Agronomy
October 11, 2017, West Lafayette, IN – Apple growers want to get the most out of their high-value cultivars, and a Purdue University study shows they might want to focus on the types of apples they plant near those cash crops.

Since apple trees cannot self-pollinate, the pollen from other apple varieties is necessary for fruit to grow. Orchard owners often plant crab apple trees amongst high-value apples such as Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji. Crab apples produce a lot of flowers and thus a lot of pollen for bees to spread around to the other trees.

“If you are growing some Honeycrisp, you want to plant something next to your Honeycrisp that bees will pick up and spread to your Honeycrisp and make good apples,” said Peter Hirst, a Purdue professor of horticulture and landscape architecture. “Growers will alternate plantings of different cultivars every few rows to promote cross-pollination, and they’ll sometimes put a crab apple tree in the middle of a row as well.”

Hirst and Khalil Jahed, a Purdue doctoral student, wondered if it mattered which type of apple pollinated high-value cultivars. To find out, they manually applied pollen from Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, and two types of crab apple – Ralph Shay and Malus floribunda – to Honeycrisp, Fuji and Gala. They put a net over the trees to keep the bees out, so they could control the pollen that was applied.

Their findings, published recently in the journal HortScience, showed that Honeycrisp pollinated with the Red Delicious variety doubled fruit set — the conversion of flowers into fruit — compared to Honeycrisp pollinated with the crab apple varieties.

In Honeycrisp, pollen tubes created by Red Delicious pollen reached on average 85 per cent of the distance to the ovary, compared to 40 per cent for pollen tubes from crab apple pollen. And fruit set with Red Delicious pollen was four times higher in the first year of the study, and eight times higher in the second, compared to crab apples.

“On Honeycrisp especially, the two crab apples we tried are not very effective at all. The pollen grows very slowly, and you end up with reduced fruit set as a consequence,” Hirst said.

The crab apples did better with Fuji and Gala but still didn’t match the effectiveness of Red Delicious pollen.

When pollen lands on the pistil of the flower, it must be recognized, and if it is compatible, the pollen will germinate and grow down the style to the ovary. Once fertilized, the ovule becomes a seed and the flower becomes a fruit.

Jahed collected flowers from pollinated trees each day for four days after pollination and measured pollen tube growth and fruit set. Overall, the Red Delicious was the best pollinizer, followed by Golden Delicious and then the crab apple varieties. Jahed said the experiment should lead apple growers to consider the design of their orchards to ensure that better pollinizers are planted near high-value crops.

“If they have a good pollinizer and a compatible pollinizer, the fruit quality and fruit set will be higher than with those that are not compatible,” Jahed said.

The research was part of Jahed’s master’s degree thesis, which he has completed. He and Hirst do not plan to continue studying the effectiveness of different pollinizers, but he hopes that others take up the research. They do plan to publish one final paper on pollination and fruit quality in 2018.
Published in Research
October 4, 2017 – Soils keep plants healthy by providing plants with water, helpful minerals, and microbes, among other benefits. But what if the soil also contains toxic elements?

In some growing areas, soils are naturally rich in elements, such as cadmium. Leafy vegetables grown in these soils can take up the cadmium and become harmful to humans. What to do? The solution goes back to the soil. Adrian Paul, a former researcher now working in the Sustainable Mineral Institute in Brisbane, Australia, is working to find which soil additives work best.

Cadmium appears in very low levels or in forms that prevent contamination in soils across the world. However, some soils naturally have more than others. It can result from the erosion of local rock formations. In some instances, it’s present due to human activity. Metal processing, fertilizer or fossil fuel combustion, for example, can leave cadmium behind.

Cadmium may decrease people’s kidney function and bone density. As a result, international guidelines set safety limits on cadmium found in food. Growers with otherwise fertile fields need to grow food within these safe levels. Their livelihood depends on it.

“Our research aims to protect producers and consumers by lowering the cadmium in vegetables. This gives producers the ability to grow safe, profitable crops,” Paul says. “Consumers need to be able to safely eat what the farmers grow.”

Paul worked with four additives: zinc and manganese salts, limestone, and biosolids [nutrient-rich organic materials from sewage processed at a treatment facility] compost.

Although each works in a slightly different manner, the soil amendments generally solve the cadmium problem in two ways. They can prevent the passage of cadmium from the soil to the plant by offering competing nutrients. They can also chemically alter the cadmium so it is unavailable.

The researchers found that a combination of compost, zinc, and limestone brought the levels of cadmium in spinach down to nontoxic levels. The next step in this work is to better determine the ideal combination of the soil amendments. Researchers also want to study vegetables besides spinach, and other elements.

“Farmlands provide for us all,” Paul says. ”Rehabilitating agricultural fields, by removing heavy metals like cadmium, means healthier soils and healthier food.”

Read more about this study in the Journal of Environmental Quality.
Published in Research
September 25, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario tender fruit farmers need the right mix of rain, sunshine and growing temperatures to produce juicy, fresh peaches, pears, cherries, apricots and nectarines. But when extreme weather hits during critical crop development, it can wreak havoc on an entire crop. And unpredictable weather events are becoming more and more common.

The Ontario Tender Fruit Growers saw the need for a better way to work with whatever the weather sends their way.

“We had no good data available to know the damage that would result to our fruit crops from extreme temperatures,” says Phil Tregunno, chair of Ontario Tender Fruit.

With Growing Forward 2 funding through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the producer group was able to work with researchers to assess the bud hardiness of various tender fruit crops. Bud hardiness gives an indication of the temperature the dormant buds can withstand before there will be damage to the resulting crop.

“If we want to be able to provide Ontario and Canadian consumers with high quality, local fruit, we need to have better tools to manage extreme weather,” says Tregunno.

Data gathered on the bud hardiness of tender fruit crops now feeds a new real-time, automated weather alert system to help Ontario tender fruit growers make decisions about how to manage extreme weather events.

Developed in partnership with Brock University, KCMS Inc., Weather INnovations Inc. and Ontario Tender Fruit, the new system runs on regional temperatures that are updated every 15 minutes, and bud survival data.

With 90 per cent of tender fruit production in the Niagara region, the bulk of the weather information comes from that area of the province.

The new weather tool is available to growers at TenderFruitAlert.ca and is searchable by location, commodity and cultivar. The site provides information to help growers monitor bud cold hardiness through the fruits’ dormant period and manage winter injury.

“Being prepared is half the battle when you farm with the weather,” says Tregunno. “This new tool gives us accurate, local weather, and matches that with the susceptibility of the specific crops and cultivars to predict that temperature when a grower will start to see crop losses. With that information, growers can make management decisions about how to deal with extreme weather – including the use of wind machines to keep temperatures above the critical point for crop injury.”

Ontario is home to more than 250 tender fruit growers, generating more than $55 million in annual sales from fresh market and processing. Those growers all remember the devastating cold weather in the spring of 2012 that saw tender fruit losses of 31 per cent to 89 per cent. 

The new web-based cold hardiness database will help growers respond and prepare for potentially damaging weather events, and that will help protect the valuable fresh, local markets, Ontario’s Niagara region is so well known for.
Published in Fruit
September 14, 2017, Guelph, Ont – The potato person who said many years ago “A potato storage is not a hospital” was absolutely right. Diseased or bruised tubers do not get better in storage. Tubers bruised at harvest are easily invaded by soft rot or Fusarium dry rot, which can cause serious economic losses in storage.

Harvest management, in large part, is bruise management. Bruising also affects tuber quality significantly. In order to harvest potatoes with minimum tuber damage, growers need to implement digging, handling and storage management practices that maintain the crop quality for as long as possible after harvest.

Assuming all harvest and handling equipment are mechanically ready to harvest the crop with minimum bruising, there are several tips to preserve the quality of potatoes crop during harvest:
  1. Timely Vine Killing. Killing the vines when tubers are mature makes harvesting easier by reducing the total vine mass moving through the harvester. This allows an easier separation of tubers from vines.
  2. Timely Harvest. Potatoes intended for long term storage should not be harvested until the vines have been dead for at least 14 days to allow for full skin set to occur.
  3. Soil Moisture. Optimal harvest conditions are at 60 to 65 per cent available soil moisture.
  4. Tuber Pulp Temperature. Optimal pulp temperatures for harvest are from 500 F to 600 F. Proper pulp temperature is critical; tubers are very sensitive to bruising when the pulp temperature is below 450 F. If pulp temperatures are above 650 F, tubers become very susceptible to soft rot and Pythium leak. Pulp temperatures above 70 F increase the risk of pink rot tremendously no matter how gently you handle the tubers if there is inoculum in the soil.
  5. Tuber Hydration. An intermediate level of tuber hydration results in the least bruising. Overhydrated tubers dug from wet soil are highly sensitive to shatter bruising especially when the pulp temperature is below 450 F. In addition, tubers harvested from cold, wet soil are more difficult to cure and more prone to breakdown in storage. Slightly dehydrated tubers dug from dry soil are highly sensitive to blackspot bruising.
  6. Reducing Blackspot Bruising. Irrigate soil that is excessively dry before digging to prevent tuber dehydration and blackspot bruising.
  7. Bruise Detection Devices. Try to keep the volume of soil and tubers moving through the digger at capacity at all points of the machine. If bruising is noticeable, use a bruise detection device to determine where in the machinery the tubers are being bruised.
  8. Field Conditions. Do not harvest potatoes from low, poorly drained areas of a field where water may have accumulated and/or dig tests have indicated the presence of tubers infected with late blight.
  9. Train all employees on how to reduce bruising. Harvester operators must be continually on the look out for equipment problems that may be damaging tubers. Ideally, growers should implement a bruise management program that includes all aspects of potato production from planting through harvest.
  10. Harvest when day temperatures are not too warm to avoid tuber infections. Storage rots develop very rapidly at high temperatures and spread easily in storage. If potatoes are harvested at temperatures above 27 C and cool off slowly in storage, the likelihood of storage rots is increased. If warm weather is forecast, dig the crop early in the morning when it is not so warm.
Published in Vegetables
July 27, 2017, Vineland, Ont – It’s been 10 years since a new horticultural research facility in Niagara Region was launched as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland).

Since then, Vineland has been turning heads across Canada and internationally with its needs-based innovations. The organization reflects the entire horticulture value chain from farmers to consumers, and they’re not afraid to take big steps to help the industry solve problems.

“We started by understanding what needed to be done and how we needed to work to make a difference, which is real results with real impact from acres in the field to shelf space in the store,” says Vineland’s CEO, Dr. Jim Brandle.

Addressing the labour intensive nature of horticultural production was a need identified early on. Today, machines designed in Vineland’s robotics program and built in Ontario are coming into use in fruit and vegetable greenhouses, which Brandle says will go a long way in helping to keep growers competitive, as well as boost the local manufacturing and automation sector.
Sweet potatoes, okra and Asian eggplant are offering new market opportunities for growers and consumers eager to eat more locally produced food.

And Vineland’s rose breeding program made a big splash earlier this year when its Canadian Shield rose – a trademarked low-maintenance and winter hardy variety bred in Canada – was named Flower of the Year at Canada Blooms.

Another significant milestone was the construction of the largest, most modern horticultural research greenhouse in North America with commercial-scale height and growing rooms dedicated to horticulture, which opened in 2016 and was built around the needs of Canada’s greenhouse vegetable and flower growers.“Today, we’re commercializing innovations, from the Canadian Shield rose to new apple and pear varieties,” Brandle says. “We are having the kind of impact that we sought in those early days.”

Natural ways to control greenhouse pests – called biocontrols – are making a real difference to flower growers and a new technology that can identify genetic variants for traits in all plants has just been spun-off into a for-profit company.

“We’re creating a reputation and that alone is an achievement because we’re the new kid on the block,” he says. “We have a ton of good people with and around the organization and on our board who are making this happen.”Vineland is an important partner to the horticulture industry, according to Jan VanderHout, a greenhouse vegetable grower and Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.

“They are very good at asking us what we want and taking a whole value chain approach to research and innovation,” VanderHout says. “You need the right facilities and expertise and Vineland fills that need to the benefit of the industry as a whole.”

Looking to the future, both Brandle and VanderHout predict that cap and trade pressure and high energy costs will result in more work around energy use and carbon footprint reduction.And Vineland’s consumer-focused approaches will continue to drive new innovation, from high flavour greenhouse tomatoes to Ontario-grown apple varieties.

“We will further lever consumer-driven plant breeding and work with the intent around pleasing consumers and trying to understand what they want so we can build that into our selection criteria,” Brandle says.
Published in Profiles
July 26, 2017, Ontario - Stemphylium leaf blight (Stemphylium vesicarium) of onion starts as yellow-tan, water-soaked lesions developing into elongated spots. As these spots cover the entire leaves, onions prematurely defoliate thereby reducing the yield and causing the crop to be more susceptible to other pathogens.

Stemphylium was first identified in Ontario in 2008 and has since spread throughout the Holland Marsh and other onion growing areas in southwestern Ontario.

Stemphylium leaf blight can sometimes be misdiagnosed as purple blotch (Alternaria porri), as they both have very similar symptoms initially. Purple blotch has sunken tan to white lesions with purple centers while Stemphylium tends to have tan lesions without the purple centers.

Stemphylium spores are dispersed by wind. Spore sampling at the Muck Crops Research Station using a Burkard seven-day spore sampler detected an average of 33 spores/m3 in 2015 and seven spores/m3 in 2016.

In ideal conditions, leaf spot symptoms occur six days after initial infection. Stemphylium tends to infect dead tissue or wounds, often as a result of herbicide damage, insect feeding or from extreme weather.

Older onion leaves are more susceptible to infection than younger leaves and symptoms are traditionally observed after the plants have reached the three- to four-leaf stage.

Over the last few years, Botrytis leaf blight (Botrytis squamosa) has become less of an issue and has been overtaken by Stemphylium as the most important onion disease — other than maybe downy mildew.

This may be because the fungicides used to target Stemphylium are likely managing Botrytis as well. Since Stemphylium can be so devastating and hard to control, fungicides are now being applied earlier in the season which may be preventing Botrytis to become established.

Botrytis squamosa overwinters as sclerotia in the soil and on crop debris left from the previous year and infects onions in mid-June when temperatures and leaf wetness are favourable for infection. In the Holland Marsh, Stemphylium lesions were first observed on June 29, 2015 and July 7, 2016.

The primary method of management is through foliar fungicides such as Luna Tranquility, Quadris Top and Sercadis. Keep in mind that Sercadis and Luna Tranquility both contain a group 7 fungicide so remember to rotate and do not make sequential applications.

The effectiveness of these fungicides in the future depends on the spray programs you choose today. There are already Stemphylium isolates insensitive to several fungicides in New York so resistance is a real and very serious issue with this disease.

Remember to rotate fungicide groups with different modes of actions to reduce the possibility of resistance. A protective fungicide is best applied when the onion crop has reached the three-leaf stage, however it may not be necessary in dry years.

Research is currently being conducted at the Muck Crops Research Station to improve forecasting models to identify the optimal timing for commercial growers to achieve good control.

BOTCAST disease forecasting model is available in some areas of Ontario to help growers predict the activity of the disease. Warm, wet weather between 18-26°C is most favourable for disease development. Regular field scouting is still the best method to assess disease levels.

Plant spacing that permits better air movement and irrigation schedules that do not extend leaf wetness periods may be helpful in some areas. Recent work at the Muck Crops Research Station has shown that spores increase two to 72 hours after rainfall with eight hours of leaf wetness to be optimal for the pathogen. Irrigate overnight if possible so by morning the leaves can dry out and you don’t prolong that leaf wetness period.

To lower inoculum levels it is crucial to remove or bury cull piles and to bury leaf debris left from the previous year’s crop through deep cultivation. Stemphylium of onion has many hosts including leeks, garlic, asparagus and even European pear.

Take the time to rogue out volunteer onions or other Allium species in other crops nearby and remove unnecessary asparagus or pear trees to lower inoculum levels. As with any other foliar disease of onion, it is beneficial to rotate with non-host crops for three years.

To prevent the development of resistance, it is essential to always rotate between different fungicide groups and/or tank mix with a broad spectrum insecticide. Current products registered for Stemphylium leaf blight of onion are listed by fungicide group below:

Group 7 - Sercadis

Group 7/9 - Luna Tranquility

Group 11/3 - Quadris Top
Published in Diseases
July 14, 2017, Gainesville, FL – Some people love to eat a juicy, seedless watermelon for a tasty, refreshing snack during a hot summer day. University of Florida scientists have found a way to stave off potential diseases while retaining that flavour.

Consumers increasingly savour the convenience and taste of seedless watermelons, said Xin Zhao, a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences associate professor of horticultural sciences and lead author of a new study examining rootstocks, flavour and texture of watermelons.

Many growers produce seedless cultivars because that’s what consumers want, and it’s important to maintain the fruit’s yield and taste, as seedless cultivars might be more susceptible to fusarium wilt, a major soil-borne disease issue in watermelon production, Zhao said.

For the study, UF/IFAS researchers grafted seedless watermelon onto squash rootstocks to ward off soil-borne diseases, such as fusarium wilt. In plant grafting, scientists call the upper part of the plant the scion, while the lower part is the rootstock. In the case of vegetable grafting, a grafted plant comes from joining a vigorous rootstock plant – often with resistance or tolerance to certain soil-borne pathogens – with a scion plant with desirable aboveground traits.

Grafting is a useful tool to manage soil-borne diseases, but in this study, researchers were concerned that if they grafted watermelon onto squash rootstocks, they might reduce its fruit quality and taste. Overall, study results showed no loss in taste and major fruit quality attributes, like total soluble solids and lycopene content, Zhao said. Consumers in UF taste panels confirmed the flavour remained largely consistent between grafted and non-grafted plant treatments under different production conditions.

Furthermore, said Zhao, compared with the non-grafted seedless watermelons, plants grafted onto the squash rootstocks exhibited a consistently higher level of flesh firmness.

“We are continuing our grafted watermelon research to optimize management of grafted watermelon production, maximize its full potential and seek answers to economic feasibility,” she said.

Still to come is a paper that specifically tells researchers whether they warded off fusarium wilt under high disease pressure, Zhao said. Grafting with selected rootstocks as a cultural practice is viewed as an integrated disease management tool in the toolbox for watermelon growers to consider when dealing with fusarium wilt “hot spots” in the field, she said. However, most squash rootstocks are generally more susceptible to root-knot nematodes, a potential challenge with using grafted plants. Other UF/IFAS researchers are tackling that issue.

The new UF/IFAS study is published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Published in Research
July 14, 2017, Durham, NH – Researchers with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire have succeeded in quadrupling the length of the strawberry growing season as part of a multi-year research project that aims to benefit both growers and consumers.

Strawberry season in the Northeast U.S. traditionally lasts only four to six weeks. However, researchers working on the multi-state TunnelBerries project were picking day-neutral strawberries in Durham last November. Last year, researchers harvested strawberries grown in low tunnels for 19 consecutive weeks from mid-July through the week of U.S. Thanksgiving. They also found that the low tunnels significantly increased the percentage of marketable fruit, from an average of about 70 per cent to 83 per cent.

Now in its second year, the TunnelBerries research project is being conducted at the UNH Woodman Horticultural Research Farm. It is part of a larger, multi-state U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded initiative to optimize protected growing environments for berry crops in the upper Midwest and northeastern United States. UNH’s component is focused on improving berry quality and the role day-neutral varieties may play in extending the length of strawberry season in the Northeast.

“[Strawberries] are a very valuable early season crop for farmers,” said graduate student Kaitlyn Orde, who is working with experiment station researcher Becky Sideman on the project. “Unfortunately, though, this season is very brief, limiting the period in which … producers are able to meet consumer demand for the fresh fruit. A longer strawberry season is good for both grower and consumer.”

The UNH project consists of two parts. Researchers want to determine the yield and fruiting duration of day-neutral strawberry varieties. Day-neutrals are a different plant-type than the traditional June-bearers; day-neutrals (or ever-bearing) have been shown to fruit continuously for four to six months in the region. In addition, day-neutrals fruit the same year they are planted, which is not the case with June-bearers.

“We are growing one day-neutral variety on three different mulches to determine if there are any differences in total production, production patterns, runner production, and fruit characteristics among the mulches,” Orde said. “We also are investigating the role plastic covered low-tunnels play in improving berry quality, and what the microenvironment is within low tunnels, especially late season. To do this, we are evaluating five different plastics for the low tunnels.”

Researchers in Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and New York have conducted preliminary research on similar systems. There also are limited growers in the Northeast who already cultivate day-neutral varieties, and even fewer who have experimented with low-tunnels in combination with the strawberry crop.

For more information, visit www.tunnelberries.org.
Published in Research
June 6, 2017, Kingston Ont – Farming is a complex business, and keeping track of everything can sometimes be troublesome, if not a bit overwhelming.

With this in mind, Kingston-based software company Dragonfly IT developed Croptracker – a multi-faceted, cloud-based monitoring system designed to give fruit and vegetable growers real-time updates on their businesses.

Croptracker offers an easy-to-use software package that monitors growing practices throughout the season,” said Matthew Deir, company founder. “Growers sign up for our system and can access all of their daily inputs from one central hub. It helps both traceability and cost saving.”

Croptracker highlights three key areas relevant to growers’ economic, environmental, and social sustainability, with food traceability taking the top spot, followed by operational costs and yield analysis.

The software itself is a consolidation of similar systems previously developed by Deir’s company, including Fruit Tracker, Apple Tracker, and Nursery Tracker. By combining these and several other systems, he says, Dragonfly IT has tried to make the software useful for all growers of all kinds.

He also emphasized that Croptracker is “literally grower-built,” being the result of “thousands of hours meeting with growers and learning what their needs were.”

The Croptracker cloud system allows growers to map how their crop is produced – what time it was planted, what inputs went into it, and so on – as well as where it came from. According to Deir, the software can literally trace each basket of product back to the field from which it was harvested, and potentially, even the person who harvested it.

Croptracker can also be used as a human resources interface, helping keep track of employee time and activity. There’s even a “punch clock” feature that can show growers who is doing what, for how long, and when. By being able to see how long it takes to perform different tasks, Deir said farmers can pinpoint where their costs are coming from, and if necessary, investigate why.

At the end of the growing season, the Croptracker system can also help monitor how good – or bad – the harvest was at different times and from different parts of the farm. Giving an opportunity for contrast and comparison, Deir said, means growers can further distil the potential sources of any yield discrepancy they might encounter.

Approximately 1,000 farmers currently have access to the software for free (their producer associations buy the rights on their behalf), but individual growers can still access Croptracker on a pay-per-package basis.

And it’s not just Ontario farmers who can use the service either; growers producing more exotic fruits in places far afield have also shown interest – most recently, for example, a New Zealand avocado grower.

“I never thought about [the software] working for that kind of crop, but the farmer definitely thought otherwise,” Deir said.
Published in Harvesting
May 11, 2017, Simcoe, Ont – Aside from some sleepless nights for those in charge, frost in Norfolk hasn't greatly affected this year's berry crop.

Paula Zelem of Kent Kreek Berries, located west of Simcoe on Highway 3, said Tuesday that a warm lead-in to spring has worked to combat recent frost and keep crops relatively close to on schedule.

Mercury dropping both Sunday and Monday nights had the farm's temperature alarms ringing and their crew up at all hours to irrigate the combined 23 acres of planted berries. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
April 27, 2017, Mississauga, Ont — BASF has signed an agreement to acquire ZedX Inc., a company involved in the development of digital agricultural intelligence.

Headquartered in Bellefonte, Penn., ZedX’s expertise lies in the development of agronomic weather, crop, and pest models that rapidly translate data into insights for more efficient agricultural production. With this planned acquisition, BASF strengthens its digital farming footprint and further invests in helping growers take advantage of big data generated in farming and beyond.

“Growers are embracing cutting-edge technology and tools that can help them increase crop yields,” said Scott Kay, vice president of crop protection with BASF North America. “ZedX’s innovative platforms and strong intelligence capabilities will not only enhance our current digital services, but will also provide growers with critical data to successfully manage their operations.”

In a time where digital transformation is changing business, BASF aims to ensure that agronomic insights and recommendations from digital solutions help its customers make better, more informed decisions.

BASF is playing an active role in the digital transformation of agriculture and is constantly evaluating where and how to engage further,” said Jürgen Huff, senior vice president of global strategic marketing with BASF’s crop protection division. “ZedX’s experts impressed us with their extensive and deep know-how in agronomic models. We are very pleased to incorporate their knowledge into our offers to serve farmers’ needs through innovative products and services.”

Joe Russo, ZedX’s founder and president, pointed out that during a three-year collaboration, the partnership has already shown great results.

“Our modeling expertise, coupled with BASF’s knowledge of chemistry, has truly benefited growers and agriculture in general,” he said. “For example, we developed a model that gave the right window of application for a BASF herbicide based on important weather and environmental conditions.”

Weather conditions, soil temperature, windspeed – all of these factors can influence the performance of crop protection products. By acquiring ZedX, BASF will be able to help farmers use their resources more efficiently and sustainably. Additionally, the ZedX acquisition further complements BASF’s digital farming portfolio, which includes Maglis and Compass Grower Advanced. Maglis is an online platform that connects technology, data and people in a smarter way. It offers a range of integrated and intuitive tools that guide farmers from planning and planting to harvest.

“The smart use of digital solutions can open up all sectors of the economy to many new opportunities, and farming is no exception. ZedX is a great fit to our growth plan. We will strengthen our sales by offering targeted advice, insights and recommendations and by interacting more closely with our customers,” concluded Huff.

The acquisition is expected to be completed within four weeks. Products and solutions from ZedX will soon be available to all key markets. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Published in Companies
April 19, 2017, Shelton, CT – Tiger-Sul, a supplier of sulphur fertilizers and crop performance products, recently announced that sales veteran Christopher (Kit) Rowe has joined the company to fill a key U.S./Canada sales manager position.

As U.S./Canada sales manager, Rowe will lead the overall Tiger-Sul sales expansion efforts and work closely with regional account managers to provide support in their individual territories.

“Christopher is a great addition for the Tiger-Sul team,” says Don Cherry, Tiger-Sul Products president and CEO. “He brings a tremendous depth of industry experience which will help us further strengthen our relationships with retail customers and grow our overall business.”

Rowe joins Tiger-Sul with more than 30 years of industry experience. He earned his degree in environmental life science from Otterbein College, Westerville, Ohio. He started his career in the turf and ornamental sector and has extensive experience in agribusiness, managing various territories. Rowe’s technical expertise – complemented by his years of experience in the agricultural industry – position him to lead Tiger-Sul’s growth in the U.S. and Canadian market.
Published in Companies
The 2016 Okanagan cherry harvest was plagued with multiple rain events.  Across the valley, growers were scrambling to hire helicopters as a method of blow-drying their crop. For a large company like Jealous Fruits, that bill can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars in a wet year, according to Graeme Ritchie, operations and logistics manager.
Published in Fruit
Drip irrigation systems have seen a lot of improvements since their invention in the mid 1960s. They are worth considering as a watering system, says Bruce Naka, an independent irrigation consultant who spoke to growers at the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C.
Published in Irrigating
April 6, 2017, Ithaca, NY – Growers who time their strawberries to bloom just after apples do can reap a better harvest, according to new Cornell University research.

When apple trees blossom, the sheer abundance of flowers attracts most of the pollinators, which not only leaves fewer bees for other nearby crops such as strawberries, but also lowers their yields. But if growers time their strawberries to flower directly after a neighboring apple bloom, strawberries produce higher yields than they would if there were no apple trees nearby.

The findings, published in the March 27 issue of Nature Scientific Reports, offers growers a sustainable method for boosting yields of crops that bloom around the same time as apples.

Previous research showed that strawberries can have as much as 40 per cent yield increase when bees and other pollinators visit, compared with relying on wind pollination alone.

“We are trying to figure out ways that growers can use ecosystem services to promote crop yield rather than relying on external inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides,” said lead author Heather Grab, a Cornell University doctoral student in the lab of co-author Bryan Danforth, professor of entomology.

Planting natural habitats around farm fields can lead to improved health of pollinators and a boost in their services, according to research. But for many growers in agriculturally dense areas, increasing natural habitats is not an option.

“Those growers need some more sustainable agriculture options,” Grab said. “If growers pay attention to timing of when crops are blooming and manipulate that by planting apple varieties and strawberry varieties that don’t overlap, you can get a boost in yield that is almost equivalent to having natural habitat nearby.”
Published in Research
April 6, 2017, Gainesville, FL – Here’s something blueberry producers can buzz about – bumblebees can boost blueberry yield by 70 per cent, according to a recent study from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The news also accentuates the need for blueberry pollinators, said Joshua Campbell, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department.

After caging bumblebee hives with highbush blueberry bushes, researchers found that 70 per cent of the flowers produced blueberries, while less than 10 per cent of those without bumblebee hives produced blueberries. That’s helpful news for blueberry growers, said Campbell, co-author of a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Entomology.

“We think our findings are very relevant for growers who are growing blueberries in greenhouses and high tunnels,” Campbell said.

Like other fruit plants, blueberries need pollinators, such as bees, to grow. Farmers are growing increasingly dependent on western honeybees, scientists say. But bumblebees are more active in poor weather and pollinate highbush blueberries more, so researchers wanted to test bumblebees on a local blueberry farm.

Thus, researchers conducted their experiment on a large commercial blueberry farm in North Florida and found good results.

In order to obtain a good commercial yield, a grower would need to augment the bumblebee population by placing hives within their fields, Campbell said.
Published in Research
March 27, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Engage Agro Corporation has announced the release of two new products to serve horticultural producers across Canada.

Property 300 SC fungicide is a suspension concentrate fungicide that offers protection against powdery mildew in grapes, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash and melons.

Pyriofenone, the active ingredient in Property, is the newest generation chemical found in the FRAC U8 group. It demonstrates extremely fast translaminar activity that is complemented by a “vapour effect” that is stronger and longer lasting than that of other chemistries found in the same group.

Property is the only group U8 fungicide that can be applied up to the day of harvest on grapes.

Cosavet DF is a dry flowable sulphur fungicide that prevents powdery mildew and controls erinium mite of grape. Its patented formulation ensures a low dust, easy to mix product that helps to minimize the risk of scorching. Cosavet DF also controls a wide variety of diseases in tree fruit, Saskatooon berries, cucumbers and peas.

Variations in particle size ensure immediate, mid-term and residual activity through contact and vapour action to protect against target fungi.

For more information contact Engage Agro at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 1-866-613-3336.
Published in Diseases
March 27, 2017, Ridgetown, Ont – The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has released its 2017 schedule for integrated pest management (IPM) workshops for those who will be scouting horticultural crops this year. To register, please contact OMAFRA’s Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300.

Planning is also underway for scout training workshops for hops, hazelnuts and berry crops. Details for these workshops will be available soon.          

Introduction to IPM
May 2, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Conference Rm 1, 2 and 3, 1st Floor, 1 Stone Rd. West, Guelph
Workshop Leader: Denise Beaton
Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. Pay parking ($12/day).
 
Tomatoes & Peppers
April 28, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.          
Room 126 (Main Floor), Agronomy Building, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus
Workshop Leader: Janice LeBoeuf
Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. See Resources for Vegetable Crop Scouts.

Asparagus    
Field sessions available upon request
Email: Elaine Roddy, Vegetable Specialist – This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Cole Crops    
May 8, Time: TBD
Conference Rm 2, 1st Floor, 1 Stone Rd. West, Guelph
Workshop Leader: Dennis Van Dyk
Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. Pay parking ($12/day). See Resources for Vegetable Crop Scouts.

Lettuce, Celery, Onions, Carrots    
May 10, Time: TBD
Conference Rm 2, 1st Floor, 1 Stone Rd. West, Guelph
Workshop Leader: Dennis Van Dyk
Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. Pay parking ($12/day). See Resources for Vegetable Crop Scouts.

Sweet Corn, Bean and Pea
May 11, 9:30 a.m. to noon
Room 126 (Main Floor), Agronomy Building, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus
Workshop Leader: Elaine Roddy
Notes: Lunch on your own

Cucurbit Crops
May 11, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Room 126 (Main Floor), Agronomy Building, University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus
Workshop Leader: Elaine Roddy
Notes: Lunch on your own

Apples
May 4, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Auditorium, Simcoe OMAFRA Resource Centre
Workshop Leader: Kristy Grigg-McGuffin
Notes: Lunch on your own. Handouts provided. If possible, bring OMAFRA Publications 360 & 310 (available for purchase as well).

Tender Fruit and Grape      
May 9, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Rittenhouse Hall, Vineland OMAFRA Resource Centre
Workshop Leader: Wendy McFadden- Smith
Notes: Bring a laptop with WiFi capability. Lunch on your own.

Ginseng (IN-FIELD)  
June 15, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Rain date: June 16, 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
C&R Atkinson Farms Ltd., 228 Charlotteville Rd. 1, St. Williams
Workshop Leaders: Sean Westerveld and Melanie Filotas

Published in Vegetables
March 1, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – Total organic agricultural land is increasing in Canada. The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA)'s latest research has revealed 5,053 certified organic operations in Canada, accounting for 2.43 million acres of land.

"Canada's organic sector continues to rely on the voluntary disclosure of data by certifiers and provincial organizations,” said Tia Loftsgard, COTA's executive director. “In 2016 we finally have universal participation, resulting in the most rigorous production data yet. However, year-over-year change and inconsistencies remain a risk until a national mandatory data system has been implemented."

Key findings:
  • Organic acreage in Canada increased by more than 70,000 acres to 2.43 million acres, or 1.5 per cent, between 2014 and 2015.
  • Organic areas now account for approximately 1.5 per cent of total agricultural land in Canada.
  • While pasture still occupies the largest share of all organic acreage, its proportion has decreased from 65 per cent to 63.8 per cent primarily due to significant increases in vegetable & root crop acreage, as well fruit & nut acreage.
  • In 2015, Canada imported at least $652 million worth of organic products, representing a 37 per cent increase from 2012.
  • There are 5,053 certified organic operations in Canada, over half of which are in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Ontario.
  • Of the certified operations, there are 4,045 primary producers, 618 livestock operations and 1,542 processors, manufacturers and retailers in Canada.
Despite the growth of Canadian organic acreage in recent years, demand for organic is significantly outpacing supply. Organic retail sales in Canada are now worth $4.7 billion annually, a 13.6 per cent growth per year since 2007, while organic production is experiencing much slower growth.

"Our organic agricultural production in Canada cannot keep up with the exponential growth of the demand, this is resulting in an increased reliance on import organics," said Loftsgard. "Our government must introduce incentives to encourage farm operators to transition to certified organic agriculture."

During the three-year transition period to organic, farmers often experience temporary decrease of yield without benefiting from the organic premiums. Programs to support organic transition and its associated financial risk needs to be put in place.
Published in Production
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
Published in Research
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