By Marg Land
April – that wonderful month full of promise. Spring is finally here and it’s time to put to work all that information and knowledge that has been gathered and shared over the winter months during grower group annual meetings and commodity conventions.
The willingness to share and help one another with production issues is the aspect of Canada’s fruit and vegetable industry that I most admire and respect. In business, not everyone is willing to offer a helping hand, but in agriculture, assistance is never withheld or withdrawn.
Case in point: during the recent 2013 Ontario Berry Growers’ Association’s annual meeting held in Niagara Falls, Ont., I listened with great interest as Nate Nourse, sales director with Nourse Farms of Whatley, Mass., shared his family’s experiences managing spotted wing drosophila (SWD) in their strawberry and raspberry plantings.
“This isn’t a friendly topic; it’s not a fun topic,” he admitted. “But we’re dealing with it head on and it’s been working.
Ninety-nine per cent of the science we’ve seen is helping us. It’s what [has] helped us make a strategy. We’ve been paying attention to this pest since we found out about it in 2009. We knew it was coming. It was just a matter of when.
Once it’s here, it’s not going away.”
Nourse willingly shared his operation’s strategy and philosophy on dealing with SWD, mapping out picking and spraying timetables to other growers, based on the fruit being managed. He shared the learning moments experienced on the farm over the past few seasons and urged other growers not to make the same mistakes they made.
“The first year we found [SWD], we deviated one week from the pick schedule and every fruit was unmarketable when we went to pick it,” he said. “Letting fruit go for longer than that third day, you’re going to see a lot more first and second instars. The fourth day, they’re going to be loaded up pretty good. You’ve got to be very careful.”
Growing and producing in an information vacuum is almost impossible, especially when dealing with a community pest like SWD, which doesn’t respect line fences or surveyed boundaries. It’s only by sharing experiences and working together that Canada’s fruit and vegetable industry grows stronger.
Keep up the good work and have a safe and prosperous 2013 season.