Smaller sweet cherry trees

Smaller sweet cherry trees

Bigger may not be better for sweet cherry trees.

VRIC to develop new apple, tomato varieties

VRIC to develop new apple, tomato varieties

The Vineland Research & Innovation Centre is receiving a $920,000 federal investment from the federal government to develop disease-resistant apple varieties

Experiments show spray drift can injure wine grapes

Experiments show spray drift can injure wine grapes

An experiment featured in Weed Technology shows herbicide spray drift from the 2,4-D and dicamba can severely damage wine grapes planted near agronomic crops.

Fungi can lend a helping hand to potatoes

Fungi can lend a helping hand to potatoes

Life can be difficult for a potato plant when the soil is thirsting for water & nutrients, unless the plant is given a helping hand from a certain group of fungi

January 16, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta – Lab-based research gets underway Jan. 16 at the University of Lethbridge for the school's new research chair in potato science. Dmytro Yevtushenk​o is a plant biologist who has studied potatoes for more than 25 years. He took up the new research chair position last January.His first year was spent crafting new courses that will train the university's students in aspects of potato science. The hope from industry stakeholders is that it will entice new people into the business. READ MORE
January 9, 2017, Harrow, Ont – A blushing pear developed in Harrow is the newest variety expected to help push a pear revival in Canada.By 2020 or 2021, consumers can expect to be biting into two new pears developed at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Harrow and Vineland research station in the Niagara region. One of the varieties, HW624, is a medium- to large-sized, juicy pear with eye appeal – a red blush from the sun at harvest. READ MORE
January 2, 2017, Sydney, Australia – When Constellation Brands Inc. rolled out a new wine range recently, it relied on a strategy that doesn’t always mix well with consumers: gender-based marketing.The website for the Callie Collection, named after the California coast where the wine grapes are grown, shows four women in a backyard, spreading a picnic blanket on the grass near a pool. READ MORE
January 2, 2017, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont – Cold December weather made for an exceptional year for icewine in the Niagara wine region of southern Ontario.A sustained cold snap meant wineries across the region were able to harvest frozen grapes weeks earlier than normal, in some cases even months, meeting Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) regulations way ahead of schedule. READ MORE
January 2, 2017 – The emergence of the Honeycrisp in recent years illustrates how a new variety can change the apple marketing landscape, retailers say.  That means there are more choices than ever for consumers, they say. READ MORE
December 16, 29016, Leamington, Ont – Fresh-picked local strawberries in the winter are no longer a fantasy in Essex County.A Leamington greenhouse is growing strawberries and gearing up to have its berries in grocery stores by Christmas.The strawberries at Orangeline Farms are marketed as Zing! Healthy Foods and have been sold in Metro stores and at the greenhouse at Highway 77 and Road 14 north of Leamington. READ MORE  
December 15, 2016, Simcoe, Ont – A newly developed technology could result in longer storage life for apples and better quality fruit when they come out of cold storage.  Apples have long been stored in low oxygen environments – called controlled atmosphere storage – to keep them fresher longer and allow Ontario apple growers to market fresh fruit all winter long and not just during the fall harvest season. But it’s never been possible to determine how low the oxygen levels for a specific variety can go before the fruit’s quality begins to suffer – until now.SafePod measures apples’ response to atmospheric stress by monitoring their respiration rate while they are in storage, allowing storage operators to use the lowest safe oxygen concentration possible.  “Fruit respires using oxygen, just the way people do, and as you lower the oxygen level in their storage environment, they become stressed,” explains Dr. Jennifer DeEll, the fresh market quality specialist for horticultural crops with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).“At their breaking point, when they can’t tolerate the low oxygen level any more, they switch to anaerobic respiration, which is fermentation,” she says. “You want to be able to get that oxygen level as low as possible while still maintaining safe levels because the lower the oxygen, the firmer the fruit and the better the quality.”  An in-storage oxygen concentration of two to three per cent has been standard in the Ontario apple industry for many years, the lowest level that is considered safe for all apple varieties.SafePod is a small unit that can be filled with four bushels of apples and placed into a large commercial storage amongst the other bins of apples. It lets storage operators measure the actual respiration of the fruit inside the unit by giving a reading of both oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which together result in a respiration quotient that can indicate when the apples are becoming stressed.DeEll has been testing SafePod with Empire apples in collaboration with the Ontario Apple Growers, the Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association and SafePod’s manufacturer, Storage Control Systems of Michigan. “We could get down to 0.6 per cent oxygen with the Empires in our study and they were fine,” says DeEll. Levels can be established annually by the storage operator specific to the crop, growing season, variety and even the orchard the apples come from.“Adding a month or two to storage of apples can really boost the domestic supply of local apples and help ensure they are firm and crunchy when they come out of storage and go to market,” says DeEll. The three-year research project, which just wrapped up, was supported in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.
December 9, 2016 – Potato storage sheds in Manitoba are full, thanks to blockbuster yields this fall. In fact, yields were so large that a portion of Manitoba’s potato crop is still in the ground. Consequently, about 1,300 acres of potatoes weren’t harvested this year in Manitoba out of 65,000 total acres. READ MORE
December 8, 2016, Niagara Falls, Ont – Andrew and Jennifer Lovell of Keswick Ridge, NB, and Dominic Drapeau and Célia Neault of Ste-Françoise-de-Lotbinière, QC, have been named Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for 2016. These two farm families were chosen from seven regional farm couples across Canada at OYF’s national event last week in Niagara Falls, Ont. Both families have dreamed of owning their own farm since they were young and were not afraid to make changes and embrace technology along the way. Their entrepreneurial spirits and adaptability has made them successful both on and off the farm. “All of this year’s regional honourees have shown us their incredible passion for agriculture,” says OYF President Luanne Lynn. “It was extremely difficult for the judges to make their decision, but ultimately our winners stood out for their state-of-the art thinking and commitment to the future of Canadian agriculture.” The Lovell’s story is different than most because neither of them grew up on a farm. In 2012 they purchased their farm, River View Orchards, with roots tracing back to 1784, and created a diversified you-pick farm market operation. It wasn’t an easy start as they suffered $100,000 in damage in 2014, but they persevered and adapted their plans until they were able to begin full production again. By offering fence and trellis construction services and building attractions that brought more than 1,400 visitors to their farm, they were able to carry on with the farm they have always dreamed of. Drapeau and Neault are third-generation dairy and field crop farmers who are not afraid to make changes and embrace technology. Raised in a farming family, Dominic got involved in the family business at a young age. When he was 16, he was performing artificial insemination on cows and developed his management skills by taking over the herd and feeding responsibilities. In the barn they use genomic testing on young animals, motion detectors for reproduction, a smart scale on the mixer-feeder and temperature probes close to calving. In the fields, the farm uses a satellite navigation system for levelling, draining, seeding, fertilizing and spraying. With these innovations over the last four years, they have enabled the farm to increase overall yields by five to 10 per cent each year. “The national event in Niagara Falls this year was a great opportunity to showcase all of the great contributions to Canadian agriculture,” says Lynn. “All of the regional OYF honourees really went outside of the box and pushed the boundaries this year.” Every year this event brings recognition to outstanding farm couples in Canada between 18 and 39 years of age who have exemplified excellence in their profession while fostering better urban-rural relations. The Lovell’s and Drapeau/Neault were chosen from seven regional finalists, including the following honourees from the other five regions: Brian & Jewel Pauls, Chilliwack BC Shane & Kristin Schooten, Diamond City AB Dan & Chelsea Erlandson, Outlook SK Jason & Laura Kehler, Carman MB Adrian & Jodi Roelands, Lambton Shores ON Celebrating 36 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, territorial initiative. The national media sponsor is Annex Business Media, and the program is supported nationally by AdFarm, BDO and Farm Management Canada.
December 8, 2016 – Raw blueberries, bursting with vitamins and antioxidants, can also harbour the gut-ravaging human norovirus – a leading cause of foodborne illness from fresh produce. Now, scientists think they have found a way to sterilize blueberries without damaging the delicate fruit’s taste or texture: bathing them in purple plumes of plasma – a gas of ions made from just air and electricity. READ MORE
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Using a simple genetic method to tweak genes native to two popular varieties of tomato plants, a team at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has devised a rapid method to make them flower and produce ripe fruit more than two weeks faster than commercial breeders are currently able to do. This means more plantings per growing season and thus higher yield. In this case, it also means that the plant can be grown in latitudes more northerly than currently possible – an important attribute as the earth’s climate warms. “Our work is a compelling demonstration of the power of gene editing – CRISPR technology – to rapidly improve yield traits in crop breeding,” said CSHL Associate Professor Zachary Lippman, who led the research. Applications can go far beyond the tomato family, he added, to include many major food crops like maize, soybean, and wheat that so much of the world depends upon. Lippman clarified that the technique his team published in Nature Genetics is about more than simply increasing yield. “It’s really about creating a genetic toolkit that enables growers and breeders in a single generation to tweak the timing of flower production and thus yield, to help adapt our best varieties to grow in parts of the world where they don’t currently thrive.” At the heart of the method are insights obtained by Lippman and colleagues, including plant scientists at the Boyce Thompson Institute in Ithaca, NY, and in France led by Dr. José Jiménez-Gómez, about the evolution of the flowering process in many crops and their wild relatives as it relates to the length of the light period in a day. Genetic research revealed why today’s cultivated tomato plant is not very sensitive to this variable compared to wild relatives from South America. Somehow, it does not much matter to domesticated plants whether they have 12 hours of daylight or 16 hours; they flower at virtually the same point after planting. A well-known hormonal system regulates flowering time – and hence the time when the plant will generate its first ripe fruit. The hormone florigen and a counteracting “anti-florigen” hormone called SP (for self pruning) act together, in yin-yang fashion, to, respectively, promote or delay flowering. In one phase of the newly reported research, the investigators studied a wild tomato species native to the Galapagos Islands – near the equator, with days and nights close to 12 hours year-round. They wanted to learn why, when grown in northern latitudes with very long summer days, this plant flowered very late in the season and produced few fruits. The wild equatorial tomato, they learned, was extremely sensitive to daylight length. The longer the day, the longer the time to flowering, whereas “when you have a shorter light period, as in the plant’s native habitat, they flower faster,” Lippman said. This suggested there was a genetic change in tomato plants that occurred at some point before or during the domestication of wild tomato plants. Lippman suspected these changes likely had already occurred when the Spanish conquistador Cortez brought tomatoes to Europe from Mexico in the early 16th century, beginning the era of the plant’s widespread adoption in mid-northern latitudes. Lippman and colleagues traced the loss of day-length sensitivity in domesticated tomatoes to mutations in a gene called SP5G (SELF PRUNING 5G). It’s a member of the same family of florigen and anti-florigen genes that were already known to regulate flowering time in tomato. Growing the wild tomato plant from the Galapagos in greenhouses and fields in New York, Lippman and colleagues observed a sharp spike in the expression and activity of the anti-florigen hormone encoded by the SP5G gene, causing flowering to occur much later. In domesticated tomato plants, in contrast, that surge of anti-florigen is much weaker. The team’s principal innovation – generating varieties of cherry and roma tomatoes that flower much earlier than the domesticated varieties on which they are based – arised from the observation that while domesticated plants are notably insensitive to day length, “there was some residual expression of the anti-florigen SP5G gene,” Lippman said. This led the team to employ the gene-editing tool CRISPR to induce tiny mutations in the SP5G gene. The aim was to inactivate the gene entirely such that it did not generate any anti-florigen protein at all. When this tweaked version of SP5G was introduced to popular roma and cherry tomato varieties, the plants flowered earlier, and thus made fruits that ripened earlier. Tweaking another anti-florigen gene that makes tomato plants grow in a dense, compact, shrub-like manner made the early flowering varieties even more compact and early yielding – a trait the team calls “double-determinate.” “What we’ve demonstrated here is fast-forward breeding,” Lippman said. “Now we have a simple strategy to completely eliminate daylight sensitivity in elite inbred and hybrid plants that are already being cultivated. This could enable growers to expand their geographical range of cultivation, simply by using CRISPR to rapidly ‘adapt’ tomato and other crops to more northern latitudes, where summers have very long days and very short growing seasons.” “Variation in the flowering gene SELF PRUNING 5G promotes day-neutrality and early yield in tomato” appeared online December 5, 2016, in Nature Genetics. The authors are: Sebastian Soyk, Niels A. Müller, Soon Ju Park, Inga Schmalenbach, Ke Jiang, Ryosuke Hayama, Lei Zhang, Joyce Van Eck, José M. Jiménez-Gómez and Zachary B. Lippman. The apper can be accessed at: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/index.html. CUTLINE  
December 5, 2016, Charlottetown, PEI – Charlottetown’s Fresh Media has been recognized nationally for its part in promoting P.E.I. potatoes. The Canadian Agri-Marketing Association bestowed Fresh Media with its best agricultural social media marketing program in Canada award recently in Calgary, Alta. READ MORE
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 1, 2016 - A new invasive vinegar fly is threatening Ontario’s soft-skinned berry and tender fruit crops. But thanks to the Ontario Farm Innovation Program (OFIP), researchers and farmers are learning more about Spotted Wing Drosophila and how they can keep the pest from destroying their fruit. Unlike common vinegar flies that are attracted to spoiled fruit, Spotted Wing Drosophila goes after healthy fruit just before harvest. It lays eggs underneath the skin of intact fruit, and as the larvae feed, the fruit tissue breaks down and becomes soft and leaky, resulting in decreased fruit quality and yield. “Spotted Wing Drosophila has been on the radar in North America since 2010 and it was first identified in Ontario late that year following identification in other provinces and in the United States,” explains Hannah Fraser, horticulture entomology program lead with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “It’s a new pest so we lacked a lot of knowledge on how it behaves in Ontario and how it moves across the landscape,” she adds. “And growers lacked awareness of the pest such as how to manage it and what kind of damage it can do. It takes a long time to learn about a new pest and we collaborate with researchers across Canada, the United States and Europe.” Fraser and other researchers gathered information on the population dynamics of the fly in Ontario, investigated techniques to track risk and assess management strategies, and developed a platform for timely and efficient communication to growers and consultants.        Baited traps were used to monitor activity in all of Ontario’s major fruit growing areas. Weekly fruit samples were collected at some sites to track infestation levels. Salt tests with ripe fruit were used as a quick method to assess infestation levels at harvest and gauge the effectiveness of pest management strategies.     “The early regions of discovery are in Southwestern Ontario and Niagara, but we have found them as far north as New Liskeard,” says Fraser. “Through weekly blogs and newsletters, we can let growers know when Spotted Wing Drosophila is active and can recommend control measures they can take.” This includes making changes to crop management, such as tightening of picking schedules, crop sanitation, well-timed insecticide sprays, and better post-harvest handling to preserve fruit quality. Fraser says although they’re still learning about the pest, the information gathered so far has increased understanding of its behaviour in Ontario and helped growers manage its presence here. In addition to trapping for adults, fruit should also be sampled at harvest to determine whether the fly is present on-farm and to avoid sending infested fruit to market, and salt water tests will help determine whether changes to sanitation or spraying schedules should be made, Fraser says. “Because of research we’ve been able to do through this project, growers can strengthen pest management to avoid catastrophic loss and continue to produce great quality berries. If you don’t manage this pest, you can lose your crop,” she adds. For the Ontario Berry Growers, the OFIP support was invaluable. Research into emerging pests is cost prohibitive for individual growers and allowing the organization to access funds to address this immediate, on-farm research need on behalf of all growers in the province means information can be gathered and shared quickly and effectively.
Feb. 29, 2016, Ontario – Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says the 2016 provincial budget continues to expand on growth on innovation and the agri-food sector, with a specific priority of investing in rural infrastructure. | READ MORE
February 23, 2016, Guelph, Ont – Bayer announces the registration of Luna Tranquility as a foliar fungicide for bulb vegetables, small berries and tomatoes in Canada. The systemic fungicide is an all-in-one formulation that includes two groups, Group 7 (fluopyram) and Group 9 (pyrimethanil). “Luna Tranquility is already a valuable fungicide for apple, grape and potato growers and now protects against some of the most concerning diseases for bulb vegetables, small berries and tomatoes,” said Jon Weinmaster, portfolio manager of horticulture for Bayer CropScience Inc. “With both Group 7 and 9 modes of action, this broad spectrum fungicide offers growers excellent disease control resulting in improved yield, quality and post-harvest benefits.” According to the company, Luna Tranquility is highly plant mobile and shows minimal cross-resistance to other Group 7 fungicides. It also provides post-harvest latent disease protection for soft fruit, with research indicating reduced shrink and decreased fruit deterioration. The new expansion of the Luna Tranquility label means Canadian growers can now apply this product on: Bulb vegetables for protection against botrytis leaf blight, purple blotch and stemphylium leaf blight Small berries (including caneberries, bushberries, and low growing berries) for protection against powdery mildew and botrytis gray mould Tomatoes for control of early blight and septoria leaf spot In addition, the Luna Tranquility label is now expanded to include all crops within the pome fruit Crop Group. For more information regarding Luna Tranquility visit CropScience.Bayer.ca/LunaTranquility.
Jan. 21, 2016, Urbana, Ill. – Weeds are a major scourge for organic growers, who often must invest in multiple control methods to protect crop yields. A relatively new weed control method known as abrasive weeding, or "weed blasting," could give organic growers another tool. The method, recently field-tested at the University of Illinois (U of I), is surprisingly effective. In conjunction with plastic mulch, abrasive weeding reduced final weed biomass by 69 to 97 per cent compared to non-weeded control plots, said U of I agroecologist Samuel Wortman. Abrasive weeding involves blasting weed seedlings with tiny fragments of organic grit, using an air compressor. For the current study, grit was applied through a hand-held siphon-fed sand-blasting unit connected to a gas-powered air compressor, which was hauled down crop rows with a walk-behind tractor. The study looked at a number of grit sources: walnut shells, granulated maize cob, greensand, and soybean meal. If applied at the right plant growth stage, the force of the abrasive grit severely damages stems and leaves of weed seedlings. Wortman found no significant differences between the grit types in terms of efficacy. "When it leaves the nozzle, it's at least Mach 1 [767 mph]," Wortman noted. "The stuff comes out so fast, it doesn't really matter what the shape of the particle is." Because ricocheting particles can pose a risk to the applicator, Wortman advises using protective eyewear. Blasted grit does not discriminate between weed and crop seedlings, which makes it important to use this method in transplanted crops that are substantially larger than weed seedlings at the time of grit application. Although some visible damage occurred on stems and leaves of both tomato and pepper crops, the damage did not affect marketable fruit yield. Studies are ongoing to determine whether abrasions on crop tissues could result in increased susceptibility to disease, but early results show little effect. Importantly, plots with plastic mulch and one or more blasting treatment achieved the same fruit yields seen in hand-weeded plots, and 33 to 44 per cent greater yields than in non-weeded control plots. An additional benefit of weed blasting is the potential for growers to use organic fertilizers, such as soybean meal, as blasting material. "We expect that abrasive weeding could contribute between 35 and 105 kg nitrogen per hectare [31 – 94 lbs per acre] to soil fertility." The idea that a grower could both fertilize and kill weeds in a single pass is appealing, but it is still unknown whether the fertilizer would be available for plant uptake within critical windows. According to Wortman's research, weed blasting does affect some weeds more than others. Essentially, the smaller the seedling, the better. Also, seedlings whose growing points are aboveground (annual broadleaf species) are more susceptible to blasting than seedlings whose growing tips are located belowground (grasses and broadleaf perennials). Finally, Wortman noted that the presence of plastic mulch seemed to factor strongly into the equation. Weed blasting alone "is not a silver bullet, but it is an improvement," he said. The method is now being tested in different horticultural crops, including broccoli and kale, with and without additional weed control methods. Early results suggest that the presence of polyethylene mulch or biodegradable plastic mulch strongly enhances the success of weed blasting, as compared with straw mulch and bare soil. Wortman and his collaborators have also developed a mechanized grit applicator, which they are currently testing. The paper, "Air-propelled abrasive grits reduce weed abundance and increase yields in organic vegetable production," was published in Crop Protection. Funding was provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative.    
December 22, 2015, Ridgetown, Ont – At the recent 70th annual meeting of the North Central Weed Science Society (NCWSS) in Indianapolis, Dr. Darren Robinson, associate professor with plant agriculture, received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Research. Darren’s research focuses on high value vegetable crops including tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, green and lima beans, field peppers, carrots, red beets, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes and peas. Selection for this award is based on demonstrated excellence and creativity in research activities through conducting research and applying the results to solve problems in weed science. As a well-respected Ontario agricultural scientist, Darren has published 85 peer reviewed manuscripts, authored or co-authored three book chapters, supervised or co-supervised 14 graduate students, presented 74 papers at scientific conferences and given over 120 extension presentations and helped deliver 19 short courses. Darren has served on the board of the Canadian Weed Science Society and is an associate editor for the Canadian Journal of Plant Science and Weed Technology.
December 9, 2015 - Researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) have received a $173,151 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study novel, non-spray control methods for invasive fruit pests. The two-year project will examine the use of small nylon pouches that hang from trees and/or bushes. The pouches are treated with insecticides and filled with attractants such as pheromones or food to lure and kill the insects on contact. Organic pest management expert Matthew Grieshop, tree fruit entomologist Larry Gut and postdoctoral research associate Juan Huang will examine the use of these pouches on three pests: Spotted-wing drosophila is a small vinegar fly native to east Asia that was first detected in California in 2008. Since then, the pest has spread across the country, damaging tree fruit crops and costing growers an estimated $700 million per year. Brown marmorated stink bug, also from Asia, attacks fruit, vegetable and ornamental crops in Michigan and around North America. Codling moth, native to Eurasia, is the primary pest facing the apple industry in Michigan. The project will allow researchers to determine which attractants work best and how long each pest must be in contact with the insecticide to receive a lethal dose. Grieshop indicated that the project model was taken from research conducted with mosquito netting. “We’ve been working on the attract-and-kill project for three seasons,” Grieshop said. “It was originally funded by MSU’s Project GREEEN [Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs] and commodity groups. The first season was really the development and testing of the technique. The second was working with various pests such as Japanese beetle and Oriental fruit moth. It has worked well, and we’ve gotten great data. We hope to have the same type of success with these other pests.” Laboratory testing and fieldwork will be conducted. Researchers must determine in the lab how long each species needs to be exposed to the insecticide to suffer 100 percent mortality. Then, in the field, cameras will monitor wild insects’ interactions with the nylon bags. The initial work isn’t compatible with organic farming because the test insecticide is not National Organic Program (NOP)-compliant. However, eventually the researchers want to determine if NOP-compliant  insecticides could be substituted. “My hope is that, by expanding our attract-and-kill technique to more pests, we can identify some key insect behavioral characteristics that can predict whether this type of approach is likely to succeed for many pests,” Grieshop said. “The most exciting aspect of this pest management technique is that, by bringing the pest to the insecticide rather than broadcasting the insecticide and hoping that the insect will contact it, we are developing pest management tactics that are both economically and environmentally conscious.”  
September 3, 2015, St. Paul, MN — Since 1988, the Compendium of Grape Diseases has been one of the most vital and prolific resources on grape disease management in the English language. The book has helped thousands of vineyard owners and their staff to identify and treat grape diseases through vivid disease images, thorough descriptions, and trusted management recommendations. The newly released Compendium of Grape Diseases, Disorders, and Pests, Second Edition was produced to serve these needs and more for the wine-, table-, and juice-grape industries. This latest edition was expanded to include the latest diagnostic and management information for diseases, plus insect pests and abiotic disorders such as environmental stresses. In total, it packs 375 detailed images and management recommendations for nearly 70 diseases, insects, and disorders of grape into more than 230 pages. This vital reference is ideal for vineyard staff and consultants, as well as researchers, extension agents, and diagnosticians who are working to ensure these delicate crops make it safely through the growing season. The new edition is nearly twice the size of the previous book and is organized in four sections: Part one covers diseases caused by biotic factors. It particularly addresses commonly occurring diseases caused by fungi and oomycetes, bacteria, phytoplasmas, viruses and virus-like agents (including nematode-transmitted viruses), and nematode parasites of grapevines. Part two discusses mites and insects that cause disease-like symptoms in grapes. Coverage includes leafhoppers and treehoppers, mealybugs, thrips, and much more. Part three discusses disorders caused by abiotic factors, with special emphases on chimeras, environmental stresses, nutritional disorders, the various causes of shriveled fruit, and pesticide toxicity. Part four offers two new sections that will help users save money and minimize pesticide use. The first – Grapevine Fungicides – discusses fungicides and cultural practices in the context of minimizing disease resistance. The second – Spray Technology for Grapevines – which emphasizes cost saving techniques and practices, helps users minimize pesticide use and ensures the chemical hits its target, not elsewhere in the environment. The Compendium of Grape Diseases, Disorders, and Pests, Second Edition also includes an introduction that provides helpful overviews of the grape plant, its worldwide cultivation and varied uses, its history, rootstocks, morphology, and developmental stages. Appendices include an updated list of common grapevine disease names caused by microbes, nematodes, and viruses; as well as a guide to the many equivalent names given to grapevine diseases and disorders in the English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish languages. An expanded glossary of more than 800 terms is also used in the book, along with a comprehensive index to make this resource accessible to anyone working in the grape industry, including diagnosticians, extension specialists; consultants; scientists; vineyard managers and staff; juice, fresh fruit, and raisin producers; and students. Visit www.shopapspress.org to learn more about this and other important crop health titles from APS Press.
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.      
  When applying chemicals to crops, where the chemical is delivered is sometimes more important than how much is delivered. A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists has developed a new laser-guided spraying system that controls spray outputs to match targeted tree structures. “Conventional spray application technology requires excessive amounts of pesticide to achieve effective pest control,” says ARS agricultural engineer Heping Zhu. “This challenge is now overcome by our automated, variable-rate, air-assisted, precision sprayer. The new system is able to characterize the presence, size, shape, and foliage density of target trees and apply the optimum amount of pesticide in real time.” The system has many parts that have to work together with precision, including a high-speed laser-scanning sensor working in conjunction with a Doppler radar travel-speed sensor. “Our field experiments showed that the precision sprayer, when compared to conventional sprayers with best pest management practices, consistently sprayed the correct amount of chemicals, despite changes in tree structure and species,” Zhu says. “Pest control with the new sprayer was comparable to that of conventional sprayers, but the new sprayer reduced average pesticide use between 46 and 68 per cent, with an average pesticide cost savings of $230 per acre for ornamental nurseries. The cost savings can be much higher for orchards and other fruit crop productions.” Additional tests in an apple orchard demonstrated that the new sprayer reduced spray loss beyond tree canopies between 40 and 87 per cent, airborne spray drift by up to 87 per cent, and spray loss on the ground between 68 and 93 per cent. Sharon Durham is with Agricultural Research Service’s information staff.        
  The old axiom of “thinking outside the box” applies well to fruit and vegetable producers looking for ways to reduce costs in their cooling-packing facility, says Hugh Fraser, a consultant with OTB Farm Solutions and retired extension agricultural engineer with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “The first thing I am going to say is to stop coaching and sit in the stands for a while,” he says. Take note of where your produce is not flowing in a straight line and where travel distances could be a lot shorter. “Look at things from a different perspective and ask key workers for their good ideas on efficiency and reward them,” Fraser says. “With a forklift, you can assume that it costs about $20 per hour to own, fuel and operate, and that’s on the conservative side. “Let us assume you are picking seven hours per day and that you have 50 picking days per season, and that you pick 60 bins per day. Let us also assume that each bin is touched about 12 times per cycle.” Fraser says the cycle starts with an empty bin that goes to the orchard to be filled, then comes back, goes into cooler storage, then the pack line to be emptied before the process repeats. He estimates the bin is touched one to three times at each location. “Over the course of the season, this adds up to about 36,000 touches,” he says. “This is costing you about 20 cents every time you touch that bin. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but after you touch all those bins 36,000 times in the season, there is a lot of money to be saved.” Fraser says to also think about forklift trips and how time gets added. “Slowing around corners can waste a lot of time, or blind spots where you can’t see what’s coming, or busy areas where you may have to slow down because it’s a bottleneck,” he says. “Every time you travel an extra metre, you add one second to your trip.” Moving bins to get at bins and then moving them back is a big time waster so think about ways to reduce the number of moves for the forklift, he says. Be careful around obstructions and in poorly lit areas, and try to handle the optimal combination of bins that will safely save you time. “Try to stop the re-warming of produce out of storage. You spend a lot of time and money to make the produce cold and then we bring it out to pack it and it gets re-warmed. It has to spend as little time out of cold storage as possible.” He remembers being in California where they had bins of produce passed on a conveyor through a hole in the cold storage wall right onto the packing line, which reduced the time the produce was out of storage. Fraser says all produce cools quickly at first, then slowly over time, regardless of the produce type or the style of cooler. In a typical forced-air cooler, produce will cool about 3 C in about 12 minutes, by 6 C in 24 minutes and by 9 C in 36 minutes. “We can’t stop re-warming but there are some things we can do to slow it down,” he says. Produce actually re-warms just like it cools, so it warms quickly at first then slowly over time. Fraser uses peaches as an example. “Assume that produce coming out of cold storage and onto the packing line is at one degree C and that it rewarms at only half the rate of forced-air cooling, which is very possible. So, in 12 minutes the temperature would rise by 1.5 degrees to 2.5 degrees, in 24 minutes by three degrees to four degrees, and in 36 minutes by 4.5 degrees to 5.5 degrees. “At 5.5 C, we are getting into the danger zone for potential mealiness with peaches,” he says. “Trying to re-cool peaches after you’ve got them in baskets and into the shipping container [is] very, very difficult.” Ideally, you want the shortest possible time out of storage to keep that coolness. “Do a simple test on your time out of storage. Let’s assume you dump your first bin at 8 a.m., and your last (60th bin), is packed out by 6 p.m., so it took 10 hours to pack 60 bins. That’s about 10 minutes on average per bin. It’s worth doing a little test to convince yourself that stuff is not out of storage very long.” Another way to reduce costs is to improve labour efficiency on the pack line, he says. Researchers at the University of California talk about having an adjustable, soft floor with a foot rail so that people can change their positions throughout the day. For shorter workers, the floor can be raised to allow their forearms to be nearly horizontal. “It’s a simple thing but it can be a big thing,” he says. Another idea to consider is having an adjustable shelf that sets the packing boxes at an optimum 12 to 15 degree incline from the horizontal so they tip in toward the worker. This position allows the worker to keep their upper arms more comfortably at near vertical. Fluorescent lighting should ideally be in the range of 500 to 1,000 lux – a unit of illumination. “Many packers are older and they need better lighting. Workers should also be rotated to reduce fatigue and monotony.” Fraser suggests not implementing these changes across the board, but to start with only a few workers to see how they respond to the changes. “Your workers will tell you very quickly if they like what you did or not,” he says. In some peach packing facilities, it can take 10 minutes of down time to switch containers on the line and it can easily happen twice a day. “If you have 20 packers, then they are idle 333 hours over 50 days, which is about $4,000 in lost time.” Evaporator coils must also earn their keep. “To get the most efficiency out of your coils, ensure they are drawing cold air through and around the produce so it’s cooling it. Air always takes the path of least resistance and it will not flow through bins or pallets unless it is forced to do so. Also, if you restrict airflow, or have short-circuiting of cold air back to the coils, you’re going to have faster frost buildup and more frequent defrosts required, which means higher electricity costs and slower pull down times. “You have to make the cold air in your storage do a better job for you,” he says. To do this, ensure there are four to six inches between bin or pallet rows that are parallel to the airflow in the room, and six to eight inches at the sidewall that are parallel to the airflow. “You should have at least 12 inches of space under the coils so the air has room to get back to the cooling coils and get re-cooled,” Fraser says.  “It’s easier to cool fruit in a bulk bin than after it is packed in a basket and placed in a corrugated container. Fruit not cold when packed is more susceptible to bruising and a shorter shelf life.” Over his 35-year career, Fraser has found the need for more cross-pollination among farms. “Tender fruit producers often don’t know what vegetable growers are doing and greenhouse growers don’t know what grape growers do,” he says. “We’ve lost some of that cross-pollination of good ideas.” Greenhouse vegetable and flower operations are highly mechanized and have pack lines, forklifts, automation and all can learn from everyone else. They also pack in containers and some use forced-air coolers. “Your non-competitors are going to share good ideas with you more than your competitors will,” he says. Having a long-term plan is another area that needs work. “Most farms expand production 100 per cent over one generation but nobody has a plan ready in their back pocket. And disaster can strike with a 100 per cent loss and again nobody has a plan to draw from,” he says. By thinking outside the box, producers can reduce costs and streamline operations. By having an expansion plan in place, they can be ready for whatever life brings their way.      
  Starting a business isn’t hard. Starting a business that stands the test of time is more difficult. Ag-Tronic Control Systems Inc. has grown hand-in-hand with the industry it supports in Ontario and elsewhere. Joe Sleiman is the mastermind and owner behind the company, which is celebrating 25 years in business in 2016. Located in Lakeshore, Ont. – near Lake St. Clair – Sleiman says Ag-Tronic has become known as an innovative automation design and manufacturing company. Over the past quarter century, the company has succeeded in designing and manufacturing automated sorting and grading systems, setting new industry standards for the 21st century. This is particularly true for cucumber and sweet corn production. Prior to the birth of Ag-Tronic, Sleiman worked as a lead electro-mechanical service person for a farm equipment dealer, which earned him a reputation for providing exemplary customer service. He also designed and manufactured three successful automation systems. Due to a slowing economy in the early 1990s, Sleiman found himself unemployed but not out of ideas. Realizing the future of the agriculture community was dependent on technology and automation, he seized the opportunity. Ag-Tronic Control Systems began with Sleiman and his wife, Samia. Today, the couple’s operation employs 20 people. “We’ve done a good job of recognizing new opportunities and supplying the best solutions at competitive prices,” says Sleiman. An example is the spin-off sales company Accu-Label Inc., created in 2001 to meet product-labeling requirements in the fruit sector. Rapid growth of the industry has presented its share of challenges. Finding and maintaining staff to represent Ag-Tronics is one thing Sleiman admits has always been tough – especially for a businessman who likes to over-deliver.  “Our ability to tailor appropriate technical as well as practical solutions to customer needs is a result of 25 years experience both in Canada and abroad. Right now, we are in the process of establishing a global network to expand our products and services all over the world. Diversification will keep us going and growing for another 25 years.”      
January 18, 2017 – The U.S. government has launched a trade enforcement action against Canada at the World Trade Organization, stating that B.C.'s liquor regulations discriminate against the sale of U.S. wine. U.S. Trade representative Michael Froman wrote in a recent news release the regulations breach Canada's WTO commitments by giving local B.C. wine an unfair advantage. READ MORE  
January 13, 2017, Toronto, Ont – Former Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) chair Brenda Lammens has been named the 2017 recipient of the organization’s Industry Award of Merit.
December 16, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The annual general meeting of CanAgPlus, the corporation that owns and operates the CanadaGAP Program, was held Dec. 8, 2016, in Ottawa.Members considered a number of resolutions submitted by the membership. One resolution was referred to the board of directors for further discussion and a report back to the 2017 AGM. Three resolutions were voted on and defeated.CanadaGAP program participants elected four new directors to the CanAgPlus board: Jack Bates, Tecarte Farms Hugh Bowman, Agri Group of North America Cathy McKay, Nature's Bounty Farm Jody Mott, Holland Marsh Growers' Association The new board of directors met subsequent to the AGM and reappointed Jack Bates to the chair and Hugh Bowman as vice-chair."We're pleased to be working with a strong group of directors who have solid experience with the CanadaGAP program," stated Bates. "The board is made up of a good cross-section of representatives from various sectors of the industry."Newly elected board members will serve a two-year term for 2017 and 2018.The annual report presentation and copies of the report are available at: http://www.canadagap.ca/publications/annual-report/
December 15, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is pleased with the federal government's announcement yesterday that the cumulative duration limit, or "four-in, four-out" rule, will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers.  In recent meetings with government officials, CFA has expressed concern that this rule has created unnecessary hardship for employers already struggling to fulfill their labour requirements. It has limited the pool of available, experienced workers and led to significant retraining costs while reducing productivity. Ultimately, it has limited opportunities for temporary foreign workers to attain permanent residency. CFA continues to see increased pathways to permanent residency as a vital component of any long-term strategy to reduce Canadian agriculture's labour shortages."The government's early action on this file is a critical step forward and CFA is eager to work with government and industry partners in the coming months on a more comprehensive suite of meaningful changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and broader labour market programming," said CFA President Ron Bonnett.Removing the cumulative duration rule was one of several recommendations that CFA presented to the House of Commons human resources committee earlier this year.With recent research from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council highlighting nearly 60,000 vacancies in primary agriculture alone – a figure expected to increase to 114,000 by 2025 – these changes come as a welcome and important move towards meaningful change.Labour constraints in agriculture continue to cost the industry approximately $1.5 billion in lost sales each year. Farm groups reiterate that this multi-faceted issue requires a long-term strategic approach that includes: improved engagement with groups that are under-represented in the domestic agricultural labour force amendments to Canada's immigration policy ways to make Canada's skills training programs more supportive of farms and on-the-job training. CFA looks forward to obtaining more details of the new requirements for employers to advertise job opportunities to under-represented groups. Connecting with these communities is a priority for the industry and CFA is working with other stakeholders to address current barriers that confront those interested in working in the sector.Interested parties are encouraged to refer to the Agriculture and Agri-food Workforce Action Plan, developed by a Labour Task Force involving more than 75 organizations, as a roadmap to improving Canada's agricultural labour market.
December 6, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, shares the Canadian Horticultural Council’s (CHC) concern over France’s ban of products from countries where dimethoate is registered as a pesticide. Dimethoate is used for control of sucking and chewing insects and fruit flies, and is currently used in orchards after harvest for control of western cherry fruit flies. READ MORE
December 5, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Canada’s agriculture sector faces a persistent lack of sufficient workers with the right skills and in the right places. Labour shortages have doubled over the last decade and are projected to double again to 113,800 positions before 2025, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. This report relies on research findings from a three-year agriculture labour market research project conducted by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in collaboration with the Conference Board. “The agriculture sector is having difficulty recruiting and retaining domestic workers. As labour shortages have expanded, the sector has increasingly turned to temporary foreign workers to fill the labour gap,” said Michael Burt, director of industrial economic trends with the Conference Board of Canada. “Finding solutions to the labour shortages in the years to come is critical for the future growth of the sector.” The report – Sowing the Seeds of Growth: Temporary Foreign Workers in Agriculture – examines why temporary foreign workers (TFWs) play such an important role in the agriculture sector’s workforce. It finds that the industry faces unique recruitment and retention challenges that are contributing to its growing labour shortages. These challenges include an aging workforce, the rural location of many operations, and negative perceptions about working in the sector. Highlights of the report include: Labour shortages within Canada’s agriculture sector have doubled over the past decade and are expected to double again by 2025. At its seasonal peak, the sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at seasonal lows. Three-quarters of the sector’s labour gap has been filled by temporary foreign workers. The most prominent challenge is the large seasonal fluctuations in employment. At its seasonal peak, the agriculture sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at its seasonal lows, which represents a 30 per cent fluctuation. The average difference between the seasonal peak and low in employment for all other sectors is just four per cent. These seasonal fluctuations are why more than three quarters of agricultural TFWs arrive as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. TFWs have become a key part of the sector’s continued operations and will likely continue to play a growing role in the future. TFWs have been able to fill three-quarters of the industry’s labour shortage gap and now represent one-in-10 workers in the sector. In addition to easing much of the sector’s labour shortages, TFWs have contributed to the growth in agricultural production over the past decade and have supported the employment of Canadians in the sector. Many farm operators indicate that they would have closed, leading to Canadian job losses, had they not had access to TFWs. Finding solutions to the sector’s growing labour gap in the years to come is important. However, just paying more or buying more machines are not the panacea they would seem. For example, wages in agriculture have risen relative to the average for all sectors over the past 15 years, but the number of Canadians willing to work in agriculture has shrunk. At the same time, a dramatic increase in the amount of machinery employed per worker has contributed to agriculture experiencing the strongest labour productivity gains of any major sector over the past 20 years. Yet, the sector’s labour gap has continued to expand. One potential solution may be re-evaluating the effectiveness of Canada’s immigration programs so that they better meet the needs of the agriculture sector. With federal immigration policies geared toward attracting high-skilled workers, they offer few pathways for permanent residency for lower-skilled workers, even though agriculture has a critical need for them. A path toward permanent residency for migrant workers, who are filling a permanent market need, would assist farm operators in finding a permanent solution to their labour challenges. This research was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).
December 1, 2016, Lowell, OR – Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc., a global blueberry breeding and nursery stock company, has named Dr. Paul Sandefur as manager of its U.S. breeding program.
November 30, 2016, Kelowna, BC – The B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative board of directors is pleased to announce the hiring of Stan Swales as chief executive officer effective Nov. 28, 2016. “After a long search, we are excited to move forward with our selection of Stan,” said B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative President Jeet Dukhia. “The board of directors is confident Stan will build on the trust between cooperative members and staff while working towards a strong, sustainable industry for our members.” Swales started in the industry in 1985 at Okanagan North Growers Co-Op in Winfield where he spent 20 years in various roles, including both horticulture and operations. From there, Swales moved to Growers Supply Co. Ltd. as the general manager where he remained for 10 years. For the last year, he was with BASF Canada as a business representative. “I am thrilled to be back with the cooperative as the new CEO,” stated Swales. “Over the span of my career in the industry, I have worked in some capacity at almost every level. With that comes the understanding of the needs and challenges both the membership and the cooperative face and I feel I can draw on my experience to help guide our cooperative moving forward.” Swales will be in the office full-time starting Dec. 27. Chief Financial Officer Warren Everton will remain acting CEO until then.
“Vineland is scouting the world for new fresh grape varieties suited to the Canadian climate with consumer appeal.”
November 1, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of two types of potatoes that are genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that causes late blight. The potatoes next must clear a voluntary review process through the Food and Drug Administration as well as get the okay from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The approval covers Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.'s Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the company's second generation of Innate potatoes. READ MORE
With fall harvest at an end, the agricultural labour program that helps Ontario’s fruit and vegetable industry thrive is celebrating another successful growing season.
November 1, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian government recently announced it has secured market access for Alberta seed potatoes to Thailand. Effective immediately, Alberta becomes the third province to have an export agreement with Thailand, joining Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, both of which secured export agreements in 2009. Combined, these three provinces form about 76 per cent of Canada’s seed potato exports. Alberta’s seed potato exports to Thailand could be worth up to $2 million annually, according to industry experts, adding to the $5 million on average exported annually to that country. The increased access will advance the competitiveness of, and create new opportunities for, the seed potato sector. “The Potato Growers of Alberta are pleased to have worked with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry to profile our seed industry to Thailand officials and to receive approval to export seed to their country,” said Deb Hart, seed potato coordinator with the Potato Growers of Alberta. “Alberta has a very innovative and progressive seed potato industry and is looking forward to the opportunity to grow low virus, high quality seed varieties requested by the Thai potato industry.”

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