Environment Protection
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 18, 2017, Brooks, Alta – Potato plants need a lot of nitrogen to produce tubers at optimum levels, but with more applied nitrogen comes an increased risk of nitrogen loss to the atmosphere.

Guillermo Hernandez Ramirez, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, is studying the use and loss of that fertilizer in potato crops. He is testing various nitrogen fertilizer formulations and biostimulants to gauge their effect on potato productivity and nitrous oxide emissions. READ MORE

 

Published in Research
August 15, 2017 - The PMRA have proposed to cancel the registration of both lambda-cyhalothrin (Matador/Silencer/Warrior) and phosmet (Imidan).

The decisions can be found here:

Lambda-cyhalothrin – https://onvegetables.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/cyhalothrinlambdaprvd2017-03.pdf
Phosmet – https://onvegetables.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/phosmetprvd2017-07.pdf

The decisions state that lambda-cyhalothrin poses an unacceptable risk from dietary exposure (worst case scenario cumulative food residues would be too high), while phosmet poses a risk during application and post-application activities. The proposed precautions such as revised restricted entry intervals would not be agronomically feasible (e.g. 12 day REI for scouting carrots, 43 days for moving irrigation pipe).

Public consultation is now open until September 23 (lambda-cyhalothrin) or September 30 (phosmet) so if growers wish to make comments on these proposed decisions you can submit them to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or talk to your growers’ association who can comment on your behalf.
Published in Chemicals
July 28, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - To support economic opportunities and to protect human health and the environment, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture endorsed the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada at their annual meeting. The strategy is a shared vision between partners across governments, industry, academia and others, and charts a path forward for collectively addressing evolving risks to plant and animal health.

Agriculture is an important driver in today's economy and has been identified as one of Canada's key growth sectors. Implementation of the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada is essential to economic growth, and for the health of all of our citizens and the environment.

Effective action depends on the combined and co-ordinated work of numerous partners. By taking a collaborative approach, the partners will be even more successful at protecting plant and animal resources from new and emerging risks. The action-oriented strategy outlines how all parties will work together to protect these resources, unleashing the potential for growth in Canada's agriculture sector.

"Agriculture is a key growth sector for Canada's economy. By working in collaboration with partners we have been able to create a strategy that will improve how we work together to advance the protection of plant and animal health, reduce risk to Canadians and improve our economic opportunities," said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Published in Federal
July 27, 2017, Waterloo, Ont. - A biotechnology company that created a spray that helps farmers and growers protect crops from frost damage was among the big winners at the Velocity Fund Finals held recently at the University of Waterloo. Velocity is a comprehensive entrepreneurship program at Waterloo.

Innovative Protein Technologies created Frost Armour, a spray-on-foam, after witnessing the effects of a devastating spring frost in 2012 that knocked out about 80 per cent of Ontario’s apple crop. Farmers would remove it after several days with another solution that converts it into a fertilizer.

"Frost damage not only affects farmers’ livelihoods, but also our food supply," said Erin Laidley, a Waterloo alumnus, who co-founded the company with Tom Keeling and Dan Krska, two alumni from the University of Guelph. "There are other spray-on solutions, but ours is non-toxic and has no negative environmental impact.”

During the competition, 10 companies pitched their businesses to a panel of judges representing the investment, startup and business communities. Judges considered innovation, market potential, market viability and overall pitch.

The following three companies were also grand-prize winners of $25,000 and space at Velocity. Three of the five top-prize-winning companies are based at Velocity Science.
  • Altius Analytics Labs is a health-tech startup that helps occupational groups better manage musculoskeletal injuries.
  • EPOCH is a skills and services marketplace that connects refugees and community members, using time as a means of exchange.
  • VivaSpire is making lightweight wearable machines that purify oxygen from the air without the need for high pressure.
For the first time, the prize of $10,000 for best hardware or science company went to a team that was not among the grand-prize winners. Vena Medical is making navigating through arteries faster, easier and safer by providing physicians with a camera that sees through blood.

During the VFF event, an additional 10 teams of University of Waterloo students competed for three prizes of $5,000 and access to Velocity workspaces.

The winners of the Velocity $5K are:
  • HALo works to provide manual wheelchair users with accessible solutions to motorize their wheelchairs.
  • QuantWave provides faster, cheaper and simpler pathogen detection for drinking water and food suppliers.
  • SheLeads is a story-based game that helps girls realize their unlimited leadership potential.
“Building a business is one of the boldest risks you can take, and yet our companies continue to demonstrate the vision, talent, and drive to think big and tackle challenging problems,” said Jay Shah, director of Velocity. “Today we are fortunate to benefit from an enormous wealth of experience from our judges who are leaders from the global investment, health and artificial-intelligence communities and entrepreneurs at heart. In helping Velocity award $125,000 in funding to these companies, we have taken a bet of our own in these founders, and said be bold, think big, and go out and change the world.”

The judges for the Velocity Fund $25K competition travelled from Palo Alto, San Francisco and Toronto. They were Seth Bannon, founding partner, Fifty Years; Dianne Carmichael, chief advisor of health tech, Council of Canadian Innovators; Eric Migicovsky, visiting partner, Y Combinator; Tomi Poutanen, co-CEO, Layer 6 AI.

The judges for the Velocity Fund $5K competition were Kane Hsieh, investor, Root Ventures; Tobiasz Dankiewicz, co-founder, Reebee; Karen Webb, principal, KWebb Solutions Inc.

For more information on the Velocity Fund Finals, please visit www.velocityfundfinals.com
Published in Spraying
May 17, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. – Fertilizer Canada has released a 4R Nutrient Stewardship Sustainability Report. The document is a comprehensive overview of the associations 2016 milestones through several initiatives pertaining to agriculture sustainability.

The report can be found at:4R Nutrient Stewardship Sustainability Report
For more information, visit: http://fertilizercanada.ca/
Published in Companies
February 23, 2017, Victoria, BC – Due to an underwhelming response by users to register their wells, the province has extended its waiver of the application fee to December 31, 2017.

The new Water Sustainability Act took effect February 29, 2016 and includes licensing requirements for all non-domestic groundwater users. As a result, all wells used for irrigation and livestock watering must be registered. READ MORE
Published in Provinces

Although Canada is home to internationally award-winning wines, the cold winters and short growing season are a constant challenge. Photo by Dr. Mehdi Sharifi, Trent University.

August 16, 2016 - Although Canada is home to internationally award-winning wines, the cold winters and short growing season are a constant challenge. The solution is one that has never been tried with wine grapes before until now: moving production indoors.

That’s what Dr. Mehdi Sharifi, a Canada Research Chair in sustainable agriculture and professor at Trent University’s School of the Environment, has been working on.

And it could change the entire future of Canada’s wine industry, including dramatically expanding organic wine production.

“Winter injury and low yields are the two main challenges for the wine industry in central and eastern Canada,” he explains.

Winter injury is freezing damage to the wood and bud tissues of the grape vine caused by cold temperatures or erratic temperature swings. It results in significant direct losses in grape production and even greater losses in wine production, and prevents some grape varieties, like the popular Shiraz, from being grown in Canada.

In the case of severe winter injury, vines need to be replaced but it takes newly planted vines three to five years to become productive. That’s an expensive wait without income for grape growers, who face annual costs of $10,000 – 15,000 an acre to maintain grape vines.

Sharifi’s indoor grape growing work began when he was approached by Canadian Distribution Channel Inc., a company interested in building an agritourism venture by growing popular Australian, South American and European grape varieties inside.

He began by developing a specially formulated growing media that would allow the grapes to grow quickly indoors.

“You can’t use field or potting soil indoors for growing grapes. Growing media for perennial plants such as grapes need a balance of chemical, physical and biological conditions and nutrients for best growth,” says Sharifi.

“We’ve created and tested a formula that works great and supplies nutrients to the grapes for a long period of time,” he added.

The formula’s natural ingredients could open new possibilities for organic grape production too, with the protected indoor conditions making organic growing easier.

As Sharifi’s work progressed, he also discovered that the stable temperatures and environment of indoor production can simulate a natural growing season year round and shorten the amount of time new vines need to come into production.

“We found that vines can grow two to three times as fast as they can grow outdoors. We can also simulate the equivalent of two to three growing seasons per year, so we can bring new vines into production in only one to two years,” he explains. “This doubles or even triples yearly yields, which will compensate for the extra cost of the greenhouse needed for indoor production.”

Sharifi is optimistic about his results to date. The grapes he has grown indoors have a higher than required sugar standard and their pH and acidity levels are suitable for wine production, but he cautions that more work remains to be done before his discovery can be implemented commercially.

Down the road he sees potential for producing wines with higher antioxidants or health-boosting phenolic compounds, but it’s the widespread application of his innovation that bears the most promise for Canada’s wine producers.

“This can work for any grape variety, and the interest of the industry lies with being able to grow varieties that we currently can’t in Canada because of our climate,” he says.

Sharifi’s work has received support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Published in Research

November 3, 2015, Guelph, Ont – The government of Ontario recently announced it will be providing financial support to fruit and specialty crop growers to help them ensure the survival of their apples, tender fruit, berries, and specialty crops.

Ontario is providing financial support to farmers to better ensure the survival of apples, tender fruit, berries, and specialty crops during the winter.

The province will share up to 35 per cent of the cost of weather mitigation equipment and growers can be eligible to receive up to a maximum of $31,500 per project.

This support will help cover the costs of weather mitigation equipment, such as portable or fixed wind machines, heating and air movement devices, insulating devices, overhead irrigation systems, and crop covers.

Growers may apply for funding through the Ontario Crop and Soil Improvement Association, which administers the program, and will accept applications at various times over the next few years. The first intake is from October 22 to November 5, 2015.

Look for details to be posted shortly to the OSCIA website.

Published in Provinces

October 16, 2015, Guelph, Ont – This winter, Ontario is providing financial support to farmers to better ensure the survival of apples, tender fruit, berries, and specialty crops.

Ontario's cold winter months can cause damage to crops and reduce yields. To help growers manage this risk and ensure a steady, competitive supply of Ontario grown food, the province will share up to 35 per cent of the cost of weather mitigation equipment such as portable or fixed wind machines, heating and air movement devices, insulating devices, overhead irrigation systems, and crop covers. Growers can be eligible to receive up to a maximum of $31,500 per project.

“The Ontario Apple Growers strongly welcome the support for cold weather mitigation measures,” said Charlie Stevens, chair of the Ontario Apple Growers. “This support will help to reduce the impact of cold temperatures, ensuring farmers are able to provide consumers with a more stable supply of local Ontario apples for them to enjoy.”

“Weather mitigation equipment helps to protect the tree fruit industry from unfavourable growing conditions,” said Phil Tregunno, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers. “We greatly appreciate the Ontario government’s recognition of the challenges faced by farmers and the continued support.”

Growers may apply for funding through the Ontario Crop and Soil Improvement Association, which administers the program, and will accept applications at several times over the next couple of years. The first intake is from October 22 to November 5, 2015.

“Our government is pleased to be providing additional support for our apple, tender fruit, berry, and specialty crop growers,” said Jeff Leal, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Cost sharing for these projects will help growers take advantage of the best crop protection methods available, ensuring successful survival of cold weather periods, and quality yields at harvest.”

Published in Vegetables

 

August 5, 2015 - A new website is helping tender fruit growers monitor the cold hardiness of their buds over the winter months and manage possible winter injury.

Growers can register on www.tenderfruitalert.ca to receive free email alerts about potential low temperature situations that can help them make decisions about when they should use tools like frost fans and wind machines to protect against the weather.

The online, automated weather alert system was launched by Ontario Tender Fruit as part of a project funded through Growing Forward 2 so growers can better mitigate climate-induced damage to their orchards and crops. Ontario’s tender fruit crops include peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots, and plums.

“In 2012, we had a warm spring followed by a cold spell that killed a lot of blossoms, and we had no real data on what was happening in the field,” says Ontario Tender Fruit Chair Phil Tregunno, who farms near Niagara-on-the-Lake. “We knew we needed more information on when we can expect damage to our blossoms so that we can do a better job at managing our farms, from when to turn on wind machines to adjusting management practices in the orchard.”

The bud cold hardiness tool developed as part of the project provides information about the survivability of buds and lets growers know at what temperatures they could lose 10 per cent, 50 per cent, or even 90 per cent of their buds.

Having a sense of expected damage levels will help farmers with planning their upcoming growing season, from how many workers to hire and what volume of crop they could expect to market, to how much fertilizer to apply and what type of pruning strategies to use.

Consulting firm KCMS started collecting data in 2013 by regularly visiting a variety of orchards in the province’s major tender fruit growing areas to gather buds from different tender fruit crops and testing them to look for the effects of temperature throughout winter and early spring.

“We expose the buds to controlled freezing down to -40C, doing our best to replicate field conditions. When the water in the bud cells freezes, it generates a heat spike on our graphs so we know when damage occurs and lets us calculate different lethal temperature ratings,” explains Ryan Brewster of KCMS. “Without this technology, there is a lot of guessing. Growers do have past history, but this data is a snapshot in time of exactly what is happening.”

The bud data is combined with wind speed and temperature data collected from various sites that are part of the Weather INnovations (WIN) network of monitoring stations; together, this information is used to help generate the automated alerts to growers when necessary. A final assessment of winter damage is a blossom count conducted in the spring.

The current project will run until 2017, but it’s a long-term initiative designed to better equip growers to handle climate change challenges. This includes being able to plant hardier tender fruit varieties in areas that are more vulnerable to cold temperatures, and knowing where to best place wind machines.

This project was supported in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 programs in Ontario.

“Funding like this is all-important. We’re a small industry and you couldn’t do this on your own as an individual grower without support,” says Tregunno. “It’s critical to the buy local movement and the local tourism industry, and we’re lucky to be able to work through government like this.”

 

Published in Provinces

October 15, 2014, Vancouver, BC – Farmers from Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley are invited to safely and responsibly dispose of their unwanted or obsolete pesticides and livestock (including equine) medications from October 15-23.

CleanFARMS, an industry-led, national not-for-profit agricultural waste management organization, in partnership with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), is offering this program, which comes at no charge to farmers, this fall.

“We are pleased with the past success of our collection programs in this province,” says Barry Friesen, general manager of CleanFARMS. “B.C. farmers’ enthusiasm about this program shows their continual commitment to protecting the environment and making responsible decisions on the farm.”

Farmers in British Columbia have a long history of good stewardship practices. Since 1998, B.C. farmers have turned in more than 207,000 kilograms of obsolete pesticides. This year is the first time in B.C. that livestock and equine medications have been added to the program.

“The British Columbia Agriculture Council (BCAC) appreciates that through an industry led program, B.C. farmers can safely return unused products,” said Stan Vander Waal, BCAC board chair. “A clean and sustainable environment is critical for the long-term future of farming.”

After collection, the pesticides and medications are taken to a licensed waste management facility where they are disposed of through high temperature incineration.

The following locations will be accepting obsolete pesticides and livestock/equine medications from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the dates specified:

  • October 15: Vantreight Farms in Saanich at 8277 Central Saanich Road
  • October 16: Bings Creek Recycling Centre in Duncan at 3900 Drinkwater Road
  • October 17: Comox Valley Waste Management Centre in Cumberland at 2400 Bevan Road
  • October 20-12: Direct Solutions in Delta at 7430 Hopcott Road
  • October 22-23: Univar Canada in Abbotsford at 3256 McCallum Road

The obsolete pesticide and livestock/equine medication collection program is a national program that comes to each province on a three-year rotating basis. In between collections periods, farmers are asked to safely store their unwanted pesticides and livestock medications until they can properly dispose of them through the program.

Published in Provinces

October 6, 2014, Charlottetown, PEI – An appeal from two farmers convicted of planting potatoes where they weren’t supposed to could be decided by how a judge defines a single word.

Alex Docherty, who is Community Services Minister Valerie Docherty’s husband, and his brother-in-law, Blake MacDonald, were each fined $3,150 last year for violating the Environmental Protection Act in 2012. READ MORE

Published in Fruit

March 17, 2014, Charlottetown, PEI – The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture wants the moratorium on deep-water wells lifted, but only after the provincial government’s scientific data has been independently reviewed and proven accurate.

Executive director John Jamieson told the provincial standing committee currently examining the issue of deep-well irrigation the federation is sensitive to the tremendous anxiety this issue has raised among Islanders. READ MORE

 

 

Published in Provinces
December 13, 2013, Summerside, PEI – After more than a year of legal wrangling, charges stemming from one of the largest fish kills in P.E.I.’s history are finally coming to a close.

A Mount Royal potato farmer pleaded guilty to two of six outstanding charges against him and his company – one Federal Fisheries Act count of allowing a deleterious substance to enter a waterway, and one charge under the provincial Crop Rotation Act of planting potatoes in the same field twice in less than three years. READ MORE
Published in Federal
Oct. 3, 2013 - A common sight in the spring and summer, bees are one of the most important workers within Canadian ecosystem and agriculture industry – especially honeybees.

Not only do these bees in Canada create honey (an over $100 million industry), but they also help pollinate a wide variety of crops, which helps contribute an estimated $1.3 to $1.7 billion annually. If you add in the contributions of other Canadian bee species, such as alfalfa leafcutting bees and bumblebees, the value leaps up to an estimated $2.8 billion.

And without bees, many crops including fruits and vegetables would not be able to produce nearly as well – so, why are so many people concerned with bees dying?

Dr. Richard Fell, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech says that that is the real question – no one really knows. "Each year, bee keepers lose about 30 per cent of the hives that they manage," he says.

"What this means is that it makes it more difficult for growers, who produce crops such as almonds which require honey bee pollination, to obtain the hives necessary for pollination ... As colony numbers decline it becomes harder to get bee colonies for pollination purposes, placing growers in a difficult position"

Phases of blame

Fell says that instead of one or two potential factors that could be the cause of the bee deaths, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), there are probably multiple factors which could interact and cause unexpected deaths. The possibilities range from parasites (particularly the Varroa mite), queen quality, nutrition, changes in the environment, pesticides and pathogens.

"So, it is not something that we can simply say, if a hive has A, B or C, that the colony is going to die. We just don't know," he adds. "To date, we have no smoking gun – no one factor that we can look at as the primary cause"

According to Fell, the media and public often shift the blame to a particular cause of CCD based on the latest data or research paper, because a solution is so badly needed.

Currently, the trend is centred on the varroa mite and neonicitinoid pesticides, an insecticide that is similar to nicotine. However, Fell simply says that the data aren't there to implicate either of them as the main cause. "And if we look in terms of the levels [of neonicitinoids in bees], we are talking of levels on the order of one to two parts per billion."

"And when you have very, very low exposure levels, people often forget that bees can detoxify these compounds. And if you feed bees levels like that, it appears to have little or no effect on colony survival or colony activity."

The business perspective

Derrick Rozdeba, a communications and marketing specialist with Bayer CropScience, says that actual bee numbers are not declining, but have been increasing. “Over the last eight years, when beekeepers have opened their hives in the spring, there have been fewer bees that have survived,” he said.

“And at some point, beekeeping can become unsustainable, as the need to replace lost bees increases. What has been declining in Canada aren’t bees, but rather beekeeper numbers.”

He also says that the best way growers can assist the honey bee is to effectively communicate with one another and implement suitable management practices for seed treatments, insecticide use and more to help increase awareness and reduce risk. “Growers need to be aware that there can be things that they do in their normal operations which may have negative effects on honey bees and other pollinators.  The production of dust during seeding operations can be a conduit of pesticide exposure to bees, as can the application of post emergence insecticides when crops are in flower.”
Published in Insects
Aug. 19, 2013, Paris, Ont. - Global warming is causing apples to lose some of their crunch but is also making them sweeter, a study says.

Analysing data gathered from 1970 to 2010 at two orchards in Japan, a research team said there was clear evidence that climate change was having an effect on apple taste and texture. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
July 9, 2013 – Ontario is bringing together a group of experts to provide advice on how to prevent bee mortalities.

The Bee Health Working Group will be comprised of beekeepers, farmers, agri-business representatives, scientists, and staff from both federal and provincial government agencies. Drawing on a broad range of expertise, the working group will provide recommendations on how to mitigate the potential risk to honey bees from exposure to neonicotinoids – a pesticide used for corn and soybeans.

The working group will meet for the first time this month and provide its recommendations by spring 2014.
Published in Insects
Jul. 16, 2013 - Tough new regulations governing vineyard waste management meant the owners of Sixteen Mile Cellar in the Niagara Region had some tough choices to make. Previously, small estate wineries were allowed to store the liquids and residues from their grape crush on-farm and then haul them away. The rule change now requires waste treatment facilities on site, which can get very expensive very fast.

"For small wineries, this is a big burden. Even if you only crush grapes for one week of the year like we do, you have to provide waste treatment," says Paul Vander Molen, Sixteen Mile Cellar's farm property manager. "So we started searching for ideas that would address the waste issue properly but also be affordable."

The solution was a constructed treatment wetland that uses nature to pre-treat the winery waste — wash water, grape liquids and stems and skins left over once the grapes are crushed — before it is disposed of.

The crush residue flows out of the winery into a holding tank and is then pumped into a four-chamber constructed treatment wetland that is located just outside of the main winery building. The chambers are lined with rubber and filled with gravel and soil that filter and purify the grape waste. From there, the remaining liquid goes into a pressurized septic system and then into a filter bed for release back into the environment. An alternative option was an open system, but the potential for odour and the proximity to the winery building made this idea a non-starter.

"Wineries, especially small estate wineries like this one, don't produce a lot of waste but we still have to solve the problem of dealing with it," Vander Molen says. "This solution is not only a good treatment option, but it will also provide a natural habitat for frogs and other wildlife once it is completed."

The underground system was first used in 2012 and Vander Molen says it will ramp up to full capacity for the 2013 grape harvest. This spring, cattails, bull rushes and iris will be planted on top of the wetland to complete its construction and give it a more natural look.

There are currently more than 1,000 constructed wetlands in North America being used to treat various waste streams, such as municipal wastewater and coal and metal mine drainage. Sixteen Mile Cellar is one of the first wineries in Ontario that has been affected by the new rules and has adapted this type of a system using a wetland to pre-treat their winery waste. He expects others will follow suit as they face compliance with the new regulations.

To help with the cost of constructing the wetland, Sixteen Mile Cellar accessed cost-share funding through the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP). COFSP provided cost-share funding for farmers to implement best management practices that provide environmental benefit on-farm. Funding was available on a first come, first served basis to farmers who had a peer-reviewed Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) in place and had projects that have been approved under the program.

EFP and COFSP were funded under the Best Practices suite of programs of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The programs were administered by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture acting on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivered the programs to farmers.

"The funding really helped us make this work. This project and some of the others we've done really fit into the concept of environmental goods and services and being a responsible producer," says Vander Molen, referring to a tree planting initiative and the replacement of a failed culvert with a new stream bridge crossing to improve fish habitat that were both also completed on the same property recently.
Published in Spraying
Jul. 16, 2013 - The north shore of Lake Erie is a known habitat for the Eastern Fox Snake, Ontario's second largest snake species. It's protected under the province's Endangered Species Act, so when Dale Vranckx saw them on his Norfolk County farm, he wanted to do what he could to help bring back the population.

His solution was to build hibernacula — protected areas on his property where the snakes could overwinter safely.

"Our farm is in a wintering area for the fox snake. We have found some on the farm around our pond area so we know they're here and they're endangered," says Vranckx, whose 20-acre sustainable blueberry operation, Blueberry Hill Estate, overlooks the Long Point World Biosphere Reserve. "It's unique that we have these snakes here and we are doing what we can to rejuvenate the population."

Vranckx, a member of the Reserve's board of directors, turned to an expert for help with getting his project started. Hibernacula are ideally situated in areas with morning sun that are near water but can't flood.

Vranckx built his alongside the wetland area on his farm, digging five pits and using old tobacco kilns as foundations. The top is covered with canes pruned from his blueberry bushes and a plastic tube with drilled holes allows the snakes to get in and out as well as go down to the wetland.

"As we prune we will keep adding canes. We used to burn these but now it's an ideal way of keeping the hibernacula sustainable," he says. "You have to maintain it as well, not just build it. Everything on our farm has to rejuvenate itself."

The farm had its start as Ontario's first commercial blueberry operation in 1975 and Vranckx and his family, former tobacco farmers, have owned it since 2005. When they took over, they adopted a fully sustainable model for the property.

This includes growing hay and prairie grass on buffer edges and in riparian areas and establishing a pollinator strip for bees, in addition to the work they are doing with the Fox Snake.

The habitat was built last fall so it's still too early to see any measurable results in the local snake population, but Vranckx is optimistic the project will be a success. He will begin monitoring activities this year.

"It's still early days, but we believe that if you build it, they will come," he says, adding since adopting the sustainable model, he now has a natural bee population on his farm and no longer needs bees brought in for pollination. "Nature has a way of coming back if you provide for it. If you provide the proper conditions, it will rejuvenate."

He is planning to add an agri-tourism component to his blueberry operations this year so that he can help educate visitors to his farm about sustainable production, hibernacula and what people can do to save species at risk.

Vranckx was able to access cost-share funding for his hibernacula project through the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program (SARFIP), administered by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). SARFIP was funded in 2012 by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources through the Species At Risk Stewardship Fund, and the Government of Canada through the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species At Risk.

"This is something we wanted to do, but the SARFIP funding played an important role in our decision to go ahead with this project," says Vranckx.
Published in Harvesting
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