Horticultural Crops
February 15, 2018 – Potatoes used for crisps and chips are usually stored at eight degrees – a temperature high enough to prevent starch from breaking down into glucose and fructose. To slow sprouting, potato producers often use a suppressant like chlorpropham, a chemical the European Union (EU) is looking to phase out due to health concerns.

Hoping to find an alternative to chemical sprout suppressors, the EU-funded GENSPI (Genomic Selection for Potato Improvement) project has developed a genetic marker system to identify plants that display a resistance to glucose and fructose formation. Their tubers can be stored at three or four degrees, low enough to keep sprout growth at bay for very long periods.

“Glucose and fructose formed during cold storage can cause very dark fry colours, leaving potato crisps and chips with an unacceptably bitter taste. The sugars can also cause a build-up of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen,” says Dan Milbourne, GENSPI project coordinator.

GENSPI developed new genomic selection breeding methodologies that will allow potato breeders to select the varieties of potato that seem to be resistant to sweetening at low temperatures.

To do this, researchers gathered a large collection of potato plants and fried thousands of tubers – the equivalent to 10,000 bags of potato crisps – that had been held in different storage conditions. They then measured their colour once fried and drew the links between fry colour and the genetic variation of the plant.

“Because the fry colour is controlled by many genes the best approach was to scan the genome for variation at many sites to find correlations between colour and genetic variation,” explains Milbourne.

Researchers then used the latest techniques in genome sequences – known as next generation sequencing – to identify over 100,000 regions across the genome where the DNA sequence varied among the plants. They combined data on variation on the potato phenotype and genome to build statistical models that could predict fry colour from DNA sequencing information.

“From the 100,000 regions showing genetic variation between the breeding lines, we were able to identify a smaller number of DNA markers that gave us a good ability to predict fry colour,” says Stephen Byrne, the Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow who carried out the research. “This means we can develop an inexpensive DNA-based test to predict fry colour that can be applied to tens of thousands of plants in a potato breeding program.”

Traditionally, potato breeders inter-cross plant varieties to produce up to 100,000 seedlings, and then eliminate poorly performing plant types over a period of 10 years. Varieties that are resistant to glucose and fructose formation can only be identified at the end of this time, meaning that many potential varieties have already been eliminated from the breeding process. 

GENSPI carried out its research in collaboration with a commercial potato breeding program led by Denis Griffin. Its newly-developed technique allows resistant plants to be identified early in the 10-year breeding program. The team hopes the project will lead to the release of one or more varieties that give an excellent fry colour even at low-temperature storage, avoiding chemical sprout suppressants.

“We hope to see these varieties released in the next five years,” concludes Griffin.
Published in Research
February 15, 2018, Fredericton, NB – After years of research and development, 15 of the newest varieties of potatoes were displayed in Fredericton to give growers a starchy taste of the future.

Each year, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Research and Development Centre in Fredericton hosts a fair of sorts, where researchers get to show off new varieties to farmers and companies. READ MORE

 

Published in Research
Storytelling is a valuable skill in today’s society. Showcasing your business or that of a signature farm product with a story is one of the best marketing strategies you can have. Who doesn’t love a great story?
Published in Marketing
Researchers are combining new digital tools, computer technologies and machine learning to bring cost-effective weed control solutions to the field. Although still in the early stages, this new high-tech solution is being designed as an advanced spot-spraying precision technology that will help farmers reduce input costs and add another management tool to their integrated management systems.  
Published in Weeds
Efforts to develop sweet potatoes into a commercial crop for Manitoba farmers are showing good progress at two locations in the province.
Published in Vegetables
There are now seven generations of farmers in Delta, B.C. behind (and in front of) Pacific Potato Corp., and while the potato was always a dietary staple, it wasn’t until recent generations that it became this family’s mainstay.
Published in Production
The use of biocontrol pest methods in horticulture is growing, whether it’s trap crops, pheromone traps, predatory insects or biopesticides.
Published in Insects
The frustration in the room was palpable.
Published in Associations
February 12, 2018, Kentville, NS – Perennia, a not-for-profit corporation in Nova Scotia that assists farmers, recently announced that Neslihan Ivit had joined its team as a wine quality specialist for a two-year term.

Her position is a unique collaboration between Acadia University and Perennia where she works from both locations directly with the industry to maximize the quality of the wines produced in Nova Scotia. 

Neslihan holds an MSc of viticulture and enology from Montpellier SupAgro, Bordeaux Science Agro and Universidad Politecnica de Madrid and a BSc in food engineering from Middle East Technical University. She has international winemaking experience, including California, Chile, France, Spain and Turkey.
Published in Companies
February 9, 2018 – For growers, a fundamental element of integrated pest management is knowing what pest and beneficial species are in your fields. But what if there’s an insect and no one knows if it’s good or bad?

That was the situation for apple growers in Washington when it came to the European earwig. The bugs were there, but no one knew if they helped growers or harmed their crop.

In 2014, the same year Robert Orpet began his doctoral program, there was a bad outbreak of woolly apple aphids in Washington orchards.

“The trees looked like they were covered in snow,” he remembered. “It was very visible, and people don’t like that.”

Orpet was part of an interdisciplinary team looking into the aphid, and one of his tasks was to interview growers about natural predators. Although there was some scientific literature in Europe that suggested earwigs were aphid predators, very few growers named them as important beneficial natural enemies.

Many, in fact, said they thought earwigs were pests that damaged their apples because they’d found earwigs in cracks in their fruit.

Orpet had an idea why grower’s perceptions and the scientific literature might differ.

“Earwigs are active at night, so people don’t see them eating aphids,” he said. “They also move into tight spaces, a behavior called thigmotaxis, so it wasn’t clear if the insects were causing the damage to the fruit or just sheltering in the damage.”

Another possible explanation was that the European literature was just wrong.

“What literature there was tended to be observational and anecdotal,” he said. “The question had never been tested experimentally in a realistic field situation.”

So, with a graduate student grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, Orpet designed an experiment to test the positive and negative effects of earwigs in apple orchards.

He set up experimental sections in four different orchards and, in each section, either added earwigs, removed earwigs or left them alone. Because of the insects’ small-space-seeking behaviour, they are easy to trap in corrugated cardboard rolls and move from one place to another.

The results were pretty clear.

First, earwigs are aphid predators. Not only did his numbers support that, he captured video of a single earwig completely consuming an aphid colony. (See it at youtube.com/watch?v=sSFakIgkfMI)

“We measured it in a few different ways, but the maximum amount of woolly apple aphids was two to three times greater in the trees with fewer earwigs than the trees with more earwigs. Earwigs did suppress the woolly apple aphid.”

The damage question was a bit more complex, but also came out in the earwigs’ favour.

“We inspected apples very close to harvest when the apples were ripe,” he explained. “I looked at about 12,000 apples on the trees in the sections were earwigs had been augmented and removed. Overall, 97 per cent of the apples were good, and the chance of finding a good apple were the same in both the augmented and removal areas.”

Orpet did find stem-bowl splitting in some apples – a flaw more common in the Gala variety – and there were earwigs in some of those splits. And in a handful – 17 apples in the augmented areas and five in the removal areas – those splits appeared to have been expanded by the insects.

“My conclusion was the earwigs didn’t cause the cracking but did exploit the existing damage,” he explained.

He’s scheduled to graduate in August and has already shared the findings at growers’ meetings: clear evidence that earwigs are beneficial natural predators in apple orchards.

And, if growers are still skeptical, Orpet can always call up the video.

Read more about the project at: projects.sare.org/sare_project/gw18-039/
Published in Insects
February 8, 2018, Lucky Lake, Sask – Some new life is being breathed into a massive potato facility once owned by the Saskatchewan government.

In the 1990s, the provincial government spent millions of dollars trying to develop the provincial potato industry before abandoning the plan completely.

Now, Vancouver-based United Greeneries plans to open a marijuana facility in a massive 60,000 square foot facility once owned by Spudco in Lucky Lake, roughly 130 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
February 7, 2018, Edmonton, Alta – Alberta's government will immediately boycott all imports of wines from British Columbia, Premier Rachel Notley announced Feb. 6, escalating the inter-provincial spat over the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

The province's tough stance follows B.C.'s call last week for further review of the oil-spill risk from the pipeline expansion, a move that could delay a project Alberta sees as vital to its economy. READ MORE
Published in Provinces
February 7, 2018, Victoria, BC – A pilot project that matches new farmers looking to get their start in B.C. agriculture with available fertile farmland in the Metro Vancouver area will kick off in 2018, thanks to a $25,000 investment from the governments of Canada and British Columbia.

The project is led by the Young Agrarians, in partnership with Farm Folk City Folk Society. This Metro Vancouver project builds on the success of a two-year pilot in partnership with the City of Surrey, and in collaboration with Quebec’s L’ARTERRE. It addresses a major challenge for new farmers – gaining access to expensive land in Southern B.C.

“My mandate includes getting more young people farming, and making sure that they have the land to farm on through projects like the Metro Vancouver land-matching project is an essential first step,” said Lana Popham, B.C. Minister of Agriculture. “Part of why we established Grow BC was to help young farmers access land. I believe strongly that agriculture has the potential to unlock prosperity throughout our entire province, and we need farmland and farmers to make that happen.”

The previous Surrey pilot matched new farmer Roger Woo with David Feldhaus, a local landowner. Woo, a former chef with a passion for local, organically grown and sustainably farmed produce, was just the type of person that Feldhaus was searching for when he was looking to expand agricultural activity on his farmland.

“I knew I wanted to farm in B.C., but I saw significant challenges to acquiring the appropriate farmland in the Lower Mainland,” said Woo. “Through the land-matching program, I’ve been able to find a supportive land owner who has agreed to let me farm his land. I came to this process with my farm dream, and have received step-by-step support to make it a reality.”

The land-matching project screens owners of underutilized land and farmers ready to start a business, and supports the parties in the development of legal contracts. The goal is to create seven to nine new farm operations in the region in 2018 with secure leasing agreements. 

“For years we have wanted to make a positive change with our farm,” said Feldhaus. “In a short time, the Young Agrarians were able to understand our needs and the goals that we had for our farm, and helped guide us through the land-matching process, matching us with a great young farmer. Seeing our fields blooming with row after row of organic vegetables is proof of the value provided by the land-matching program.”

“We are excited to see investment at all three levels of government in this program and the future of new and young farmers in B.C.,” said Sara Dent, Young Agrarians B.C. program manager. “Fifty per cent of farmers in Canada under 35 lease land. The prohibitive cost of farmland in southern B.C. means that we have to facilitate solutions to land access if we want to see a future generation farming the land.”
Published in Provinces
February 7, 2018, Kelowna, BC – There will be two candidates running for president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association when fruit growers gather for their annual general meeting in Kelowna February 15 and 16.

North Okanagan orchardist Jeet Dukhia and BCFGA vice-president Pinder Dhaliwal will bid to succeed current president Fred Steele, who has chosen to not seek re-election. READ MORE
Published in Associations
February 7, 2018, Kelowna, BC – Agriculture and food production contribute to the fabric of British Columbia in terms of food supply, economic activity and community strength.

The question is clear: How can B.C. continue to build its agriculture industry?

For the past two days, Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has been providing her vision to local leaders, and hearing their ideas on ways to ensure British Columbia has secure farmland and secure farmers in the future.

“Agriculture has a way of bringing people together and I have been sharing my exciting ideas to Grow BC, Feed BC and Buy BC,” Popham said. “However, when you walk into a room and a local legend like orchardist Fred Steele is there, it is time to listen. I want to thank Fred and all the growers in the Okanagan for their leadership and advice during my visit.”

The British Columbia government is building opportunities for the province’s tree-fruit sector with programs that will encourage new growers, and increase production and a higher consumption of B.C. tree-fruit products today and for future generations.

The tree-fruit replant program received another successful intake for the 2018 planting season. It is helping growers replace fruit trees with new, high-value and high-quality fruit, such as Ambrosia and Honeycrisp apples, as well as late-season cherries.

The replant program has been so popular that the B.C. government has provided an additional $300,000 in funding for fiscal year 2017-18, so even more growers can take part in the tree-fruit replant program.

“Whether it’s a freshly picked apple from an orchard in the Similkameen, tasty Oliver cherries, a fruity glass of award-winning Okanagan wine or a jar of local honey, agriculture is for everyone,” Popham said. “The Okanagan is a vital part of our food system and part of B.C.’s heritage, and I look forward to continuing to work with people in this region and building B.C. agriculture.”

British Columbia is Canada’s largest fruit producer, with over 296,000 tonnes of fruit valued at $397 million in 2016.
Published in Provinces
February 7, 2018, Guelph, Ont – The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) recently announced the approval of a minor use label expansion registration for Reason 500SC fungicide for control of downy mildew on basil and an amendment to update the label to include management of downy mildew on the new Brassica vegetable crop groups 5-13 and 4-13B in Canada.

The head and stem Brassica vegetable group includes cabbage, napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli and the new Brassica leafy greens crop group includes arugula, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, collards, cress, kale, mizuna, mustard greens, etc. Reason fungicide was already labeled for use on a number of crops in Canada for control of several diseases.

These minor use projects were submitted by Ontario as a result of minor use priorities established by growers and extension personnel.

Reason fungicide is toxic to aquatic organisms and may be harmful to beneficial predatory or parasitic arthropods. Do not apply this product or allow drift to other crops or non-target areas. Do not contaminate off-target areas or aquatic habitats when spraying or when cleaning and rinsing spray equipment or containers.

Follow all other precautions, restrictions and directions for use on the Reason fungicide label carefully.

For a copy of the new minor use label contact your local crop specialist, regional supply outlet or visit the PMRA label site https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/consumer-product-safety/pesticides-pest-management/registrants-applicants/tools/pesticide-label-search.html
Published in Diseases
February 5, 2018, Ottawa, Ont – As communicated recently, the CanadaGAP manuals have been updated for 2018.

Version 7.1 of the Fruit and Vegetable and Greenhouse Manuals can now be found on the CanadaGAP website at http://www.canadagap.ca/manuals/downloads/.

Why are manuals updated?
  • To respond to user requests. CanadaGAP receives many requests each year asking us to clarify wording in the manual or the intent of the requirements. Most requests come directly from producers or from those working with producers (consultants, auditors, etc.) who need the expectations explained more clearly or who suggest ways to simplify the wording.
  • To maintain technical rigour of the program as science, industry, buyer, or government requirements change. There are still many unanswered questions in food safety research, and as the science progresses, technical requirements must keep pace. We are also in an environment of fast-paced change in food safety regulations both in Canada and internationally.
  • CanadaGAP is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Most major customers now require certification to a GFSI-recognized program. To maintain recognition, CanadaGAP must implement updates whenever GFSI makes changes to its requirements.
  • The CanadaGAP program has been reviewed for technical soundness by federal and provincial governments. To maintain our government reconition, CFIA requires that CanadaGAP review the manuals regularly and submit changes for approval by government.
  • CanadaGAP's Stakeholder Advisory Committee reviews all proposed changes and often brings forward suggestions of their own. They meet once a year to discuss requests for changes.
How do I update my manual?

As part of the CanadaGAP program, you are required to go through and update your manual each year to meet the requirements found in Section 24. The release of Version 7.1 is the optimal time to go through your manual to review its currency and to update it with the 2018 changes.

CanadaGAP has the following material available on the website to help you:
  • Outline of Main Changes to the CanadaGAP Manuals - an overview of the changes for 2018
  • Revisions document - shows changes from the previous version
Additionally, a PowerPoint Presentation of the Main Changes for 2018 is available on the website at http://www.canadagap.ca/publications/presentations/.

There are a number of ways to update your manual for 2018. You do NOT need to reprint the entire manual.
  1. Use the Outline of Main changes handout to get an over view of the changes. Determine which changes affect your operation (there may be few or none).
  2. When you have identified the changes that affect you, we encourage you to view the revisions document, as it provides the detailed wording.
  3. Reprint only the pages that contain changes that affect your operation. Print from the PDF version if you want a formatted, clean copy without the tracking.
  4. Insert any new pages into your existing manual, showing you have completed (checked off) any new procedures relevant to your operation.
  5. Go through each section, make updates as needed, and initial at the bottom to show that you have reviewed your manual.
  6. It is wise to reprint the entire Glossary,or at least print/review any changes to definitions. The terms that have been redefined are listed in the Outline of Main changes handout. Changes (usually clarifications) to terminology are important to understand, as they can impact how program requirements are met.
  7. On the title page of your manual, cross out last year's version number/date and write in "Version7.1 2018", or print a new title page.
Updating your CanadaGAP Forms for 2018
  • Find out which record-keeping templates (CanadaGAP Forms) have changed. These are identified on the Outline of Main changes handout.
  • There is a new Form (V) to accompany the new requirement in Section 2.
  • There are a few changes to other forms.
  • Some changes may not be applicable to your operation.
  • Determine whether the changes pertain to you.
  • Start using the new versions of the Forms.
Published in Associations
February 2, 2018, Summerland, BC – Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.’s third non-browning Arctic apple variety, Arctic Fuji, has been approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada (HC).

The CFIA and HC announced recently that the Arctic Fuji variety “did not pose a greater risk to human health than apples currently available on the Canadian market. In addition, Health Canada also concluded that the Arctic Fuji apple would have no impact on allergies, and that there are no differences in the nutritional value of the Arctic Fuji apple compared to other traditional apple varieties available for consumption."

Arctic Fuji trees will join the growing commercial orchards of Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny apples in spring 2018.

“Canadian approval of the non-browning Arctic Fuji is great news for our company and even more exciting for families looking to add another favorite apple variety to their healthy diets and lifestyles,” said Neal Carter, president of OSF. “There has been very strong interest from retailers as we launched our first product – fresh, preservative-free Arctic Golden slices – and we look forward to introducing additional Arctic non-browning varieties into Canada and U.S. markets soon.”

Arctic apples have a unique trait that prevents enzymatic browning even when apples are bitten, sliced, or bruised. Through biotechnology, the enzyme in apples responsible for browning has been turned off. The resulting non-browning advantage benefits every sector of the supply chain, reducing food waste and boosting product appeal.

“It’s an exciting time at OSF,” said Carter. “This latest announcement allows us to continue looking ahead toward providing new non-browning varieties and additional value-added fruits and vegetables. Arctic apples are just the beginning for OSF.”

The announcement follows approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) of the Arctic Fuji variety, granted September 23, 2016. Arctic apples will be available commercially in select U.S. cities this fall and in additional areas of North America over the coming years as fruit availability increases.
Published in Companies
February 1, 2018, Madison, WI – The Colorado potato beetle is notorious for its role in starting the pesticide industry – and for its ability to resist the insecticides developed to stop it.

Managing the beetle costs tens of millions of dollars every year, but this is a welcome alternative to the billions of dollars in damage it could cause if left unchecked.

To better understand this tenacious pest, a team of scientists led by University of Wisconsin–Madison entomologist Sean Schoville sequenced the beetle’s genome, probing its genes for clues to its surprising adaptability to new environments and insecticides. The new information sheds light on how this insect jumps to new plant hosts and handles toxins, and it will help researchers explore more ways to control the beetle.

Schoville and colleagues from 33 other institutes and universities report their findings in the Jan. 31, 2018 issue of Scientific Reports.

The Colorado potato beetle’s rapid spread, hardiness, and recognizable tiger-like stripes have caught global attention since it began infesting potatoes in the 1800s. The beetle was investigated as a potential agricultural weapon by Germany in the 1940s and its postwar spread into the Soviet bloc stoked an anti-American propaganda campaign to pin the invasion on outsiders. More benignly, it has been featured on many countries’ stamps and is used in classrooms to educate about insect lifecycles.

But it was the beetle’s ability to rapidly develop resistance to insecticides and to spread to climates previously thought inhospitable that has fascinated and frustrated entomologists for decades.

“All that effort of trying to develop new insecticides is just blown out of the water by a pest like this that can just very quickly overcome it,” says Schoville. “That poses a challenge for potato growers and for the agricultural entomologists trying to manage it. And it’s just fascinating from an evolutionary perspective.”

Within the beetle’s genome, Schoville’s team found a diverse and large array of genes used for digesting plant proteins, helping the beetle thrive on its hosts. The beetle also had an expanded number of genes for sensing bitter tastes, likely because of their preference for the bitter nightshade family of plants, of which potatoes are a member.

But when it came to the pest’s infamous ability to overcome insecticides, the researchers were surprised to find that the Colorado potato beetle’s genome looked much like those of its less-hardy cousins. The team did not find new resistance-related genes to explain the insect’s tenaciousness.

“So this is what's interesting – it wasn't by diversifying their genome, adding new genes, that would explain rapid pesticide evolution,” says Schoville. “So it leaves us with a whole bunch of new questions to pursue how that works.”

Schoville and his collaborators see their research as a resource for the diverse group of scientists studying how to control the beetle as well as its life history and evolution.

“What this genome will do is enable us to ask all sorts of new questions around insects, why they’re pests and how they’ve evolved,” says Yolanda Chen, a professor at the University of Vermont and another leader of the beetle genome effort. “And that’s why we’re excited about it.”

The genome did provide a clue to the beetle’s known sensitivity to an alternative control system, known as RNA interference, or RNAi for short. The nucleic acid RNA translates the genetic instructions from DNA into proteins, and RNAi uses gene-specific strands of RNA to interfere with and degrade those messages. In the beetle, RNAi can be used to gum up its cellular machinery and act as a kind of insecticide. The Colorado potato beetle has an expanded RNAi processing pathway, meaning it could be particularly amenable to experimental RNAi control methods.

Schoville and Chen are now sequencing another 100 genomes of the Colorado potato beetle and its close relatives to continue investigating the hardiness and adaptability that have captured so many people’s attention for the past 150 years.
Published in Insects
January 30, 2018, Edmonton, Alta – Sour cherries and haskap (blue honeysuckles) are excellent fruit crops to grow in Alberta, with lots of potential markets for these tasty berries. These are relatively new crops in Alberta, with many changes and developments in the industry over the past five years.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has organized a full day workshop in Olds, Alta., to provide new or potential sour cherry and haskap producers with information on all aspects of growing these crops, from planting to harvest.

Participants will receive information on varietal selection, establishment, maintenance and harvest of both fruit crops, as well as more detailed information that applies to more advanced growers, in an evening session.

Economic realities and the importance of understanding and identifying target markets will also be covered.

Date: February 21, 2018
  • 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. – Registration
  • 9 a.m. to noon – Dwarf sour cherry sessions
  • Noon to 12:40 p.m. – Lunch (lunch and snacks provided)
  • 12:40 p.m. to 4 p.m. – Economics and introductory haskap sessions
  • 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Advanced haskap sessions
Location: Pomeroy Inn and Suites at Olds College, 4601 46 Avenue, Olds, Alta.

Cost: $20 per person (plus GST), full day, includes lunch, snacks and reference materials for each farm operation; $10/person (plus GST) (afternoon/evening advanced haskap sessions only)

Participants are asked to register in advance by calling the Ag-Info Centre Registration line at 1-800-387-6030 before to Feb. 14, 2018, to assist with planning. On-line registration is also available.
Published in Fruit
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