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Nova Scotia pilot project looks to boost local raspberry production


July 21, 2021
By Fruit and Vegetable

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Nova Scotia’s raspberry growers are benefiting from a government pilot project to expand the growing season, increase profits and boost the economy by reducing the province’s reliance on imported products.

The N.S. Department of Agriculture has invested $309,000 in the project to help raspberry growers improve long-cane production systems and share their research with all provincial raspberry growers to benefit the broader industry.

“This project is an investment by the province in really helping our berry farmers and the industry grow more innovative and enjoy longer growing seasons,” said Keith Colwell, N.S. agriculture minster, in a statement. “By growing more berries here at home, we reduce more costly imported products, strengthen our economy and improve our food security.”

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Long-cane raspberry production systems grow the plants under large, arched coverings known as tunnels. The tunnel extends the growing season by allowing for warmer temperatures in the spring and fall and protects plants from rainfall that can spread disease and reduce quality. This system helps mitigate the impact of climate change by allowing for the collection of rainwater for irrigating the plants and allows for precise control over the amount and timing of nutrient delivery.

The project provides shared learning for the industry through cost-of-production work, development of a resource guide and training in long-cane raspberry production systems.

“Traditionally, raspberries are grown in soil, but we are experimenting with a substrate-based, container-grown system,” said Talia Plaskett, protected crop specialist with Perennia Food and Agriculture. “Growing in soilless substrate allows for increased control and efficiency when it comes to water and nutrients, and eliminates the risks associated with soil-borne diseases that accumulate year to year.”

The two farms that met eligibility requirements to take part in the pilot are Vital Berry Farms in Sheffield Mills and Webster Farms Ltd. in Cambridge, both in Kings County. They are working with Horticulture Nova Scotia, Perennia Food & Agriculture, and an international consultant.

“The long-cane raspberry project has incredible benefits for our industry and our province,” said Marlene Huntley, executive director of Horticulture Nova Scotia. “It allows for a much longer season of raspberry production. From spring through fall, Nova Scotians will be able to enjoy amazing raspberries from their own province! It also displaces imported berries, which is wonderful for our economy.”

The farms are setting up the systems at their sites for this production season. Their first crops of long-cane raspberries are expected in August.