degroot’s Nurseries as a specialist at plant, pest and pathogen identification as well as disease diagnosis from samples provided by clients. In his spare time, Cranmer runs a woodworking business and sells many of his products online. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 519-826-4963.
March 13, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – CanadaGAP is very pleased to announce that the program has received full government recognition. "This achievement has been years in the making, and we are proud to receive recognition," stated Jack Bates, board chair for CanAgPlus. "We congratulate our dedicated and hard-working staff on reaching this important milestone, and we thank government representatives for their commitment to this process." Government recognition is available to food safety programs developed in Canada that meet all government requirements for a technically sound, effectively delivered program. "Canadian government recognition of the CanadaGAP program coincides well with federal regulatory modernization that will significantly impact the fresh produce industry," said Heather Gale, executive director for CanadaGAP. "New food safety regulations are on the way that include requirements for growing, harvesting and packing of fresh produce for interprovincial trade or export. The program is now positioned to be a 'model system' for program participants needing to demonstrate they have implemented effective preventive controls."
March 8, 2017, Victoria, BC – British Columbia’s value-added food companies will increase their chances of having their products sold outside of Canada by participating in a Government of Canada- and British Columbia-funded program to help them meet international food safety and traceability requirements. The approximately $2-million Post-Farm Food Safety and Traceability Program will offer participants up to $35,000 to: conduct food safety and traceability assessments to identify and document risks, issues and opportunities to improve food safety and traceability capacity, systems and practices; access training to increase the food safety and traceability expertise of their staff; and implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Best Practices (BPs) and recognized Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety practices and traceability systems in their operations.  The two-year program will improve agrifood businesses’ capacity to address current issues and to meet emerging national and international food safety and traceability requirements. It is being delivered by the Food Processing Human Resources Council and is cost-shared with participants. Application forms, guidelines and related documents are available at: http://postfarmfoodsafety.com/home/ . The program targets B.C. food-processing businesses seeking first-time certification in internationally recognized HACCP-based food safety assurance programs. Additionally, the program targets B.C. companies that use recognized food safety and traceability standards, implement food safety and traceability systems, effectively manage food safety risk, and create opportunities to access new markets and increase sales. For additional information and applications for the new program, visit: http://postfarmfoodsafety.com/home/ .
March 8, 2017, Mitchell, Ont – The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association (OFVPA) believes the recent actions taken by the Ontario government will help restore confidence in the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) and lead to a better outcome that rescues the 2017 crop, according to Steve Lamoure, president of the OFVPA. "The previous leadership of the OPVG did not appear to be interested in finding solutions to our industry's issues," stated Lamoure in a press release. "We need a partner that will work with us to grow the industry for the benefit of growers, processors and our province. Regrettably, we did not have this partner." "The attack on one of our members was an attempt to divert from the real issues at hand that led to the removal of the previous OPVG leadership," said Don Epp, executive director of the OFVPA. "The previous OPVG leadership has expressed an unwillingness to deal with some of the substantive issues our industry is facing. They preferred to focus on individuals instead of issues." "We also want to be on record that we strongly reject the comments made by Jim Poel, former chair of the OPVG," said Lamoure. "In this day and age we cannot condone language that attacks one of our members based on their race, religion, ethnicity or personal choice." Lamoure went on to say, "We applaud Minister Leal's comment that 'There is no place for discriminatory speech of this nature – it will absolutely not be tolerated in Ontario, nor in our agri-food sector.'"  "We look forward to working with former Agriculture Minister Elmer Buchanan and the new OPVG leadership," said Lamoure. "The issues between the government and the previous OPVG leadership are behind us and we are committed to finding solutions that will help our industry flourish and thrive."
March 7, 2017, Chatham, Ont – Farmers will continue to negotiate with Ontario vegetable processors, despite the provincial government dissolving the board – made up of farmers – that previously negotiated vegetable prices. Former NDP agriculture minister Elmer Buchanan, appointed March 3 by Ontario's agriculture minister to replace the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) board, outlined details of how the process will go in the future, while meeting with growers in Chatham on March 6. READ MORE
March 7, 2017, Windsor, Ont – A former regional director of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers recently resigned after referring to the owners of Highbury Canco in Leamington as "Wynne's East Indian friends." A letter written by the company's CEO Sam Diab to Ontario's Minister of Agriculture outlines the offensive language that was used by Jim Poel in an email to a tomato grower. READ MORE
March 7, 2017, Chatham, Ont – The Ontario government may have dissolved the board that bargained on behalf of vegetable farmers, but growers refuse to not have their own voice. Approximately 150 growers attended a meeting in Chatham March 6 where Elmer Buchanan, a former NDP agriculture minister who has been appointed trustee of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) board – made up of farmers – to lead negotiations with vegetable processors for the 2017 crop, outlined how the process will work moving forward. READ MORE

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