Agronomy
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
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.
Published in Production
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
Published in Companies
January 26, 2017, Pocatello, ID – Researchers at Idaho State University have programed drones to be able to identify potatoes infected with a virus.

Researchers say they've been able to find individual plants infected with potato virus Y, commonly called PVY, with 90 per cent accuracy using cameras mounted on drones. READ MORE
Published in Research
January 16, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta – Lab-based research gets underway Jan. 16 at the University of Lethbridge for the school's new research chair in potato science.

Dmytro Yevtushenk​o is a plant biologist who has studied potatoes for more than 25 years. He took up the new research chair position last January.

His first year was spent crafting new courses that will train the university's students in aspects of potato science. The hope from industry stakeholders is that it will entice new people into the business. READ MORE
Published in Research

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

Published in Harvesting

November 29, 2016, Ithaca, NY – Hard cider, an alcoholic beverage produced from fermented apple juice or apple juice concentrate, is gaining popularity among consumers. Domestic cider consumption increased more than 850 per cent in the last five years in the U.S., with more than 550 cider producers in the country.

The authors of a study in HortScience (September 2016) say that more information about how orchard management decisions impact cider quality can help orchard managers improve cider they produce from culinary apples.

Cornell University's Gregory Peck, the study's corresponding author, along with scientists Megan McGuire, Thomas Boudreau IV, and Amanda Stewart from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, carried out field experiments to assess the impact of three different crop load densities on apple fruit and cider quality. Treatments were conducted in a 14-year-old 'York Imperial'/'M.9' orchard in Winchester, Virginia. Peck explained that 'York' apples are primarily used for processing into products such as juice, vinegar, and applesauce.

"The vast majority of cider produced in the United States is made from apple cultivars that were originally planted for fresh or processing markets," he said, noting that culinary apples lack some of the fruit quality characteristics favored by cider producers.

For the experiments, 'York' apple trees were hand-thinned to low (two apples per cm2 branch cross-sectional area, or BCSA), medium (four apples per BCSA), and high (six apples per BCSA) crop loads.

At harvest, total polyphenol content did not differ in juice made from fruit grown in the three treatments. After fermentation, however, the medium crop load had 27 per cent and the high crop load had 37 per cent greater total polyphenol content than the low crop load.

Yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) concentration in juice made from fruit from the low crop load treatment was 18 per cent and 22 per cent greater than the medium and high crop load, respectively. YAN concentrations in juice from the medium and high crop load treatments were similar.

"Our study suggests that apple juice and cider quality can be altered by crop load management," the authors said. "Management strategies for chemical thinning should take into account the resulting fruit quality, especially YAN concentration in juice pre-fermentation and total polyphenol concentration and total alcohol in fermented cider."

The authors recommended that cider makers should be "especially aware" of the potential for YAN deficiency in fruit from orchards with a high crop load.

"YAN deficiency can be rectified through the addition of commercially available YAN supplements when warranted," they added.

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/51/9/1098.abstract

IMAGE: Low, medium, and high crop load treatments shown on 'York Imperial' apple trees grown at Virginia Tech's Alson H. Smith, Jr. Agricultural Research and Extension Center. view more

Credit: Photo courtesy of Gregory Peck.

Published in Research

November 29, 2016, Kemptown, NS – The authors of a study in HortScience (September 2106) say that wild blueberry nutrient management varies considerably compared with typical tilled crop systems.

According to the study, there is a "tremendous amount of uncertainty" in wild blueberry nutrient management as a result of dynamic interactions among plant and soil factors. To increase understanding of fertilizers' impact on wild blueberry, scientists in Nova Scotia carried out a 12-year field experiment that produced valuable recommendations for optimum rates of fertilizers to enhance growers' profitability.

Corresponding author Rizwan Maqbool explained that the study was designed to determine the main and interactive effects of soil-applied nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium (N-P-K) fertilizers on wild blueberry growth, development, and berry yield, and then to recommend fertilizer rates that optimize these outcomes. The scientists employed a three-factor central composite design with treatment combinations of five levels of fertilizer N (0, 12, 30, 48, and 60 kg·ha-1), P (0, 18, 45, 78, and 90 kg·ha-1), and K (0, 12, 30, 48, and 60 kg·ha-1). The wild blueberry plants treated were evaluated in a 12-year (six production cycles) field experiment at Kemptown, NS.

Results showed that an optimal value of 17.8 cm for stem length was obtained with fertilizer rates of 50 kg·ha-1 N, 48 kg·ha-1 P, and 30 kg·ha-1 K. The maximum number of vegetative nodes per stem occurred at fertilizer rates of 49 kg·ha-1 N, 48 kg·ha-1 P, and 65 kg·ha-1 K, while the maximum number of floral nodes per stem were found with fertilizer rates of 34 kg·ha-1 N, 45 kg·ha-1 P, and 30 kg·ha-1 K.

The optimal number of berries per stem (11.9) was obtained at N, P, and K rates of 40, 38, and 33 kg·ha-1, respectively. Rates of N-P-K fertilizer calculated for optimal berry yield were 30 kg·ha-1, 45 kg·ha-1, and 32 kg·ha-1, respectively.

"Based on the results of this study, we recommend applying 35 kg·ha-1 N, 40 kg·ha-1 P, and 30 kg·ha-1 K at the onset of shoot emergence each sprout year in lowbush blueberry in central Nova Scotia," the authors wrote. "These rates optimized floral bud number, berries per stem, and berry yield, without resulting in excessive stem growth and should be tested in other lowbush growing regions such as Maine, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec."

Analyses showed that the higher fertilizers rates cost an extra $80/ha but increased net profits by $490/ha.

"Findings of this study could contribute toward better farm profitability in areas with similar growing conditions," the authors noted.

The study also suggests that modifications to existing fertilizer rates be made for wild blueberries growing in central Nova Scotia.

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/51/9/1092.abstract

Published in Research

“One of the largest costs to a producer is getting the crop harvested from the trees,” says Dr. Suzanne Blatt, a scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Kentville, Nova Scotia. “Climbing up and down ladders takes time and care to ensure the workers are safe and the trees are not damaged in the harvesting process. A shorter tree with fruit that is easily accessible from the ground means faster harvest, better tree care and less risks for harvesters.”

Published in Fruit
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