Research
June 27, 2017 – Why do the best fruits seem to have the shortest shelf life? It’s a challenge that plagues fresh fruit markets around the world, and has real implications for consumers and fruit growers.

Now, new research from University of Guelph has led to the development of a product that extends the shelf life of fresh fruits by days and even weeks, and it is showing promise in food insecure regions around the world.

“In people and in fruit, skin shrinks with age — it’s part of the life cycle, as the membranes start losing their tightness,” said Jay Subramanian, Professor of Tree Fruit Breeding and Biotechnology at the University of Guelph, who works from the Vineland research station. “Now we know the enzymes responsible for that process can be slowed.”

The secret, according to Subramanian, is in hexanal, a compound that is naturally produced by every plant in the world. His lab has developed a formulation that includes a higher concentration of hexanal to keep fruit fresh for longer.

Subramanian’s research team began experimenting with applying their formula to sweet cherry and peaches in the Niagara region. They found they were able to extend the shelf life of both fruits and spraying the formula directly on the plant prior to harvest worked as well as using it as a dip for newly harvested fruit.

“Even one day makes a huge difference for some crops,” Subramanian said. “In other fruits like mango or banana you can extend it much longer.”Once the formula is available on the market, Subramanian sees applications on fruit farms across Ontario, including U-pick operations, where an extended season would be beneficial. But the opportunities could also make a significant impact on fruit markets around the world.

Subramanian’s research team was one of only 19 projects worldwide awarded an exclusive research grant from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, a program governed by the International Development Research Centre and funded through Global Affairs Canada.

The team used the funding to collaborate with colleagues in India and Sri Lanka on mango and banana production. Mangos are one of the top five most-produced fruits in the world, with 80 per cent of the production coming from South Asia. After more than three years, researchers learned that by spraying the formula on mangos before harvest, they were able to delay ripening by up to three weeks.

“A farmer can spray half of his farm with this formulation and harvest it two or three weeks after the first part of the crop has gone to market,” Subramanian said. “It stretches out the season, the farmer doesn’t need to panic and sell all of his fruit at once and a glut is avoided. It has a beautiful trickle-down effect because the farmer has more leverage, and the consumer gets good, fresh fruit for a longer period.”

The team is at work in the second phase of the project applying similar principles to banana crops in African and Caribbean countries, and hopes to also tackle papaya, citrus and other fruits.

The formula has been licensed to a company that is completing regulatory applications and is expected to reach the commercial market within three years.
June 19, 2017, Agassiz, BC – Dr. Rishi Burlakoti has joined the Agassiz Research and Development Centre (ARDC), bringing with him more than 10 years of experience in plant pathology. His research will address the new and existing diseases of high value horticultural crops, focusing mainly on small fruits and vegetable crops.

Prior to joining the ARDC team, Dr. Burlakoti led the mycology and bacteriology units at the World Vegetable Centre in Taiwan. He focused on global fungal and bacterial diseases of solanaceous vegetables (e.g. tomato, pepper, eggplant). From 2010 to 2016, he worked as a plant pathologist and research lead at Weather Innovations Consulting LP, an agricultural consulting company based in Ontario, where he led several applied research projects and provided consulting services to sector organizations and agri-food businesses in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Dr. Burlakoti also worked as a Postdoctoral scientist in the Wild Blueberry Research Program at Dalhousie University in 2009, and in the Barley Pathology Program at North Dakota State University in 2008.

Dr. Burlakoti is serving as an editor for two international journals: Plants and Archives of Phytopathology and Plant Protection. He is also a member of the Canadian Phytopathological Society, the American Phytopathological Society, and the Canadian Society for Horticultural Science. He is an adjunct faculty at Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph.

Dr. Burlakoti will be at the ARDC’s open house on July 22. Drop by to meet him and the rest of the centre’s staff as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Alternatively, you can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 604-796-6011.
June 16, 2017, Boise, ID - In Idaho, potatoes are both a humble stereotype and a half-billion dollar crop.

According to the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, every spring farmers plant more than 320,000 acres of potatoes valued at between $550-$700 million. Yet unbeknownst to most consumers, roughly 30 percent of the potatoes harvested spoil before they reach a grocery store shelf.

Boise State University researchers Harish Subbaraman, David Estrada and Yantian Hou hope to change that.

In a recently awarded one-year $413,681 Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) grant, Boise State is collaborating with Idaho State University and industry partners Isaacs Hydropermutation Technologies, Inc (IHT) and Emerson to develop a wireless sensor network that would be able to detect temperature, humidity levels, and carbon dioxide and ammonia levels in real time, to help with early detection of rot.

The cloud-enabled sensor system will feature three-dimensional hot spot visualization and help predict on-coming rot or deteriorating quality of stored potatoes. This will allow owners to use the real-time sensor data, along with a miniature air scrubber system IHT is developing, to respond to potential problems quickly, as they develop.

“The current problem is, there are no sensors that can do early detection of rot,” said Subbaraman, an assistant professor of electrical engineering. “But if you can identify rot at an early stage, you can prevent crop loss on a large scale.”

“Rot spreads on contact. The way the system works now is, a farmer walks into their facility, smells rotten potatoes and that’s it,” added Estrada, an assistant professor of materials science. “But our sensors can detect parts per million, or even parts per billion, and can tell us in exactly which bin the sensor is detecting rot. That way, farmers can go out, pull out a few rotten potatoes and save the rest of the batch.”

Estrada explained that the cost of printing sensors could be as low as a few dollars apiece. Not only would the monitoring system hopefully prevent waste, it could help preserve the quality of potatoes in the facility.

Subbaraman and Estrada plan to have their sensors tested in a facility by the end of their year-long grant cycle by working with industry partner Emerson PakSense. But Estrada points out that this project has been three years in the making and will continue long past the IGEM grant.

“The College of Business and Economics and the College of Engineering have been invested in building a printed electronics community in Idaho for several years,” Estrada said. “Most recently, our Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory has partnered with the NASA Ames Research Center, Air Force Research Labs, and American Semiconductor to develop flexible electronics technologies.”

Subbaraman noted, “We’re also very interested in partnering with others interested in this technology. It’s a great economic impact for the state and we see that growing in the future.”

Not only would the cloud-enabled wireless sensory system save Idaho farmers millions in revenue, it could have a billion-dollar impact on the national potato industry and help address larger socio-economic issues such as food scarcity in parts of the world.

“The benefit of this system is it’s extremely low cost,” Subbaraman added. “This dual detection and air scrubbing system could later be extended to other stored crops as well.”
June 9, 2017, Winnipeg, Man. - Researchers with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are setting the stage for what may be a new entry into the Canadian-grown "super" food market.

Lingonberries are already popular in Scandinavian cuisine where they are used in sauces for chicken and pork, as well as in muffins and breads.

Small, tart and slightly sweet, they are native to British Columbia, Manitoba, and Atlantic Canada and have the potential to become a valuable crop for Canadian growers.

The lingonberry is closely related to the blueberry and cranberry, which are also high in anti-oxidants. The benefits of lingonberries and their juice may go even further: preliminary studies in Sweden suggest there is potential to help prevent weight gain, and to help prevent high sugar and cholesterol levels.

But there’s more! New research from Dr. Chris Siow, Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and principal investigator with the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine (CCARM), located at St. Boniface Hospital, is showing that lingonberries may also contribute to healthy kidneys.

Here’s how: during kidney surgery, including transplants, kidneys experience low oxygen, and when oxygen is returned to the organ there can be inflammation and damage. In tests using lab rats Dr. Siow’s research team fed one millilitre (the human-equivalent of one cup) of Manitoba lingonberry juice daily for three weeks to one group and none to another prior to kidney surgery.

The rats that had consumed lingonberry juice had improved kidney function, reduced kidney stress and reduced inflammation following the operation in comparison to those that had none. These results also showed that as the concentration of lingonberry increased, the protective effect also increased.

“Overall, the research data obtained from these studies is very promising and we are encouraged that we may have a commodity that has positive impacts on human health,” said Dr. Siow. “We plan to continue with our studies to validate the early results and look for additional benefits the berry may provide.”

Meanwhile across the country, research on the lingonberry plant itself is taking place. Work with lingonberry production and germplasm enhancement is being done at AAFC’s St. John’s Research and Development Centre (NL) under the leadership of Dr. Samir Debnath. He has been working in collaboration with Dr. Siow.

“Lingonberry will be a potential health-promoting berry crop for Canada” said Dr. Debnath who developed a number of promising hybrids between European and Canadian lingonberries.

Dr. Debnath is also working in collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government and with Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) growers for growing lingonberry hybrids under field conditions.

Drs. Debnath and Siow not only believe that this berry will be beneficial to consumers – especially when studies like his continue to produce positive results – but that lingonberries will also be of interest to growers as they may provide new business opportunities.

Key discoveries:
  • Lingonberries contain more anthocyanins, the pigments that give them their red colour, per gram than most commonly consumed berries (i.e., blueberries, cranberries). It is these compounds that may provide health benefits.
  • Lingonberries are rich in vitamins and minerals.
  • Lingonberries can be found growing wild in the northern regions of Canada. Research shows that the lingonberries grown in Northern Manitoba contain the highest levels of antioxidants.
May 30, 2017, Victoriaville, QC - The Government of Canada is investing $4.28 million in a project at Cégep de Victoriaville

Federal funding is allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, which will enhance and modernize research facilities on Canadian campuses and improve the environmental sustainability of these facilities.

Cégep de Victoriaville will use the funds to establish an organic agriculture research facility. The facility will include multi-purpose buildings and greenhouses where work will be done in plant breeding and organic fruit and vegetable production, enabling Canada to be more competitive in the organic food market.

Operations of this new research infrastructure will be managed by the cégep's Centre d'expertise et de transfert en agriculture biologique et de proximité (centre of expertise and knowledge transfer in organic agriculture and local farming).

A total of $9.62 million is being invested in this project:
  • The Government of Canada is providing $4.28 million
  • Cégep de Victoriaville and other partners are providing $5.34 million
May 25, 2017, Palm Desert, Calif. - Armed with new data from the 2017 Fresh Trends consumer survey, Greg Johnson and Pamela Riemenschneider kicked off the West Coast Produce Expo with a lively 45-minute interactive produce quiz show that examined consumer trends on avocados, kale, watermelon, berries and organic produce.

Johnson, editor of The Packer and editorial director of Farm Journal Media’s produce group, and Riemenschneider, editor of Produce Retailer, first took up statistics around the emergence of kale as a trendy item at the May 20 event.

Using instant polling technology with radio frequency identification clickers, Riemenschneider asked the West Coast Produce Expo audience if they purchased kale.

With 59% of the audience indicating they buy kale, she said The Packer’s Fresh Trends showed just 17% of about 1,000 consumers surveyed said they bought kale in the last year.

However, kale retail promotions are up more than 350% compared with five years ago and per-capita kale availability has surged 50% since 2000, Riemenschneider said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines availability as production, minus average shrink for specific commodities.

Kale is the No.1 purchased organic fresh produce category, with more than 50% of consumers stating they buy organic exclusively or buy both organic and conventional kale, according to Fresh Trends. READ MORE
May 24, 2017 - The International Potato Center (ICP) researchers have been working with NASA to understand how potatoes could be cultivated on Mars through a series of experiments on Earth.

We spoke to CIP sub programme science leader for integrated crop and system research, Jan Kreuze, and NASA Ames geobiologist and researcher, Julio Valdivia–Silva, about their otherworldly project.

Valdivia–Silva says the partnership between CIP and NASA came about through the organisations' mutual interest in growing crops under difficult conditions.

"The initiative came from CIP, with the intention of solving problems around cropping in desert areas as a result of climate change and desertification," Valdivia–Silva explains. "Meanwhile, NASA was interested in the project for the need to grow crops in future human colonies outside Earth."

But why potatoes? Kreuze says this is down to the minimal amount of water potatoes require per kilogram grown compared to other major cereals, as well as their ability to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions, their nutritional value, and their fast growing, high yield nature. READ MORE
May 24, 2017 Westminster, CO- A recent survey conducted by the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) ranks Palmer amaranth as the most troublesome and difficult to control weed in 12 categories of broadleaf crops, fruits and vegetables, while common lambsquarters ranks as the weed most commonly found.

Almost 200 weed scientists across the U.S. and Canada participated in the 2016 survey, the second conducted by WSSA.

A 2015 baseline survey explored the most common and troublesome weeds in 26 different crops and noncrop areas.

The current survey ranks the following weeds as the most troublesome or the most common among broadleaf crops, fruits and vegetables:

TOP 10 WEEDS IN BROADLEAF CROPS, FRUITS & VEGETABLES

Most Troublesome
  1. Palmer amaranth
  2. Common lambsquarters
  3. Horseweed (marestail)
  4. Morningglory (ivyleaf, pitted, tall)
  5. Waterhemp (tall, common)
  6. Nutsedge (yellow, purple)
  7. Kochia
  8. Common ragweed
  9. Giant ragweed
  10. Nightshade (eastern black, hairy)
Most Common
  1. Common lambsquarters
  2. Foxtail (giant, green, yellow)
  3. Morningglory (ivyleaf, pitted, tall)
  4. Palmer amaranth
  5. Redroot pigweed
  6. Waterhemp (tall, common)
  7. Horseweed (marestail)
  8. Common ragweed
  9. Barnyardgrass
  10. Velvetleaf
Six weed species appeared on both the “most troublesome” and “most common” lists, including Palmer amaranth, common lambsquarters, horseweed, morningglory, waterhemp and common ragweed.

“Weed scientists have confirmed multiple cases of herbicide resistance in all six of these weed species, except for the morningglories where there is suspected resistance to glyphosate,” says Lee Van Wychen, Ph.D., science policy director for WSSA. “While each of these species has evolved traits that make them widespread and tough competitors in broadleaf crops like soybeans and cotton, there is no question that their difficulty to control with herbicides has pushed them to the top of the list in this survey.”

WSSA also sorted the survey data to produce the following crop-specific results, shown below by crop, most troublesome weed and most common weed, respectively:
  • Alfalfa: Canada thistle; dandelion
  • Canola: kochia; wild oat
  • Cotton: Palmer amaranth; morningglory (ivyleaf, pitted, tall)
  • Fruits & nuts: field bindweed; horseweed (marestail)
  • Peanuts: nutsedge (yellow, purple); Palmer amaranth
  • Pulse crops: common lambsquarters; common lambsquarters
  • Soybeans: horseweed, waterhemp (tall, common); waterhemp (tall, common)
  • Sugar beets: common lambsquarters; common lambsquarters
  • Vegetables: nutsedge (yellow, purple); common lambsquarters
Although listed as the most troublesome weed in cotton only, Palmer amaranth was ranked first in the overall survey based on the number of respondents who cited it as a problem.

Common lambsquarters is widely distributed across the northern half of the United States and southern Canada. It is not surprising that it ranked as the most common weed in sugar beets, vegetable crops and pulse crops, such as dry edible beans, lentils and chickpeas.

WSSA plans to conduct habitat-specific weed surveys annually. The 2017 survey will focus on weeds in grass crops, pasture and turf, while the 2018 survey will focus on weeds in aquatic environments, natural areas and other noncrop settings.

The 2016 survey data is posted online at http://wssa.net/wssa/weed/surveys.

For more information specific to herbicide-resistant weeds, see the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, available at http://weedscience.com.
May 23, 2017, New Brunswick - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada entomologist Dr. Chandra Moffat is on the lookout for evidence of an agricultural pest that is causing significant damage to crops in the U.S. and parts of Canada.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an invasive insect that damages various fruit and vegetable crops including apples, tomatoes, beans and many others.

While the insect hasn’t been detected in the province, scientists are expecting its arrival in the next few years.

To get ahead of the game, Dr. Moffat is setting traps in key locations across the province to try to determine if the pest has made its way to N.B.

Originally from Asia, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was first detected in the U.S. in 2001.

Since then, the pest has established populations in many U.S. states as well as B.C., Ontario and in 2016 it was discovered in Quebec.

While there are other stink bugs native to this region, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug has distinct markings that give it away.

These pests have two obvious white bands on otherwise dark antennae, inward-pointing white triangles between dark markings along the edge of the abdomen, and a smooth edge along the pronotum or "shoulders".

They are mottled brown-grey dorsally and a have a pale underside. Legs have faint white bands.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug can be found in homes or storage sheds over the winter and start making their way outside in the spring. Moffat is asking New Brunswickers to be our citizen scientists this season and be on the lookout for this pest.

Campers and travellers spending time in the U.S. or central and western Canada this summer are asked to check their luggage and trailers for signs of the pest before returning to N.B.

If you think you’ve found a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, please contact Dr. Chandra Moffat at ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) to make arrangements for identification.
May 17, 2017, Mississauga, Ont. – Bee Vectoring Technologies is pleased to announce successful, verified results from large commercial scale demonstrations of its proprietary crop production system, with strawberry growers in Florida.

The demonstrations were conducted in the Plant City area of Hillsborough County, Florida, the main winter strawberry growing region in the U.S. which produces around 20 million flats of strawberries on 11,000 acres every year.

Three influential growers who combined, control about 30 per cent of the production in the region, expressed interest in gauging how the BVT System, consisting of a bumble bee hive with proprietary dispenser technology through which BVT's proprietary plant beneficial microbe BVT-CR7 is delivered to crops using bumble bees, could improve the productivity of their farming operations and how it could be incorporated into their crop production practices on a commercial scale.

The demonstration fields were assessed for both (a) control of botrytis gray mold, a costly disease in strawberries which causes the fruit to rot and reduces the shelf life of berries, and (b) the ability to improve marketable yield.

"These are significant results and confirm that the positive results we have seen in the numerous field trials we have done over the last couple of seasons, also apply in commercial fields under real-life conditions," stated Ashish Malik, CEO of BVT. "We have been able to demonstrate that the BVT system improves yields 1) in the presence, or even in the absence of botrytis disease pressure, which is significant since it shows our system brings value to growers regardless of the severity of the disease which will follow a natural cycle from year to year; 2) with full or reduced amounts of chemical fungicides giving the grower flexibility in how they want to use the system."

Jay Sizemore, owner of JayMar Farms where one of the demonstrations was done said "These are some encouraging results. Growers are always looking to improve what we do since our margins keep getting thinner. I thought the BVT system had a lot of promise when I first learnt about it which is why I was eager to try it, and I am pleased to see my thoughts confirmed with the positive results from the demo. It is especially compelling since this is an all-natural way to seemingly improve productivity of the berry crop."

Mr. Malik added "It is notable that, based on the yield increases that have been recorded because of using the BVT system on the three test sites, if the entire Plant City strawberry crop was treated, it could theoretically lead to the production of 1.2M to 5.8M additional flats of strawberries, or put another way, generate between $10 million to $50 million in additional revenue for the growers in the area. We are very thankful to our three grower partners for their cooperation and look forward to continuing our discussions with them on how best to integrate our system into their long-term farming operations."

"Large-scale commercial demos represent the final pre-commercial stage in the well-established path to commercialization that forms the basis of any major adoption of new on-farm technology. We expect these latest demos to further accelerate demand for our technology and allow us to successfully complete our go-to-market plans," said Mr. Malik.

In the first demonstration, conducted on 40 acres at JayMar Farms, the field was divided into three sections: one section was treated with chemical fungicides alone, the second section was treated with the BVT system and the same chemical program used in the first section, while in the third section the BVT system was used with a 50 per cent reduction in the chemical sprays.
  • The two sections with the BVT system had statistically significant reductions in incidence of botrytis gray mold (3 per cent vs 13 per cent)
  • The section where the BVT system was used with a 50 per cent reduction of the chemical fungicides had the best marketable yield, 26 per cent better yield than chemicals alone in direct comparisons
  • The section where the BVT system was used together with the full chemical program produced a 6 per cent higher yield than where the chemicals were used alone in direct comparisons
The second grower demonstration was conducted on 20 acres with three sections: one section was treated with chemical fungicides alone, while the other two were treated with the BVT system in addition to the chemical fungicide program.
  • All sections of the field had low levels of botrytis gray mold
  • The two sections where the BVT system was used produced 6 per cent and 24 per cent more marketable yield respectively than chemical fungicides alone
  • On average for the season, plants in the sections where the BVT system was used produced 11 per cent more berries per plot compared against the chemical fungicide section
The third grower demonstration was conducted on 10 acres with two sections: one with a chemical program, and the other with the BVT system plus the same chemical program.
  • Both sections of the field had low levels of incidence of the botrytis disease
  • The section with the BVT system had a 29 per cent higher marketable yield across two observations when compared against the chemical only section
The Company is continuing to successfully execute on its documented growth strategy while driving towards commercialization of its proprietary system. BVT is selectively expanding its market opportunities while continuing towards securing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory approval of its BVT-CR7 beneficial microbe.

In the next six months, the Company will complete its go to market planning for the commercial launch including finalizing the business model, pricing and distribution partnerships, and is planning trials in additional crops and countries, including sunflowers in the U.S. and in strawberries and tomatoes in Europe.
May 11, 2017, Sonoma, CA – In 2014, Sonoma wine growers committed to being the first 100 per cent sustainable wine region in the U.S. They are recycling their pomace – white wine grapes get turned into compost, and red wine waste turns out to be a great fertilizer and helps keep weeds down.

But wineries can only use so much. Each year, California wineries produce more than 100,000 tons of pomace. Now, that waste is being turned into everything from cooking oil to cosmetics.

Chris Simmons is a biological systems engineer and assistant professor at University of California, Davis. His lab is studying how food-processing waste products might be used, other than as compost in the vineyards. READ MORE
May 10, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. – Statistics Canada released the 2016 Census of Agriculture today, providing an overview of each agriculture sector in Canada.

According to the Census, fruit, berries and nuts acreages rose 6.7 per cent from 2011.

Blueberry area continues to expand in Quebec, B.C. and the Atlantic regions. Overall, blueberries hold 196, 026 acres nationally.

The Census reports that the blueberry sector is being driven by international demand and in 2016, Canada exported 94.8 million kilograms of frozen blueberries, an increase of 33.7 per cent from 2011.

Cranberry acres have also increased from 15,191 acres in 2011 to 18,134 acres in 2016. Cranberry exports increased by 77.6 per cent to 63.5 million kilograms.

The Census notes that both blueberries and cranberries are amenable to mechanized harvesting, allowing operators to increase the scale of their operation with a minimal increase in the number of employees.

The area of strawberries, raspberries and apple orchards show declining numbers. Strawberry acres dropped 8.4 per cent to 10,155 acres and raspberry acres decreased by 23.7 per cent to 5,651 acres.

According to the Census, both the strawberry and raspberry sectors have been faced with disease outbreaks and labour and market challenges.

Apple orchard acres across Canada have decreased 3.2 per cent from 2011 to 43,631 acres in 2016. The largest decrease in has been in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

However, despite declining area, the apple sector reports acres being used more intensively, with the yield of apples in Canada increasing from 7.2 tons per acre in 1996 to 10.0 tons per acre in 2016.

Field vegetable area rose 10.3 per cent from 2011 to 270,294 acres. Sweet corn remains the largest vegetable crop in terms of production area, but reports a decrease of 16.9 per cent since 2011.

According to the Census, one in eight farms, or 12.7 per cent, sell food directly to consumers, with 96.1 per cent of products being fruits and vegetables.

Overall, farm profits are unchanged since 2010 and farms were as profitable in 2015 at the national level as they were in 2010. The gross farm receipts totaled $69.4 billion in 2015, with primary agriculture accounting for 1.5 per cent of the national gross domestic product in 2013.

Agriculture goods accounted for 2.2 per cent of Canada’s total imports and 4.6 per cent of total exports.

For more information or to view the entire Census of Agriculture, visit: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/170510/dq170510a-eng.htm
May 9, 2017, Columbus, OH – When Celeste Welty unzips the white, nylon cage, none of the stink bugs inside move.

“They’re very tranquil,” she says.

Why wouldn’t they be? Inside their cage, they enjoy spa-like conditions with all the sunflower seeds and nuts they can feed on, the warmth of the sunlight coming through the window beside them and a few house plants to make it feel like the outdoors, though they’re in a lab.

Young offspring clutch the walls of a separate cage inside what appears to be a refrigerator but instead is a warming chamber.

Such special treatment for the brown marmorated stink bug, which farmers despise and homeowners often flick out of the way when they discover them indoors during the cold months.

Thriving on a range of fruits and vegetables, the marmorated stink bug has damaged or destroyed enough crops in Ohio and across the United States to get the attention of entomologists nationwide.

Welty, an Ohio State University Extension entomologist, is involved in a 15-state study to determine the best, and ideally natural, way to get rid of the marmorated stink bug. The study is one of several being done on stink bugs through Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

The brown marmorated stink bug is a foreigner to the U.S., and in the absence of natural predators here, its populations are exploding, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region. Arriving in the U.S. from China, the grayish brown bug was first detected in Allentown, Pa., in 2001. Six years later, one was reported in Ohio.

How the first brown marmorated stink bug got to the U.S. is unclear, but often it is carried through boxes or packages, a hitchhiker of sorts, Welty said.

“They like to nestle down into protected, narrow spaces, and that’s often present in packing materials,” she said. “That’s why they’re known to go in cargo and hang out.”

Three years ago, a grower in eastern Ohio ordered a shipment of snow fencing, the perforated plastic fencing that comes in large rolls. When the grower unrolled the fencing sent from Pennsylvania, he found live stink bugs sprinkled throughout.

From Welty’s colony of marmorated stink bugs, she takes the eggs and places them outside the lab on plant leaves. Two days later when she retrieves them, she hopes some have been attacked by the bug’s natural predator, the tiny Trissolcus japonicus wasp. Also a native of China, the wasp was detected in the United States in 2014 and has since been found in eight states but not yet in Ohio. And nowhere in the U.S. is it plentiful – at least not plentiful enough to keep down the marmorated stink bug population.

“The wasp appears to be spreading on its own, but it’s so early on in the introduction of the wasp that we really don’t know,” Welty said.

Welty and entomologists across the U.S. are hoping to happen upon some T. japonicus wasps in their states.

“We’ve known for a number of years now that this one species of wasp would be great to have,” Welty said. “The stink bug is a terrible pest in agricultural crops, and we want to know how to control it with more sustainable methods than just spraying a lot.”

Stink bugs of any species can be tricky to spot outdoors. They hide well – stationing themselves on the underside of leaves and the backside of flowers.
May 1, 2017, State College, PA – During multiple years of research on bitter pit in commercial Honeycrisp orchards, incidence was associated with low calcium levels in fruit peel; high ratios of nitrogen, potassium, and/or magnesium to calcium in fruit peel; excessive terminal shoot length; and low crop load. Heat and water stress predisposed Honeycrisp to bitter pit in 2016, and incidence was also highly correlated to excessive fruit size. Total actual calcium applied per season was inversely related to bitter pit, with the best suppression of bitter pit being with at least 8 lb and the source being calcium chloride.

Key findings to consider:
  • Fruit calcium levels of 0.04 to 0.05 per cent were associated with the lowest bitter pit levels in Honeycrisp. Whereas most apple varieties have fruit calcium levels of 0.05 to 0.06 per cent, Honeycrisp often only had a fruit calcium level of 0.03 per cent. Growers who achieved the desired fruit calcium level had developed a season-long foliar calcium program that totaled at least 8 to 13 lb of actual calcium. You will find a useful tool for making decisions regarding calcium materials and rates at the Penn State Extension Tree Fruit Production website.
  • The ratio of Mg+K+N to Ca in fruit was most strongly correlated to bitter pit incidence, and explained 70 per cent of the occurrence (probability level of 99 per cent). This finding indicates that growers should avoid or minimize sprays of magnesium, potassium, and nitrogen on Honeycrisp, which is in agreement with recent Cornell recommendations for the variety.
  • Calcium levels in the fruit were higher, and bitter pit was reduced, when average terminal shoot length was 10 to 15 inches. The commercial blocks of Honeycrisp with historically high levels of bitter pit were overly vigorous, with shoot length over 20 inches. Whereas growers find that Honeycrisp trees often need to be pruned more severely the first several years following planting in order to encourage growth, it is important to develop a more balanced approach to pruning mature trees.
  • Crop load levels of four to five fruit per cm 2 trunk cross-sectional area were associated with reduced bitter pit levels. Thinning Honeycrisp to an optimum crop load often involves chemical thinning followed by careful follow-up hand thinning. Tom Kon and Jim Schupp’s research with an equilifruit apple thinning gauge has shown that it is more accurate in adjusting crop load than spacing fruit a certain distance apart and often results in leaving more fruit per tree.
Orchard experimental design, fruit sampling, and determining fruit nutrient levels

Three trees each with high, medium, and low crop loads were tagged in each orchard plot for measurements of crop load, fruit size, shoot length, fruit nutrient levels, and bitter pit incidence. Peel slices for nutrient analysis were taken from around the apple circumference, 3 cm from the calyx. The peels were air dried for two weeks and then ground with a hand-held coffee grinder. Nutrient analyses were conducted by the Penn State Agricultural Services Analytical Lab.

Regression analyses indicated bitter pit was very highly correlated to the ratios of N/Ca, K/Ca, Mg/Ca, (K+Mg)/Ca, (N+K+Mg)/Ca and ((N+K+Mg)/Ca)-38 and inversely correlated to the level of Ca. Bitter pit incidence increased with increasing shoot length and decreased with decreasing crop load. During 2015, bitter pit incidence was significantly different at each harvest timing, with apples harvested too green having 57 per cent more bitter pit than fruit harvested at the proper stage of maturity. Growers applied their preferred calcium products and reported the source of calcium and number of sprays. Total elemental calcium applied per season was inversely related to bitter pit, with the best suppression of bitter pit being with 8 to 13 lb (source – calcium chloride).

In all years of the research, bitter pit showed up in the first month of storage and was not progressive. One of the original reasons for setting up the research was to test the Accumulated Ratio ((N+K+Mg)/Ca)-38); (Hansen, 2012) used by Washington growers to predict bitter pit. Now that we have three years of data with uniform plot designs, we have an opportunity to better adapt this tool for Pennsylvania growers. Fruit from grower cooperators were also sent to Chris Watkin’s postharvest laboratory in Geneva, New York, and the results of this study are reported at Postharvest Practices to Manage Storage Disorders in Honeycrisp. In several associated studies, we evaluated the effect of harvest maturity on bitter pit development, and bitter pit was increased by 55 to 60 per cent when fruit were harvested with background colour that was too green.

Based on data from this Honeycrisp research and fruit quality statistics from Pennsylvania packinghouses, we developed calculators to assist growers in making economic decisions regarding number of harvests and whether or not to stem-clip, and these are available at the Tree Fruit Production website.

The original study report, including images and charts, can be viewed here: http://extension.psu.edu/plants/tree-fruit/news/2017/crop-load-and-nutrient-management-practices-to-prevent-bitter-pit-in-honeycrisp
May 1, 2017, Orono, ME — Two bacteria threatening the potato industry worldwide will be the focus of a Potato Disease Summit Nov. 9 in Bangor, Maine, convened by the University of Maine.

Plant pathologists, researchers and scientists from The Netherlands, Scotland and five U.S. states will present the latest information on the bacteria — Dickeya and Pectobacterium — that cause blackleg disease, an emerging potato seed problem.

In the past three growing seasons, Dickeya, a bacterial pathogen of potatoes, has caused significant economic losses in seed nonemergence and crop loss nationwide. In addition, an associated pathogen, Pectobacterium, has caused potato crop losses in the field and in storage. The bacteria have caused losses to the potato industry in Europe for an even longer period.

"The University of Maine is responding to this situation by holding an international summit focused on the latest research and what steps are needed to help the potato industry," says University of Maine President Susan J. Hunter. "As Maine's only public research university, we are a longstanding partner with the state's potato industry in addressing its needs, including the growing threat posed by Dickeya and Pectobacterium."

The Potato Disease Summit – being held 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Nov. 9 at the Cross Insurance Center, 515 Main St., Bangor, Maine – is designed for scientists, consultants, regulatory officials, and potato seed growers and buyers. It will focus on such topics as current advances in detection and diagnosis of Dickeya; an overview of Pectobacterium in the U.S.; and management of Enterobacteriaceae spread and risk.

The $80 per person fee includes materials, lunch and breaks. Registration deadline is Oct. 2 and is available online: extension.umaine.edu/agriculture/programs/dickeya-and-pectobacterium-summit/.

For more information or to request a disability accommodation, contact Steve Johnson, 207.554.4373, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
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