Silicon is often a forgotten  element in plant nutrition

Silicon is often a forgotten element in plant nutrition

Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust next to oxygen.

Club apples in Canada

Club apples in Canada

A representative of Enza Fruit Products, the U.S. subsidiary of New Zealand-based Enza/T&G Global,

Garlic ahoy!

Garlic ahoy!

When a new crop takes off, it’s not unusual that specialty equipment is designed

February 21, 2017, Boston, MA – According to new findings reported at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), farmers can invite greater bee diversity in their fields by diversifying their crops. Researchers looked at 15 farms in central California, some of which grew only strawberries and some of which grew strawberries along with other crops like broccoli, raspberries, and kale. They found that several different bee species buzzed around the diversified farms, whereas only the European honeybee pollinated the strawberry-only ones. READ MORE
February 21, 2017, Guelph, Ont – The 2017 Ontario Potato Conference & Trade Show will be held at the Delta Hotel in Guelph February 28.  The speakers are looking forward to providing the latest information on seed health, disease management, insect management, soil improvement, storage audits and pesticide re-evaluations. The number of Trade Show exhibitors keeps increasing, and it will be as interesting as in previous years. There will be enough time to visit the booths at lunch and during the afternoon coffee break. Lunch, coffee breaks and parking are included with registration. This event is for growers, crop consultants, potato industry people and anyone interested in potatoes. The deadline for early registration at $50 is this February 24. The on-site registration fee at the Delta Conference Center is $75.Contact Eugenia Banks at 519-766-8073 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.
February 21, 2017, Olds, Alta – There will be a strawberry production workshop on March 1, 2017, at the Pomeroy Inn and Suites at Olds College. “Strawberries are an excellent crop to grow in Alberta, with lots of potential markets for this tasty berry,” says Robert Spencer, commercial horticulture specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “This half-day workshop will help new or potential strawberry producer with all aspects of growing strawberries, from varietal selection and establishment, to the maintenance and harvest of both June-bearing and day-neutral strawberries.” Registration starts at 11:30 a.m., with sessions running 12:45 until 5:30 p.m. The cost to attend these workshops is $20 per person (plus GST), which includes lunch and a production manual for each farm operation. To assist with planning, participants are asked to register in advance by calling the Ag-Info Centre Registration line at 1-800-387-6030 before February 21, 2017.
February 20, 2017, Vancouver, BC – In recognition of the importance of the Japanese market, the British Columbia Blueberry Council will again be exhibiting at the country's premier food and beverage trade show, Foodex. Held from March 7 to 10 in Tokyo, the event attracts influential buyers from across Japan and other Asian markets. "Japan has long been a very important export market for BC blueberries," said Debbie Etsell, executive director of the BC Blueberry Council. "It's a very discerning market, and the high quality of our fruit is well respected in Japan, both fresh berries in the summer, and frozen and processed formats throughout the year." In 2016, British Columbia's 800 blueberry growers produced 77 million kilograms of blueberries. Approximately half of each season's yield is exported to markets outside of Canada, making blueberries the country's most exported fruit. To celebrate this fact, and share Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations at Foodex, representatives of the BCBC will be serving up samples of Blueberry Ginger Pancakes with Maple Syrup – a quintessentially Canadian treat. As in past years, the council will be exhibiting at Foodex as part of the AgriFood Canada pavilion in the International Zone. The show attracts 77,000 buyers from food service, distribution, and trading companies, with around 3,320 companies exhibiting at the four-day event. Along with offering an excellent opportunity to connect with buyers from the Japan, the show also attracts trade buyers from other Asian markets. "This is the seventh year that the BC Blueberry Council has attended Foodex, and it's a very important opportunity for us to reconnect with some of the contacts we have made over the years," says Etsell. "We're looking forward to seeing some of the familiar faces from past shows, as well as building some new relationships and connecting them with suppliers that can fulfill their requests, whether they're looking for blueberries in fresh, frozen, dried, powdered, juice or puréed formats." The BC Blueberry Council works closely with government trade offices at both a provincial and federal level, making the most of opportunities to take part in trade missions, delegations and shows such as Foodex. Other international missions planned for 2017 include Gulfood in Dubai, and Seoul Food & Hotel in Korea.
Over the past few decades and, more specifically, the past five years, there has been a resurgence of interest in hard cider in North America. Many Canadian cider makers have distinguished themselves among top producers and, because of increasing consumer demand for cider products, there are growing market opportunities both nationally and overseas.
The long, hot summer days of 2016 helped to create one of the best tomato crops Ontario has seen for a long time. Many farmers were faced with a bumper crop. So what can a farmer do with all those extra tomatoes?
February 10, 2017, Hamilton, Ont – Hamilton police are looking for $100,000 worth of blueberries and other fruits they say were stolen in Stoney Creek Feb. 5.  The thief broke into a commercial refrigeration truck and drove the truck and trailer to the Toronto area. READ MORE
February 7, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF), in partnership with the Potato Growers of Alberta, is holding a potato post-harvest management workshop at three sites in March. “Crop and financial losses of stored potatoes has a significant impact on the profitability of fresh and seed potato growers in Alberta,” says Robert Spencer, commercial horticulture specialist, AF. “Participants will learn about potato storage design and management, as well as pre-harvest, post-harvest, in-storage and post-storage disease management information. This will increase their capacity for prolonged quality potato storage, as well as reduce losses that occur in storage or in the post-harvest process.” The workshop dates are: March 7 – Lethbridge March 8 – Lacombe March 9 – Westlock A maximum of two attendees from each farm operation may attend. The cost to attend these workshops is $15 per person (plus GST), which includes lunch and a resource binder for each farm operation. Participants are asked to register in advance by calling the Ag-Info Centre Registration line at 1-800-387-6030 prior to February 28, 2017.
February 7, 2017, Presque Ilse, ME – Potato seed tubers harboring Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae are the only confirmed source of these pathogens. At this point, there is no evidence that either of the two pathogens overwinter in the soil. The generally accepted length of survival time in the soil for these pathogens is one week to six months, climate dependent. Longer survival is possible on plant matter in the soil. With that, the source of the inoculum, and hence the source of the disease, is seed. Therefore, any best management practices efforts on Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae must start with the seed. Select seed from farms where Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae have not been detected and seed marketed in previous years has not been associated with Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae. Check North American Certified Seed Potato Health Certificates before purchasing seed and select seed that had not been increased on a farm associated with Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae.Select seed with zero blackleg levels reported on the North American Certified Seed Potato Health Certificate.  Select seed that has been PCR tested by an independent laboratory and confirmed to be free of Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae. Select seed from farms where a zero tolerance approach to Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae is being implemented. Seed lots with field readings of blackleg present should have reports that suspect plant samples were taken for testing and found to be Dickeya dianthicola and Pectobacterium wasabiae free. Avoid seed from fields where symptoms of Dickeya dianthicola or Pectobacterium wasabiae were observed, even if affected plants were rogued out. Where possible, avoid irrigated seed crops. Where possible, avoid planting whole-seed lots that were stripped from multiple lots.
February 6, 2017 – After several years of challenging times, the Canadian processing potato industry is feeling a lift, in part due to a lower loonie. It’s stimulated exports of French fries and other processed products as well as fresh potatoes to the United States and other markets, and for the first time in years some processing plants in Canada are expanding their production lines. READ MORE
Silicon (Si) is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust next to oxygen. It’s a major component of plant tissue and is found in varying concentrations in virtually all living tissue, plants, animals, and humans.
January 31, 2017 – Online grocer Ocado has shown off a soft robotic hand that can pick fruit and vegetables, without damaging them, in its warehouses. The firm has an automated warehouse in Andover, Hampshire, where robots select crates containing specific items that make up customer orders. READ MOR
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.
A non-descript building in an industrial park in the Okanagan region of B.C. could be the setting of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.  
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Bob Vernon continues his work with wireworm controls for good reason.
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 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.
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.      
  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.        
February 21, 2017 – Brenda Lammens, former chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA) and the Ontario Asparagus Growers, passed away Saturday, February 11, 2017. She was 61. “Brenda was a strong, influential leader who contributed much to the edible horticulture sector and the agricultural industry as a whole,” said Jan VanderHout, current OFVGA chair. “She was a positive voice for growers, and had a particular passion for mentoring women in agriculture. She will be fondly remembered.” In January, Brenda was named the 2017 recipient of the OFVGA’s Industry Award of Merit – an award given out annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the fruit and vegetable industry. For more than 30 years, she and her husband, Raymond, operated their family farm, Spearit Farms located in Norfolk County. She served on the OFVGA board for seven years and became the second woman to chair the OFVGA in 2007. “We offer our deepest condolences to the Lammens family during this difficult time and hope they take some comfort knowing the legacy that she leaves behind as a champion for agriculture may serve as a powerful source of inspiration,” said VanderHout.
February 20, 2017 – A leading Canadian agri-food expert says Canada has an opportunity to significantly boost its gross domestic product and be a key player in the coming agriculture-industrial revolution. But the sector needs investment from the federal government to take advantage of the opportunity. "Agriculture really is at the cusp of a new industrial revolution...This is Canada's moment to take advantage of a huge opportunity," Evan Fraser, the head of the University of Guelph's Food Institute, told CBC's The House host Chris Hall. READ MORE  
The B.C. tree fruit replant program is having a positive affect on the province’s fruit growing industry and has been so popular, the province’s Ministry of Agriculture has provided additional funds.
In late January, I walked into the first afternoon of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Industry Conference with a swagger in my step. I was going to learn something that many in my sphere of influence were still struggling with: What to expect from a Trump presidency.
February 8, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Effective April 1, 2017 CanadaGAP will introduce an unannounced audit program in response to new GFSI benchmarking requirements.What is an unannounced audit? Unannounced audits will not be scheduled in advance with the producer. The certification body will provide two to five business days' notice that the auditor is coming. An unannounced audit will take place instead of a scheduled audit (NOT additional to a scheduled audit). The producer will pay the regular audit fee for the unannounced audit. Only if needed, the certification body or auditor may contact you ahead of time (e.g., early in the season) To confirm the scope of your operation's certification To confirm in general when certain activities are occurring (e.g., harvesting, packing, shipping, etc.) NOT to identify a specific time for the audit. When will unannounced audits occur? Like all CanadaGAP audits, unannounced audits must occur while activities relevant to the scope of your operation's certification are occurring. You cannot block off "busy periods" like harvesting or shipping. Unannounced audits can occur during periods of high activity. Be audit-ready You can refuse the first notification, for valid reasons as determined by the certification body. You cannot refuse the second notification. Not responding to the notification (phone or email) from the certification body or auditor will be considered an ACCEPTED notification.  If you are not prepared to proceed with the audit when the auditor arrives, you will still be charged for the cost of the auditor's time and travel. If possible, the auditor will return for another unannounced audit during the current season. Note that it may be impossible for the auditor to return during the current season due to scheduling demands. In other words, not being prepared for the unannounced audit could put your operation's certification in jeopardy. Who will be chosen for an unannounced audit? The new unannounced audit program will be for those enrolled in CanadaGAP certification Options A1, A2, C and D.  The certification body will choose five per cent of its clients each year. Over time, all individually certified companies will have an unannounced audit. Those enrolled in group certification Option B already have an unannounced component to their option. Option A3 will also see the introduction of an unannounced component in 2017.  What about random audits? If you are enrolled in CanadaGAP certification Option A1 or A2 (four-year audit cycle) 1) there is no change to your four-year audit cycle, and 2) there is no change to the way that random audits work. You would still be informed in advance if you've been randomly selected for an audit. However, you may not be told the exact date of your audit. It could be an unannounced audit. Likewise, if you already expect to be audited this year (because you are due for an audit in your four-year cycle), this audit could be unannounced. "Unannounced" means you won't know more than two to five business days in advance of the date of your audit. You will still know in advance that you are having an audit sometime this year. "Although certification options A1, A2 and A3 are not GFSI-recognized, the CanAgPlus board has chosen to include all certification options in the unannounced audit programme to improve the overall rigour of CanadaGAP certification," explained Heather Gale, executive director for CanadaGAP. Why are unannounced audits being introduced? To meet new GFSI requirements To respond to market signals To ensure that producers are maintaining their program on a continuing basis "We need to be ready to demonstrate to our customers that CanadaGAP-certified companies can meet program requirements at any time," commented Jack Bates, chair of the CanAgPlus board.A presentation outlining the new unannounced audit program is available on the CanadaGAP website at: http://www.canadagap.ca/publications/canadagap-presentations/.
February 6, 2017, Caribou, ME – McCain Foods has started trials examining soil fumigation with several of its growers.In an effort to boost yields with its contract growers of russet processing potatoes, McCain Foods has been conducting trials of fumigation on a small number of acres with farmers who have had yield problems with nematodes, verticillium wilt and other fungal soil pests. The Florenceville, NB, company has been conducting similar trials with its growers in Canada. READ MORE
January 23, 2017, Victoria, BC — Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick says he will now attend a major conference of B.C. farmers Jan. 26 after earlier bailing on the event to attend a $5,000-a-plate Liberal Party fundraiser with Premier Christy Clark. The flip-flop came hours after The Province reported exclusively that Letnick had cancelled on 9,000 farmers and ranchers attending the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford. READ MORE
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

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