Horticultural Crops
September 12, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – On July 25 and 26, Quebec’s Apple Producers hosted the annual meeting of the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC)’s Canadian apple industry.

Representatives from the industry, from the Quebec and Canadian governments and from the other provinces increased their knowledge of Quebec’s apple industry.

The event, held in the Laurentians, was a huge success.

On July 25, networking among the members of the working group was undertaken in Mont-Tremblant. The crop estimate for each province was discussed. Crop volume for Nova Scotia should be similar to last year’s. Some Ontario producers faced hail that devastated a few orchards; in all, a slight drop in volume is predicted compared to 2016. A high volume of apples is predicted for British Columbia and the number of available Ambrosia is still increasing.

We also discussed the re-evaluation of Captan. Considerable action was taken following last year’s CHC survey of a number of Canadian apple producers. Recently, the various associations answered a second questionnaire from the PMRA in order to prepare arguments in favour of continuing its use in Canadian orchards.

It was proposed that a video be made on the international farm workers programs, stressing the importance of these workers for the horticultural industries of Quebec and Canada, and highlighting the program’s positive impact on the families of the workers. CHC needs funding to produce the video and is asking for the support of all those who can contribute financially.

The next day, members visited many apple-producing and agribusiness sites. Many presentations were made. Here are the details:

The Cataphard Orchards
  • Sexual Confusion, presented by Daniel Cormier, researcher at the IRDA
  • The Apple of Tomorrow, presented by Roland Joanin and Philippe Quinn
Marc Vincent Warehouse
  • The Agropomme Club, presented by Marilyn Courchesne
  • Storex Industries, presented by Chris Treville
Coeur de pomme Orchard
  • Apple Network and a group of experts, presented by Gérald Chouinard, researcher at the IRDA
  • Double grafting, harvester and weather station, presented by Éric St-Denis
Rochon et Frères Farm
  • SALSA handling concept and staking, presented by Éric Rochon
Thanks to Éric Rochon who organized the day in expert fashion, and to QAP employees and regional administrators who helped plan the day. Of course, an event such as this could not have been held without the generous contribution of our partners. We sincerely wish to thank them for having contributed to the success of the meeting.
Published in Associations
September 11, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario’s newest fruit crop, the Cold Snap pear, has gone from zero to zoom in record time and is now available through five major retail grocery chains. It’s a great grassroots success story that checks all the boxes giving Canadian growers an exciting new profitable crop option, and offering consumers locally produced fruit throughout the winter.

Ontario researchers at Vineland Research Innovation Centre set out to develop a new winter hearty pear to provide a new opportunity for Ontario growers. The resulting new variety – trademarked Cold Snap pear – was licensed to Vineland Growers Cooperative, a 300-member fruit and vegetable growing and processing cooperative in Ontario’s Niagara Region.

When the new pear was ready for commercial orchards, 80,000 trees were planted in Ontario and the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. After three years, the new trees began producing enough fruit to take to market. That’s where some of the most interesting challenges began.

“The hardest part of launching a new product is customer awareness and buy in,” says Matt Ecker, sales and business development manager with Vineland Growers Cooperative. “The Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding we received through the Agricultural Adaptation Council helped us develop and deliver messaging about the new pear directly to consumers through in-store demonstrations.”

And the response has been very positive for the new variety.

“Once people try our pears, they really liked them but we needed to make our brand pop to be able to change consumer behaviour about when they could buy fresh, local pears,” says Ecker.

Sales are off to a strong start and customer feedback indicates that Ontario consumers are embracing the new fruit option and enjoying the taste and texture of the Cold Snap pear.

For growers who planted the new pear, the opportunities are as refreshing as the fruit. Cold Snap pears are grown in high-density plantings. As the trees mature and grow into full production, growers can expect to yield up to 20 tonne/acre of fruit – or nearly double the yield of low density orchard plantings.

Higher yields bring greater efficiencies and profitability for growers. And the consumer marketing efforts will continue to build demand and bring higher returns to growers for this high value food product.

“Most consumers don’t realize they can buy Canadian pears into the winter season,” says Ecker. “We’re continuing our marketing and brand awareness push with consumers. We have marketing partners in Nova Scotia. And as we continue to grow consumer demand for our pear, we have plans to expand production with growers in British Columbia.”

Cold Snap pears will be available in five retailers in Ontario and Quebec for the 2017 season: Loblaws, Sobeys, Metro, Wal-Mart and Costco.
Published in Marketing
September 11, 2017, Geneva, NY – Breeding the next great grape is getting a boost thanks to new funding for a Cornell University-led project that uses genomic technology to create varieties that are more flavourful and sustainable.

The project – VitisGen2 – is a collaboration of 25 scientists from 11 institutions who are working in multidisciplinary teams to accelerate development of the next generation of grapes. Launched in 2011, the project was recently renewed with a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

The work has the potential to save millions of dollars annually for the U.S. grape industry – in excess of $100 million in California alone, according to Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), who co-leads the project with Lance Cadle-Davidson, plant pathologist with the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Research Unit, both located at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

VitisGen2’s multipronged model addresses the grape production continuum. An economics team examines the benefits of improving grape varieties. Geneticists identify molecular markers for important traits in grapes, from resistance to diseases like powdery mildew to boosting low-temperature tolerance and fruit quality. Grape-breeding scientists develop new grape varieties that incorporate these traits, and teams of outreach specialists help growers and consumers understand the advantages of newly introduced grape varieties.

The result is a new generation of high-quality grapes that can be grown at lower cost and adapt easily to a range of geographic regions and climates, all with less environmental impact.

“We all stand to benefit in areas ranging from the environment to economic sustainability to improving the profit and quality possibilities for the industry,” Reisch said.

Among the achievements in the project’s first five-year phase:
  • Deploying DNA sequencing technology to map the grape genome, a project led by Cadle-Davidson and Qi Sun of the Cornell Bioinformatics Facility.
  • Identifying 75 genetic markers associated with a range of important traits.
  • Pinpointing a gene that controls acidity in grapes. The discovery by the winemaking fruit quality team, led by Gavin Sacks, associate professor of food science in CALS, will help winemakers moderate excessive acid levels typically found in wild grape species, which are often used in crossbreeding for their resistance to disease.
  • Developing a process called Amplicon Sequencing, or AmpSeq, that allows researchers to rapidly analyze genetic variation in multiple genomic regions – anywhere from 2 to 500 DNA sequence markers – simultaneously.
The project has already shared its disease-resistant germplasm with breeding programs throughout the U.S., speeding the development of grape varieties with more flavour and that are more environmentally sustainable.

Looking to the future, Reisch and the VitisGen2 teams are aiming to expand the use of high-throughput DNA and plant evaluation technology to improve the quality of wine, raisin and table grapes, as well as rootstocks. VitisGen2 is using genome sequencing to identify markers within numerous genes of interest to better understand which genes are controlling priority traits.

The team is also looking at ways to use its collective knowledge of genetics to help growers manage vineyards. For example, AmpSeq technology can track the powdery mildew pathogen population, allowing researchers to determine which pesticides are most effective at specific times of the season, thereby reducing pesticide spraying and increasing its efficacy.

Ultimately, VitisGen2 will bring greater efficiency to grape growing, which is an intensive, comprehensive and costly process, said Reisch.

“It takes 15-plus years to get a new variety to the market,” Reisch said. “We’re probably shrinking the timeline down by two or three years.”
Published in Research
While most young men in the early 1900s were likely dreaming about driving a Model-T Ford, Norman M. Bartlett was thinking in an inventive way.

Living in Beamsville, Ontario – the heart of the Niagara Peninsula – had a strong influence on the direction of his thinking. The Niagara Peninsula has possibly the most unique combination of fertile soil types, climatic conditions and access to local markets in Canada.

It is also interesting to note that even at the turn of the century, the consumer was recognizing quality and placing demands on the growers to improve produce quality. This interest in quality plus quite possibly the fact that the major variety of pears grown in this area was (and still is) the Bartlett pear, (an interesting coincidence), were most probably the factors that strongly influenced Norman M. Bartlett’s life in 1912. During that year, he began manufacturing lime sulphur in a 40-inch cast iron kettle and thereby established Bartlett Spray Works. His product was excellent by 1912 standards, and Bartlett gained notoriety with this product as it helped to produce the quality crops the consumer desired. It was not long before other products were added to his list of crop protection materials and demand was spreading into the other fruit and vegetable growing areas of Ontario. Quality and service were synonymous from the very beginning.

Bartlett was a fruit grower as well during this time. The Bartlett farm on Bartlett Side Road in Beamsville consisted of a mixture of apples, grapes and pears – mostly Bartlett pears, of course. A grass-rooted involvement and extreme interest in trying to solve problems and find answers that were sound and profitable to not only Bartlett Spray Works, but to the growers he was serving then evolved. This would become the cornerstone of the foundation that N.M. Bartlett Inc. would still be building on some three generations and more than 80 years later.

Over the next quarter-century, Bartlett Spray Works continued to grow in both product range and geographical coverage. Products such as Paris Green, Bluestone (Copper Sulphate), Microfine Wettable Sulphur, Calcium Arsenate, Nicotine Sulphate, and Arsenate of Lead, to name but a few, were found under the Bartlett label. By this time, Bartlett had designed and built his own hammer mill and cyclone separator to be able to produce the finest ground sulphur in North America.

Bartlett Microfine Sulphur was known to growers as the best available. Soon word spread to other industries and Bartlett Microfine Sulphur was used extensively in the manufacture of rubber and explosives in Eastern Canada by companies such as Firestone, Uniroyal, CIL, and Dupont. When the use of dusts became the newest application method during the 1950s, Bartlett Spray Works met the challenge to produce quality products. The grind mill became instrumental in producing high quality superfine dusts.

The involvement of other Bartlett family members was also critical to the success of the company, which was incorporated in 1951 and renamed N.M. Bartlett Manufacturing Company. The three Bartlett children – Evelynne, Jim and George – all were involved in the family business. The children first helped out on the farm and, when old enough, became active in the spray works. George and his future brother-in-law, Hec Little, directed a staff of six involved in production, Evelynne managed the office and billing, and Jim looked after deliveries of the product, which included deliveries to the province of Quebec by the 1940s.

From the beginning, Norman had an inventive mind and enjoyed challenges. Therefore, it was not surprising that he designed and built fruit grading and sorting equipment as early as 1930. The Bartlett equipment set a world standard for excellence of handling fruit and vegetables. In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, Bartlett equipment was built for growers in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Israel, France, and United States as well as Canada.

In Canada, this equipment introduced the Bartlett name into other areas of the country. Bartlett equipment and the Bartlett reputation became know to all fruit and vegetable growers from coast to coast. All of these additions to the Bartlett line complemented the crop protection products, which remained the mainstay of the overall business.

Jim Bartlett took over the leadership of the company in the late 1950s when his father, Norman, suffered a stroke. After a full and eventful life with many credits to his name, Norman passed away in 1970 at the age of 77.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, the next generation of the Bartlett family became involved. The company name changed to N.M. Bartlett Inc. during the late 1970s and growth through service and commitment remained strong. The leadership provided by Jim to the company blossomed out into the industry.

Jim spent considerable time and effort working for effective policy. He advocated tirelessly on behalf of the industry to the federal government on issues of cross border importation. He championed the first minor use registration of pesticides program in Canada in 1977 to help keep Canadian horticultural growers competitive. And he was an early promoter of the need for federal help to bring new crop protection products to the small acre crops that make up the diverse horticulture industry in Canada.

Jim served as chair of the national organization now known as CropLife Canada and was involved in the creation of the CropLife Ontario Council – working to balance the interests of the industry with the interests of society.

He was an active member of a group that brought the first Ontario horticultural conference in Toronto. Today, that annual event is known as the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention and Jim’s grandson, Matt Peters, has served as its president. He’s one of eight grandchildren that represent the fourth generation in the Bartlett family business.

Jim continued to be actively involved in all the aspects of the business until 1981, when he had a severe heart attack. At that time, his brother-in-law, Hec Little, son-in-law Don Peters, and son, Craig Bartlett, became the management nucleus with Jim serving as a semi-retired advisor. This management team oversaw a broadening sales force of 13 across Canada and continued successfully through the 1980s. When Jim retired in 1987, he was elected as Chairman of the Board, and his son, Craig Bartlett, became president of the company.

Jim passed away in 2011, one year shy of the business celebrating 100 years. He was conducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in November 2016, recognized as a visionary, passionate advocate and respected voice in Canadian agriculture. He left behind a lasting legacy in a family business that continues to have a positive impact on Canadian horticulture.

The values set out by Norman and Jim have been carried forward in the third and fourth generation’s business goals and commitments. Service and dedication to the horticultural industry in Canada is still first and foremost.

In the words of Craig Bartlett: “We at N.M. Bartlett Inc. are proud of the heritage and values that the first two generations established, and the company looks forward to a future where we will continue to apply these time-tested values.”

Norman Bartlett himself would have been proud of the accomplishments to date of the little, privately-owned family business he started 105 years ago.
Published in Companies
September 7, 2017, Churchbridge, Sask – Organic vegetable producers Veronique Bouchard and Francois Handsfield of Mont-Tremblant QC, were named the 2017 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for the Quebec Region at their annual awards event held at the CentreExpo Cogeco de Drummondville on August 31.

With no farm history but shared values and dreams, Veronique and Francois became owners of “ferme aux petits oignons” where they grow more than 65 different vegetables, aromatic herbs, flowers and fruits that are certifed organic by Ecocert Canada. Protecting soil, water and energy is important to Veronique, who has a Masters in Environment, and Francois, who is a bioresource engineer.

“What a beautiful evening to celebrate the excellence of agriculture” said Franck Groeneweg, Canada OYF West vice chair. “Veronique Bouchard and Francois Handfield started with nothing and now produce vegetables on 10 acres that generate an impressive income while cherishing a balanced quality of life. I wish them well at the national competition in Penticton.”

The farm, located in a beautiful Laurentian valley, produces a wide variety of vegetables, all distributed in the immediate area. The farm is small, but profitable as they focus on control production costs. Their products are available at the summer market, directly at the farm store or through the internet subscription process for organic baskets they have developed.

The couple believe “they must constantly innovate and get off the beaten track” and are always willing to share their many innovations during workshops, visits to the farm and as mentors to new farmers/farms.

Celebrating 37 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year.

Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2017 will be chosen at the National Event in Penticton, BC, from November 30 to December 3, 2017.
Published in Profiles
September 7, 2017, Niagara, Ont – The Grape Growers of Ontario, Wine Council of Ontario and Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario have successfully negotiated a grape price agreement for the 2017 harvest.

This agreement recognizes the various price categories within the industry, and includes an important proviso for both processors and producers to actively participate in developing a sustainable industry wide plan following harvest.  

“The constant in our industry is the consistent grape quality our growers produce every year to make 100 per cent Ontario grown wine,” said Matthias Oppenlaender, chair of the GGO. “This agreement recognizes that growers, with their wine partners, can work together to collectively build and strengthen our grape and wine industry’s future.”

WGAO members purchase some 85 per cent of the grapes grown by independent farmers in Ontario for VQA and International Canadian Blend (ICB) wines, and we are very pleased that grape growers and processors have arrived at an agreement for grape prices in 2017,” stated Del Rollo, chair of the WGAO.

“I’m pleased we were able to reach an agreement on grape pricing for the 2017 harvest,” said Len Pennachetti, chair of the WCO. “The agreement provides price certainty, which will help wineries plan and potentially grow their businesses.”

Ontario’s grape and wine industry is a significant economic driver to the provincial economy which contributes over $4.4 billion economic impact through jobs, tourism and taxes, particularly in the province’s designated viticulture areas: Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edward County, Lake Erie North Shore, and the emerging South Coast region.
Published in Marketing
August 11, 2017, Langley, BC – There are more than 24,000 people employed in British Columbia’s agriculture industry and sun and heat exposure are workplace hazards for many of them.

Agriculture workers have a 2.5 to 3.5 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than indoor workers, according to a Sun Safety At Work Canada 2016 report. Employers are responsible for addressing this risk.

AgSafe, BC’s agriculture health and safety association, suggests the best way to reduce the risk of sun and heat exposure in the workplace is to implement a sun and heat safety action plan for outside workers.

“There are resources available for those who employ outdoor workers to help them develop and implement a sun and heat safety plan,” says Wendy Bennett, executive director of AgSafe. “The key is controlling the worker’s exposure to sun and the possibility of heat stress.”

Checking Environment Canada’s UV index regularly to monitor worker risk and providing a shade structure, where practical or enabling shade breaks on the worksite will help reduce the effects of sun exposure.

Scheduling heavy work outside of the hottest times of the day – before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. – when UV levels are lower, along with regular “cool-down” rest periods, will help reduce the risk of heat stress.

Knowing the signs of heat stress – decrease in alertness, extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, and fast shallow breathing, is very important and should be acted upon immediately if they present.

Bennett adds that the risk of heat stress is higher when employees are working outdoors with equipment that gives off heat.

Tips to avoid sun exposure and heat stress:
  • Wear loose-fitting tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing; wide brimmed hats that shade the face, ears and neck; apply sunscreen throughout the day
  • Wear sunglasses to protect eyes from UV rays
  • Hydrate regularly with water
  • Take breaks in the shade
Additional sun and heat safety information is available by visiting www.SunSafetyAtWork.ca or www.Weather.gc.ca.
Published in Vegetables
August 4, 2017, Boise, ID – Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have completed the food, feed, and environmental safety assessments of the J.R. Simplot Company’s second generation of Innate potatoes.

The authorizations enable the potatoes to be imported, planted, and sold in Canada, complementing the three varieties of Innate first generation potatoes that received regulatory approval last year.

Health Canada conducted a comprehensive safety assessment and approved the use of Innate second generation potatoes for food. In addition, CFIA determined that these potatoes are “as safe and nutritious as traditional potatoes” for use as livestock feed, and that the potatoes do not present increased risk to the environment when compared to currently cultivated potato varieties in Canada.

The second generation of Innate potatoes contains four beneficial traits of relevance to potato growers, processors and consumers:
  • Protection against the late blight pathogen
  • Reduced bruising and black spot
  • Reduced asparagine, which contributes to reduced acrylamide in cooked potatoes
  • Lower reducing sugars, which further contributes to reduced acrylamide while enhancing cold storage capability
These traits were achieved using genes from wild and cultivated potatoes to adapt the standard Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, and Atlantic potato varieties.

Innate late blight protection trait can convey up to a 50 per cent reduction in annual fungicide applications typically used to control late blight disease. This disease was a contributing cause of the Irish Potato Famine in the mid-19th century and remains a major constraint for production and storage. Further, research shows that Innate second generation potatoes help reduce waste associated with bruise, blight, and storage losses by reducing waste at multiple stages of the value chain, including in-field, during storage and processing, and in food service. That research suggests that these traits will translate to less land, water, and pesticide applications to produce these potatoes.

Lower asparagine and reducing sugars mean that accumulation levels of acrylamide can be reduced by up to 90 per cent more when these potatoes are cooked at high temperatures. In addition, lower reducing sugars enable cold storage at 3.3 Celsius for more than six months without significant degradation in quality.

According to academic estimates, if all fresh potatoes in Canada had Innate Generation 2 traits, potato waste (in-field, during storage, packing, retail and foodservice for fresh potatoes) could be reduced by 93 million kilograms. In addition, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 14 million kilograms, water usage reduced by 13 billion liters, and a total of 154,000 fewer pesticide hectare-applications would be needed.

“This is a big technology advancement for the Canadian potato industry,” said Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada. “As long as proper stewardship guidelines are followed, Innate biotechnology provides growers a promising option to significantly reduce waste, chemicals, and pesticides.”

“We’re excited to offer the latest generation of Innate potatoes to the Canadian marketplace,” said Susan Collinge, Ph.D., vice president of Simplot Plant Sciences, a division of the J.R. Simplot Company. “Innate second generation potatoes offer important benefits while staying within the potato genome to create a quality crop.”
Published in Federal
August 10, 2017, Leamington, Ont – Joe Sbrocchi will assume the general manager role at the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG), effective Sept 18th, 2017.

Sbrocchi has been active in a number of roles in the greenhouse sector for the last eight years. Previously, he has held management roles with national retailers like Sobeys and Walmart providing a solid body of work throughout the entire value chain.

“We are pleased to have a quality leader join the OGVG at a point where his experience, skills and leadership can significantly support our sector”, said George Gilvesy, OGVG chair.

“I believe my lifetime in produce and in particular the past eight years in the greenhouse sector have prepared me well for this role,” said Sbrocchi. “I am looking forward to representing Ontario greenhouse growers to the very best of my abilities.”
Published in Associations
August 10, 2017, Morgan Hill, CA – Next week, Sakata Seed America will host its annual California Field Days in Salinas [August 14-16] and Woodland [August 16-18], Calif.

This will be the 31st year Sakata has hosted the event, which continues to grow every year.

“We began hosting these trials in the small field in Salinas back in 1986,” said John Nelson, sales and marketing director with the company. “Since, it’s continues to expand with our growing infrastructure and has become our largest vegetable event of the year, showcasing the best of Sakata’s genetics and serving host to our customers, media, retail and more. We look forward to celebrating 40 years of business in NAFTA at this year’s trials.”

Those attending Sakata’s field days this year will see a few new modifications. Most notably, it will be the inaugural year Sakata will host its Woodland (warm-season crops – melon, onion, pepper, tomato, pumpkin, squash, watermelon) trials at the new Woodland Research Station; an investment in land, greenhouses, offices and other facilities slated for completion of the first phases in 2018. To learn more about Sakata’s Woodland development, check out the 40th Anniversary video.

In Salinas (cool-season crops – broccoli, beet, spinach, etc.) trials, customers will be greeted with an updated Broccoli Master. This information-rich piece of literature serves as the ultimate reference guide for all things Sakata broccoli, including ideal varieties for every growing region and other important information for successful broccoli cultivation.

“This will be the third generation of our Broccoli Master, and it has always been well-used by our dealers and growers alike,” said Matt Linder, senior broccoli product manager and Salinas Valley area sales manager. “It contains all the great information you need on our varieties right at your fingertips, and is heavy-duty enough to be kept in your truck or pocket when in the field. It’s been a few years since we’ve had an updated version, so we’re excited to include some great new additions we’ve recently added to our broccoli line, such as Millennium, Diamante, Eastern Magic, Eastern Crown and Emerald Star.”

For a digital copy, visit Sakata’s website; physical copies will be debuted at next week’s trials, and available for direct mail thereafter.
Published in Research
August 9, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The Agri-tourism and Farm Direct Marketing Bus Tour takes place September 11, 2017, in the Spruce Grove/West Yellowhead region.

“The tour will feature family-run businesses doing innovative things on smaller farms in rural Alberta,” says Colin Gosselin, with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry based in Stony Plain. “It will also feature a delicious local food lunch, an artisan winery tour, an experienced agri-tourism coach, and opportunities for networking, sharing, and discussion.”

Stops are at Happy Acres U-Pick, Shady Lane Estate and Leaman Exchange.

Cost for the tour is $25 per person, and includes tour transportation, lunch and refreshments. The bus pick-up and drop-off point will be in the Spruce Grove area. An alternate drop-off point in the Wildwood area is possible.

To register, call 1-800-387-603 by September 6. For more information, contact Colin Gosselin at 780-968-3518.
Published in Marketing
August 8, 2017, Wallaceburg, Ont – In the midst of uncertainty about the structure of their organization, Ontario processing vegetable growers recently received a strong show of support from all three general farm organizations in Ontario.

Ontario’s three provincial farm organizations came together to pen a joint letter to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission in support of the issues raised by the Processing Vegetable Growers’ Alliance.

“The Alliance represents farmers who grow 14 different types of processing vegetables in the province who are concerned about proposed changes to Regulation 441 that would dramatically reduce grassroots representation for our sector,” said Francis Dobbelaar, chair of the Processing Vegetable Growers’ Alliance. “We are truly grateful for the tremendous support shown to our group by these three leading organizations.”

Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, the National Farmers Union – Ontario, and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture represent the majority of Ontario farmers, including the approximately 400 processing vegetable growers. In their letter to the commission, which discussed proposed changes to Regulation 441/400, the groups call on the commission to consult directly with processing vegetable growers regarding any proposed governance changes that would impact the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers  organization.

“The goal of the Alliance is to restore a fully grower elected OPVG board with the authority to negotiate prices, terms, conditions and contracts for Ontario’s processing vegetable growers,” said Dobbelaar. “We are anxious to get on with the innovative plans we had in the works before the commission dismissed the OPVG board and senior staff – including establishing industry advisory and market development committees. We welcome innovation and change that will help strengthen and sustain our industry with profitability for both growers and processors.”
Published in Associations
August 4, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) recently held an AgriWorkforce Roundtable to discuss challenges and possible solutions to address the critical agricultural labour shortage in Canada.

Participants included primary producers, processors, retailers, policy makers and academics – all putting their heads together to come up with new solutions to what is becoming a persistent problem; how do you attract and retain farm workers?

Marc Smith, retired assistant director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, and senior Extension associate, opened the discussion with an international perspective on shared agricultural labour challenges among the United States and Canada.

Smith started off by identifying several trends in the U.S. agricultural labour climate:
  • Regardless of government policy, people seeking employment in agriculture will be scarce.
  • Economic and other motivations to develop and adopt labour-saving technologies are growing.
  • Political and economic pressures will force minimal wages higher in many states.
  • Perception of agriculture as an unattractive field for careers is a perennial challenge.
The consequences of these U.S. agricultural labour trends has resulted in a 20 per cent decline in available agricultural workers between 2002-14; an annual loss of $3.1B [US] to fruit and vegetable production due to labour shortages; and a declining U.S.-born population willing to work on farms.

In Canada, the gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. This was a key finding of Labour Market Information (LMI) research by CAHRC entitled Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future. The LMI research also revealed that Canadian primary agriculture had the highest industry job vacancy rate at seven per cent – higher than any other industry in Canada. This resulted in $1.5-billion in lost sales.

Poor worker compensation is often cited as the primary reason for low interest in working on farms. However, Smith notes that agricultural wages in the U.S. have gone up faster than any other sector in the past 10 years with the median wage being $13.23/hr ($17.76 CDN) as of April 2017. In Canada, farm hourly rates averaged $17.50/hr in 2016.

Smith advocates that wages alone are not the issue but rather what is needed is a coordinated effort to improve labour policy, on-farm workforce needs, and farm practices.

Smith suggests that farmers need to develop realistic policies that attract and retain workers. Investment in leadership and management capacity within the agricultural industry is also needed to encourage innovation, research and development for long-term solutions to the already critical agricultural workforce.

It is not enough to simply pay required wages and comply with regulations. Employee compensation should also include how workers are treated and have their needs accommodated such as providing housing, access to the internet, transportation, communications in their own language, offering English as a second language training, job training, flexible hours, and creating a sense of community. It is important to make workers feel welcomed, valued and confident.

Finally, modifying farm practices to reduce the need for labour is another way to reduce on-farm workforce pressures. This may include adopting new technology that negates the need for human workers, changing crop mixes to less labour intensive commodities, or moving production operations to streamline efficiency.

To help attract and retain a motivated workforce, CAHRC has developed several tools to help farm managers including: AgriSkills – customizable and commodity specific on-farm training programs; Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business; and Agri Pathways – promoting careers in agriculture. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.

In the meantime, Smith says producers should champion farmers that are doing a great job with their workers and get the word out that agriculture is a rewarding and fulfilling career with a strong future.
Published in Federal
July 27, 2017, Vineland, Ont – It’s been 10 years since a new horticultural research facility in Niagara Region was launched as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We will further lever consumer-driven plant breeding and work with the intent around pleasing consumers and trying to understand what they want so we can build that into our selection criteria,” Brandle says.
Published in Profiles
July 14, 2017, Gainesville, FL – Some people love to eat a juicy, seedless watermelon for a tasty, refreshing snack during a hot summer day. University of Florida scientists have found a way to stave off potential diseases while retaining that flavour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit www.tunnelberries.org.
Published in Research
June 19, 2017, Fredericton, NB – The development of the wild blueberry sector has been identified as a significant growth opportunity in New Brunswick’s economic development plan.

“The time is ripe to realize the full potential of this sector,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet. “Your government is committed to working with industry stakeholders to make the most of this exciting opportunity.”

Wild blueberry production has more than tripled over the past decade. The expansion of the sector was identified as a key opportunity for development in the New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan, the government’s framework for growing the economy and creating jobs for New Brunswickers.

“With the optimal climate, geography and land availability for wild blueberry development, the sector has huge potential for growth,” said Doucet.

Six components have been identified as necessary to help the industry prosper in New Brunswick:
  • Diversification of markets to find new global buyers.
  • Identification of value-added opportunities.
  • Increased production to meet future value-added demands.
  • Increased storage capacity to stabilize inventory.
  • Expanded consumption within the province via the Local Food and Beverage Strategy.
  • Opportunities for capital investment from the private sector.
There are 39,000 acres, both private and Crown land, currently under production in multiple locations and at various stages across the province, from the Acadian Peninsula to Charlotte County. The wild blueberry industry currently supports an estimated 440 jobs.

The government recognizes that First Nations communities have an interest in becoming more involved in the industry, and is working with those communities to ensure that they have opportunities to participate.

More than 300 farm families are involved in the province’s wild blueberry industry. New Brunswick accounts for 25 per cent of Canada’s overall production.
Published in Provinces
June 19 2017, Guelph, Ont – The diverse range of projects the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) funds was the focus of the organization’s summer reception and dinner held June 14 in Mississauga.

To date, Ontario organizations and collaborations have completed 195 projects through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), and funding for 385 projects totaling $33.3 million has been approved by the AAC board over the past four years.

The program was launched in 2013 and demand remained strong until the final application deadline this past April. GF2 officially ends March 31, 2018.

“The AAC is a strategic enabler. Projects funded have played a significant role in raising the standard and profile of Ontario's agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector,” said Kelly Duffy, AAC chair, in her remarks to the audience. “I know that if we continue to invest in the sector, we will produce long-lasting benefits that will impact future generations.”

Ontario Agri-Food Technologies is currently leading a project on open agri-food data collaboration, Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF).

It’s assessing where Ontario and Canada are with precision agriculture and what needs to be done to manage and enable data for future global market access and sustainability. OPAF is collaborating with an initiative called FIWare Mundus that is creating a global Future Internet (FI) ecosystem to enable easy, fast data sharing.

“We’re on the cusp of an evolution; data is at its centre and it’s the new commodity in agriculture,” said OAFT president Tyler Whale. “OPAF is a facilitator that creates trusted relationships amongst value chain partners to integrate new and existing data resources.”

The Ontario Produce Marketing Association is tackling the issue of food waste through a GF2 funded project, and according to lead researcher Martin Gooch of Value Chain Management International, there is a compelling business case for addressing the problem.

“People outside of the industry are often staggered by the amount of waste in food. This is the first project of its kind in North America,” said Gooch.

The OPMA program includes a series of workshops and a handbook with 10 easy to follow steps for identifying where waste happens in farm, processing or retail processes. According to Gooch, a soon-to-be-released case study clearly shows the opportunity of addressing food waste: a 29 per cent increase in grade-out of potatoes resulted in a 74 per cent increase in producer margin.

“A big thank you to AAC for providing the funding; it’s great working with an organization that encompasses the entire chain,” Gooch added.

Harry Pelissero of Egg Farmers of Ontario spoke briefly about one of EFO’s latest projects involving gender detection in unhatched eggs.

The non-invasive scanning technology developed at McGill University can identify the gender of day-old eggs before they are incubated. This means female eggs can be incubated for hatching and infertile or male eggs can enter the table or processing egg streams, eliminating the need to hatch male eggs.

AAC gave us the support to take this from the lab to pre-prototype and then prototype stage,” explained Pelissero. “The investment that AAC has put into this provides an economical solution to a challenge in the industry; this is an outcome that will literally go around the world.”

Duffy also used the opportunity to highlight overall GF2 program successes. Funding through this federal-provincial-territorial initiative has resulted in innovative research results, increased knowledge and awareness, access to new markets, and supported the overall competitiveness of the sector.
Published in Associations
June 19, 2017, Agassiz, BC – Dr. Rishi Burlakoti has joined the Agassiz Research and Development Centre (ARDC), bringing with him more than 10 years of experience in plant pathology. His research will address the new and existing diseases of high value horticultural crops, focusing mainly on small fruits and vegetable crops.

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

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

Dr. Burlakoti will be at the ARDC’s open house on July 22. Drop by to meet him and the rest of the centre’s staff as we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Alternatively, you can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 604-796-6011.
Published in Research
June 16, 2017, Saint John, NB – A honey bee pest, the small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, has been reported in New Brunswick for the first time.

It has been found in honey bee colonies imported from Ontario in wild blueberry fields at the following locations:
  • Alnwick (near Brantville)
  • Pont-Lafrance in Gloucester County
  • two locations near Saint-Sauveur (Lord and Foy area)
  • Saint-Isidore
All imported colonies and NB colonies in blueberry fields from the areas indicated above are in quarantine until further notice. They are not permitted to be moved within blueberry fields or between blueberry fields.

In order to locate NB bee colonies in these areas, DAAF would like NB blueberry growers with fields in these areas to contact department staff and indicate where the NB colonies are located and who they belong to.
Published in Insects

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