Production
June 13, 2017, Tampa, FL – Harvest CROO Robotics announced the introduction of their autonomous vehicle. This is a major step towards the completion of the Alpha Unit, which is expected to be picking strawberries in Florida next winter.

As part of Phase I of the National Science Foundation Grant, Harvest CROO Robotics is developing software and hardware tools. They include the vehicle’s GPS navigation system, LIDAR technology, and other camera and sensor features.

The mobile platform is a modified version of a Colby Harvest Pro Machine. With four-wheel steering, turning movement will be smooth and precise, providing a zero turning radius for greater maneuverability than a standard tractor. Special levelling hardware and software has been developed and added to allow the vehicle to compensate for varying bed heights.

The vehicle will carry 16 picking robots through the field and span 6 beds of plants, picking the four middle beds. The Harvest CROO machine is equipped with a dual GPS system. The Harvester uses both GPS systems to interpolate the position of the platform to be able to position the robots precisely over the plants.

“Having the machine navigate the fields autonomously is the culmination of years of work and prototyping,” said Bob Pitzer, Co-Founder and CTO of Harvest CROO. “It is very gratifying to see our team effort come to fruition.”

Harvest CROO Robotics continues to develop and test the latest technology for agricultural robotics. Using the proprietary vision system, all ripe berries will be harvested from the plants.

The fruit will then be transferred up to the platform level of the machine using a series of conveyers. There, the packing module of the machine will perform a secondary inspection and grade the fruit.

Depending on quality, it will either be packed into consumer units, diverted to process trays, or discarded. The use of this technology will improve the quality of the berries picked, reduce energy usage, and increase strawberry yields.

In December, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant worth up to $1 million. Harvest CROO Robotics used part of these funds to bring several highly qualified and experienced individuals on board the project. Scott Jantz, Electrical Engineering Manager, said, “We all feel like we are part of something special.”

While fundraising for the project has been ongoing, the current investment round will likely be closed at the end of July, when field testing of the vehicle is completed. “We will possibly open a new investment round early next year, at a higher valuation.”, stated Gary Wishnatzki, Co-Founder. “The new unit price will reflect the successful deployment of the Alpha Unit, a key milestone.”
Published in Harvesting
June 9, 2017, Fredericton, N.B. - Housed in Canada’s centre of excellence for potato research along the Saint John River Valley in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s scientists maintain a living library of nearly 180 potentially high-value potato gene resources.

Canada’s potato gene bank, or Canadian Potato Genetic Resources, is part of an international commitment to global food security.

If disease or a natural disaster strikes and potato crops are devastated, researchers from anywhere in the world can turn to the gene bank to rebuild the stock.

Researchers can also call on the gene bank for resources to help them develop stronger, more disease-resistant and environmentally-resilient varieties.

"We preserve some potato varieties that are of unique value to northern latitude climates, varieties that are adapted to shorter seasons with longer daylight hours. Only certain star varieties are grown by the potato industry so in the interest of preserving genetic diversity, an important part of our role as gene bank curators is to back up our genetic resources," said Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, Gene Resources Curator, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Unlike other gene banks that preserve seed-propagated crops like grains, the potato gene bank is made up of live tissue cultures or tubers which are perishable and require- constant maintenance.

Plantlets are grown in aseptic conditions in test tubes that are stored in temperature-controlled growth chambers for six to eight weeks at a time. The collection is then refreshed,continuously monitored and periodically tested for contaminations.

Microtubers, or tiny potatoes about the size of a raisin, are also produced in test-tubes and preserved for up to a year as a backup. A duplicate collection of microtubers is kept at AAFC's Saskatoon Research and Development Centre.

"It's well worth it," says Dr. Bizimungu of the work involved in conserving high-value potato genetic diversity. "There are many potato varieties that aren't grown today that have traits that are of current or future interest to researchers and educators. Preserving these varieties ensures valuable attributes, and even those with known susceptibility to certain diseases, are kept for the development of future, better varieties."

The collection is comprised of heritage varieties, modern Canadian-bred varieties, as well as strains known to show differential reactions to certain diseases and breeding lines with specific traits scientists are interested in studying.

In addition to Canadian varieties, the collection also includes varieties from the U.S., Peru and many European countries including Ireland, the Netherlands and Estonia.

Canadian Potato Genetic Resource is part of Plant Gene Resources Canada (PRGC). The mandate of PGRC is to acquire, preserve and evaluate the genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives with focus on germplasm of economic importance or potential for Canada.
Published in Vegetables
June 8, 2017, Halifax, NS – Atlantic Canada wine is the focus for more than 200 industry experts attending the Atlantic Canada Wine Symposium (ACWS) at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel from June 11 to 13, 2017. The three-day symposium will provide an educational opportunity for existing and interested industry professionals to learn more about current topics specific to the wine industry on the East Coast.

“We are Canada’s emerging wine region here on the East Coast, and we have come a long way since the last symposium was held back in 2012,” says Gillian Mainguy, executive director of the Winery Association of Nova Scotia. “The number of Atlantic Canada wineries has increased by 50 per cent in five short years, which is a testament to the potential for growing grapes in our region.”

This year’s ACWS welcomes more than 40 high-profile speakers from around the world. London-based wine writer, lecturer, wine judge and author Jamie Goode will present the keynote address on June 12. Goode has a PhD in plant biology and has worked as a science editor. Goode also started the popular wine website, wineanorak.com. His address will provide advice on marketing Atlantic Canada as an emerging wine region.

Other prominent speakers include Stephen Skelton, Master of Wine; Johannes Kruetten, Clemens Technologies; Paul Wagner, Balzac Communications & Marketing, San Francisco, CA., as well as Alice Feiring, writer and controversial figure in the natural wine movement.

"With the expansion of acreage in full swing here in Nova Scotia and the surrounding area, it's a timely thing this meeting of the mind … to help ensure that this emerging wine region is in pursuit of the cutting edge that will truly put us on the global wine map,” says Scott Savoy, symposium panel speaker and vineyard manager of Benjamin Bridge.

The 2017 symposium includes workshops, winery tours, wine tastings and a supplier marketplace showcasing innovative exhibitor products and services. With a diverse audience of delegates attending, the symposium is an opportunity for winemakers, vineyard managers, grape growers, winery owners, journalists, sommeliers, and educators to learn more about the Atlantic Canada wine industry.

For more information about registration as well as a complete list of events and visiting speakers for the ACWS, please visit atlanticwinesymposium.ca.
Published in Fruit
June 8, 2017, Vancouver, B.C. – Following a colder, wetter year than the past two seasons, British Columbia’s 700 local blueberry growers are getting ready to start harvesting berries around the first week of July.

“Compared to the last couple of years, it might seem like the B.C. blueberry season is starting late this year. But what we’re expecting in 2017 is actually more in line with the timing of what a ‘normal’ harvest would be,” said BC Blueberry Council board chair Nancy Chong. While picking will start later than last year, a good supply of high-quality blueberries is expected with the season stretching through until mid-September.

The start of the 2017 blueberry harvest in B.C. is expected to be around four weeks later than the start of the 2016 season, when pickers in some areas were out in the field as early as the first week of June.

Much colder temperatures and wetter winter and spring conditions have led to more work in the fields for growers, but made it harder to get out there and take care of tasks such as pruning.

“Last October and November were a bit warmer than usual, but a lot wetter than average, and then in December, we experienced a drastic drop in temperature and high winds. All of these weather conditions resulted in follow-on effects through the winter and spring,” said Chong.

To drive demand for local blueberries in international markets, the British Columbia Blueberry Council continues to regularly attend key international trade shows such as Gulfood in Dubai, Anuga and Fruit Logistica in Germany, Foodex Japan, and Food & Hotel China.
Published in Fruit
June 5, 2017, Montreal, QB – The Agri-business Division of La Coop fédérée has just signed a strategic agreement with a major player in digital agriculture in California.

This easy-to-use online solution presents a comprehensive approach to data collection and analysis in crop production. Combined with the agronomic knowledge of the Agri-business Division, it will enable Canadian farmers to maximize productivity and profitability on their farms.

La Coop fédérée retailers will also benefit from this tool which will enable farmers and advisors to work closer together.

This partnership fully supports the digital transformation of the Agri-business Division as it provides farmers, advisors and retailers with innovative tools to assist in the management of their farms.

In addition to precision farming, the solution will include improved management of record keeping and regulatory compliance requirements at the provincial and national levels. Canadian agricultural farmers and retailers will benefit from the analytical capabilities of more accurate data from inter-connected tools such as satellite imagery.

This digital solution will also enable users to take charge of their agronomic planning in an efficient and sustainable manner from their mobile devices.
Published in Equipment
May 25, 2017 - Embrun, Ont. - Flooding, pests, disease and other extreme weather events are constant risks to the businesses and livelihoods of farmers. The Government of Canada is committed to working with industry partners to explore and develop new risk management tools that meets the needs of Canadian farmers when faced with serious challenges beyond their control.

Member of Parliament, Francis Drouin, today announced a $786,921 investment for Farm Management Canada to develop a new online agricultural risk management tool called "AgriShield".

This online tool will help farmers have real-time assessments of the potential negative impact of risks to their businesses and provide mitigation solutions. For instance, if an overland flood situation is imminent, the tool can help farmers to assess the degree of risk they face and potential mitigation measures that they can adopt, such as tile draining or insurance coverage.

This investment is being made through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI) which supports the research and development, as well as the implementation and administration of new risk management tools for use in the agriculture sector.
Published in Equipment
May 31, 2017, New Hamburg, Ont. – An Ontario company that developed lunar rovers for the Canadian Space Agency has adapted the technology for use on earth.

The resulting vehicle – called Argo J5 XTR (Xtreme Terrain Robot) — has applications across a variety of industries, including agriculture.

Ontario Drive & Gear Limited (ODG) is well-known to many consumers as the maker of Argo, popular all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that can travel on rough terrain through land and water.

The Argo J5 XTR is an unmanned robotic platform that travels on rough terrain in a variety of conditions ranging from war zones to underground mines — without putting an individual operator at risk. READ MORE
Published in Production
May 29, 2017, Rougemont, QB - Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED)
Businesses need to be able to rely on adequate resources to create and market innovative products.

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting innovative Canadian enterprises. A real economic engine, innovation is the key to success, generating growth that benefits businesses and communities.

Acting on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for CED, Pierre Breton, Member of Parliament for Shefford, announced that the McKeown Cidery Inc. has been granted $188,550 in financial assistance, in the form of a repayable contribution, to acquire specialized equipment and implement a marketing strategy in the United States.

Founded in 2004, the McKeown Cidery is a deeply rooted business that makes its cider from apples hand-picked from its orchards in Rougemont.

The company's many prize-winning products are available across Quebec and in Great Britain, Norway and China. For the company to grow, it has to conquer foreign markets, including the American cider market, where there is increasing demand for craft cider in cans.

The funding provided under CED's Quebec Economic Development Program (QEDP) will enable the company to acquire a canning line, a coding machine and a shrink sleeve applicator to meet the requirements of the American market and to promote its products there.

CED is one of the six regional development agencies under the responsibility of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
Published in Companies
May 26, 2017 – Embrun, Ont. – Flooding, pests, disease and other extreme weather events are constant risks to the businesses and livelihoods of farmers.

The Government of Canada is committed to working with industry partners to explore and develop new risk management tools that meets the needs of Canadian farmers when faced with serious challenges beyond their control.

Member of Parliament, Francis Drouin, today announced a $786,921 investment for Farm Management Canada to develop a new online agricultural risk management tool called “AgriShield”.

This online tool will help farmers have real-time assessments of the potential negative impact of risks to their businesses and provide mitigation solutions. For instance, if an overland flood situation is imminent, the tool can help farmers to assess the degree of risk they face and potential mitigation measures that they can adopt, such as tile draining or insurance coverage.

This investment is being made through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI) which supports the research and development, as well as the implementation and administration of new risk management tools for use in the agriculture sector.
Published in Production
May 25, 2017, P.E.I. - There will be no commercially grown GMO potatoes on Prince Edward Island this year, according to Simplot Plant Sciences, the company that developed the Innate potato.

Innate potatoes bruise less and have less black spots than conventional potatoes.

Doug Cole, director of marketing and communications, said the company is holding off allowing commercial growth of Innate potatoes in Canada until there's a proven market for them. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
May 24, 2017 Westminster, CO- A recent survey conducted by the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) ranks Palmer amaranth as the most troublesome and difficult to control weed in 12 categories of broadleaf crops, fruits and vegetables, while common lambsquarters ranks as the weed most commonly found.

Almost 200 weed scientists across the U.S. and Canada participated in the 2016 survey, the second conducted by WSSA.

A 2015 baseline survey explored the most common and troublesome weeds in 26 different crops and noncrop areas.

The current survey ranks the following weeds as the most troublesome or the most common among broadleaf crops, fruits and vegetables:

TOP 10 WEEDS IN BROADLEAF CROPS, FRUITS & VEGETABLES

Most Troublesome
  1. Palmer amaranth
  2. Common lambsquarters
  3. Horseweed (marestail)
  4. Morningglory (ivyleaf, pitted, tall)
  5. Waterhemp (tall, common)
  6. Nutsedge (yellow, purple)
  7. Kochia
  8. Common ragweed
  9. Giant ragweed
  10. Nightshade (eastern black, hairy)
Most Common
  1. Common lambsquarters
  2. Foxtail (giant, green, yellow)
  3. Morningglory (ivyleaf, pitted, tall)
  4. Palmer amaranth
  5. Redroot pigweed
  6. Waterhemp (tall, common)
  7. Horseweed (marestail)
  8. Common ragweed
  9. Barnyardgrass
  10. Velvetleaf
Six weed species appeared on both the “most troublesome” and “most common” lists, including Palmer amaranth, common lambsquarters, horseweed, morningglory, waterhemp and common ragweed.

“Weed scientists have confirmed multiple cases of herbicide resistance in all six of these weed species, except for the morningglories where there is suspected resistance to glyphosate,” says Lee Van Wychen, Ph.D., science policy director for WSSA. “While each of these species has evolved traits that make them widespread and tough competitors in broadleaf crops like soybeans and cotton, there is no question that their difficulty to control with herbicides has pushed them to the top of the list in this survey.”

WSSA also sorted the survey data to produce the following crop-specific results, shown below by crop, most troublesome weed and most common weed, respectively:
  • Alfalfa: Canada thistle; dandelion
  • Canola: kochia; wild oat
  • Cotton: Palmer amaranth; morningglory (ivyleaf, pitted, tall)
  • Fruits & nuts: field bindweed; horseweed (marestail)
  • Peanuts: nutsedge (yellow, purple); Palmer amaranth
  • Pulse crops: common lambsquarters; common lambsquarters
  • Soybeans: horseweed, waterhemp (tall, common); waterhemp (tall, common)
  • Sugar beets: common lambsquarters; common lambsquarters
  • Vegetables: nutsedge (yellow, purple); common lambsquarters
Although listed as the most troublesome weed in cotton only, Palmer amaranth was ranked first in the overall survey based on the number of respondents who cited it as a problem.

Common lambsquarters is widely distributed across the northern half of the United States and southern Canada. It is not surprising that it ranked as the most common weed in sugar beets, vegetable crops and pulse crops, such as dry edible beans, lentils and chickpeas.

WSSA plans to conduct habitat-specific weed surveys annually. The 2017 survey will focus on weeds in grass crops, pasture and turf, while the 2018 survey will focus on weeds in aquatic environments, natural areas and other noncrop settings.

The 2016 survey data is posted online at http://wssa.net/wssa/weed/surveys.

For more information specific to herbicide-resistant weeds, see the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds, available at http://weedscience.com.
Published in Research
May 23, 2017, B.C. - Cooler weather this spring has resulted in a later start to the season for all commodities, which means consumers will see and taste cherries starting end of June this year.

The good news - BC Tree Fruits are anticipating a record 12 million pounds of cherries this season.

The 12 million pounds of BC Tree Fruits cherries estimated for the season is up from the 8 million pounds from 2016, although last year's estimate was for 12 million pounds as well before inclement weather reduced the crop volume.

At this time, BC Tree Fruits is anticipating a very good peach, nectarine, prune, plum and grape crop with volumes similar to last year.

"With weather serving up a cooler spring this year, it has enabled our grower base to be prepared for a delicious and high quality crop of cherries at more traditional timing," says BC Tree Fruits Marketing Manager Chris Pollock. "Cherries and the rest of our summer fruits went through the bloom period exceptionally well and our growers are excited for a great crop this year with harvest starting end of June for cherries in the South, with the fruit hitting retail shelves very soon after."

The primary market for BC Tree Fruits summer fruits remains Western Canada. BC Tree Fruits also continues to export increased volumes of cherries to the United States and key export markets.
Published in Companies
May 23, 2017, New Brunswick - Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada entomologist Dr. Chandra Moffat is on the lookout for evidence of an agricultural pest that is causing significant damage to crops in the U.S. and parts of Canada.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is an invasive insect that damages various fruit and vegetable crops including apples, tomatoes, beans and many others.

While the insect hasn’t been detected in the province, scientists are expecting its arrival in the next few years.

To get ahead of the game, Dr. Moffat is setting traps in key locations across the province to try to determine if the pest has made its way to N.B.

Originally from Asia, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was first detected in the U.S. in 2001.

Since then, the pest has established populations in many U.S. states as well as B.C., Ontario and in 2016 it was discovered in Quebec.

While there are other stink bugs native to this region, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug has distinct markings that give it away.

These pests have two obvious white bands on otherwise dark antennae, inward-pointing white triangles between dark markings along the edge of the abdomen, and a smooth edge along the pronotum or "shoulders".

They are mottled brown-grey dorsally and a have a pale underside. Legs have faint white bands.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug can be found in homes or storage sheds over the winter and start making their way outside in the spring. Moffat is asking New Brunswickers to be our citizen scientists this season and be on the lookout for this pest.

Campers and travellers spending time in the U.S. or central and western Canada this summer are asked to check their luggage and trailers for signs of the pest before returning to N.B.

If you think you’ve found a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, please contact Dr. Chandra Moffat at ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) to make arrangements for identification.
Published in Research
May 19, 2017, Holland Marsh, Ont. - Environment Canada says a downburst destroyed a barn and caused all sorts of damage in the Holland Marsh and York Region.

Wind gusts stronger than 85 km/h accompanied a band of thunderstorms that moved east across central Ontario on Thursday evening.

The hardest hit areas were in the Holland Marsh, where winds obliterated a barn, tossing debris across a large field. Winds also forced a tractor trailer to flip on Highway 400 north at Canal Road. READ MORE


Video: Drone footage of the Holland Marsh following the May 18 storm system
Published in Vegetables
May 17, 2017, Mississauga, Ont. – Bee Vectoring Technologies is pleased to announce successful, verified results from large commercial scale demonstrations of its proprietary crop production system, with strawberry growers in Florida.

The demonstrations were conducted in the Plant City area of Hillsborough County, Florida, the main winter strawberry growing region in the U.S. which produces around 20 million flats of strawberries on 11,000 acres every year.

Three influential growers who combined, control about 30 per cent of the production in the region, expressed interest in gauging how the BVT System, consisting of a bumble bee hive with proprietary dispenser technology through which BVT's proprietary plant beneficial microbe BVT-CR7 is delivered to crops using bumble bees, could improve the productivity of their farming operations and how it could be incorporated into their crop production practices on a commercial scale.

The demonstration fields were assessed for both (a) control of botrytis gray mold, a costly disease in strawberries which causes the fruit to rot and reduces the shelf life of berries, and (b) the ability to improve marketable yield.

"These are significant results and confirm that the positive results we have seen in the numerous field trials we have done over the last couple of seasons, also apply in commercial fields under real-life conditions," stated Ashish Malik, CEO of BVT. "We have been able to demonstrate that the BVT system improves yields 1) in the presence, or even in the absence of botrytis disease pressure, which is significant since it shows our system brings value to growers regardless of the severity of the disease which will follow a natural cycle from year to year; 2) with full or reduced amounts of chemical fungicides giving the grower flexibility in how they want to use the system."

Jay Sizemore, owner of JayMar Farms where one of the demonstrations was done said "These are some encouraging results. Growers are always looking to improve what we do since our margins keep getting thinner. I thought the BVT system had a lot of promise when I first learnt about it which is why I was eager to try it, and I am pleased to see my thoughts confirmed with the positive results from the demo. It is especially compelling since this is an all-natural way to seemingly improve productivity of the berry crop."

Mr. Malik added "It is notable that, based on the yield increases that have been recorded because of using the BVT system on the three test sites, if the entire Plant City strawberry crop was treated, it could theoretically lead to the production of 1.2M to 5.8M additional flats of strawberries, or put another way, generate between $10 million to $50 million in additional revenue for the growers in the area. We are very thankful to our three grower partners for their cooperation and look forward to continuing our discussions with them on how best to integrate our system into their long-term farming operations."

"Large-scale commercial demos represent the final pre-commercial stage in the well-established path to commercialization that forms the basis of any major adoption of new on-farm technology. We expect these latest demos to further accelerate demand for our technology and allow us to successfully complete our go-to-market plans," said Mr. Malik.

In the first demonstration, conducted on 40 acres at JayMar Farms, the field was divided into three sections: one section was treated with chemical fungicides alone, the second section was treated with the BVT system and the same chemical program used in the first section, while in the third section the BVT system was used with a 50 per cent reduction in the chemical sprays.
  • The two sections with the BVT system had statistically significant reductions in incidence of botrytis gray mold (3 per cent vs 13 per cent)
  • The section where the BVT system was used with a 50 per cent reduction of the chemical fungicides had the best marketable yield, 26 per cent better yield than chemicals alone in direct comparisons
  • The section where the BVT system was used together with the full chemical program produced a 6 per cent higher yield than where the chemicals were used alone in direct comparisons
The second grower demonstration was conducted on 20 acres with three sections: one section was treated with chemical fungicides alone, while the other two were treated with the BVT system in addition to the chemical fungicide program.
  • All sections of the field had low levels of botrytis gray mold
  • The two sections where the BVT system was used produced 6 per cent and 24 per cent more marketable yield respectively than chemical fungicides alone
  • On average for the season, plants in the sections where the BVT system was used produced 11 per cent more berries per plot compared against the chemical fungicide section
The third grower demonstration was conducted on 10 acres with two sections: one with a chemical program, and the other with the BVT system plus the same chemical program.
  • Both sections of the field had low levels of incidence of the botrytis disease
  • The section with the BVT system had a 29 per cent higher marketable yield across two observations when compared against the chemical only section
The Company is continuing to successfully execute on its documented growth strategy while driving towards commercialization of its proprietary system. BVT is selectively expanding its market opportunities while continuing towards securing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory approval of its BVT-CR7 beneficial microbe.

In the next six months, the Company will complete its go to market planning for the commercial launch including finalizing the business model, pricing and distribution partnerships, and is planning trials in additional crops and countries, including sunflowers in the U.S. and in strawberries and tomatoes in Europe.
Published in Research
May 17, 2017 - In an effort to educate growers about the use of injectors in chemigation and fertigation agricultural applications, Mazzei has put together a PowerPoint training program.

The program is available in both English and Spanish and can be viewed for free through the Mazzei website and the MazzeiSolutions YouTube page.

The presentation was designed to help users properly size Mazzei chemigation/fertigation systems for various applications and to better understand the most effective methods.
Published in Chemicals
The post-application risk of carbaryl to workers and growers alike has recently been re-evaluated by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and some cautionary changes have been made for both low and high-density apple trellis systems.

“Rates are not reduced,” assured Amanda Green, tree fruit specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), and apple session moderator at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Convention (OFVC). “It’s the number of applications per year and total amount applied per year that is reduced.”

She explained that growers are now limited to just one carbaryl application per season and they must stay under 1.0 kg of a.i. per hectare for low-density orchards, and 1.5 kg a.i. per hectare for high-density orchards.

“This has been quite a challenge,” Green said, adding that three panelists – Charles Stevens of Wilmot Orchards; Zac Farmer of Watson Farms Ltd. and Sean Bartlett with N.M. Bartlett Inc. – had been invited to speak about their thinning experiences and how they plan to manage crop load in the future.

Charles Stevens

Stevens opened the panel discussion with a question for the audience.

“If you have perfect bloom, perfect set, and you have chemically thinned and left all king blooms – have you over thinned, under thinned or got it just right? How many in this room have over thinned or under thinned?” he asked. Not a single hand was raised. He answered that given 10 per cent of bloom set gives a full crop of apples and you have left 20 per cent of apples on the tree, you have under thinned by 10 per cent.

“My wife says it’s like I have PMS for two weeks every year,” Stevens said. “Thinning is one of the most stressful jobs on the farm and makes us moody, grumpy and stressed out.”

“I want to touch on three different apples: Honeycrisp, Gala and Ambrosia. Last year, we thinned Honeycrisp in a totally different way. We found out from Michigan, where they did some research, that two doses of NAA [napthaleneacetic acid] by itself at 10 parts per million – one at full bloom and one at petal fall – came out with perfect thinning jobs after performing two trials,” Stevens said.

“So, we applied 10 parts per million at full bloom and then it got hot and we got a bit scared. We backed off to 7.5 parts per million at petal fall. Fear is the detriment of thinning. At the end of the day, all fruit buds had very few seconds, or side blooms. If I had to do it over again, I would have gone in again at 10 to 12 mm fruit size with a full dose of Sevin [carbaryl] and 10 parts per million of NAA, resulting in me chemically thinning three times. At the end of the day, Sevin was not used for thinning Honeycrisp last year,” he said.

“We used ATS [ammonium thiosulphate] on Honeycrisp last year instead of Sevin as an alternative and had little response. It’s very sensitive to environmental conditions and thus was not an effective alternative,” said Stevens.

“The Galas were under thinned again last year. Normally, we do a full dose of Sevin on everything at petal fall but we missed that window. There was too much going on and it got hot, so we didn’t get it on. And, because of the restrictions, we’re not going to do that down the road,” he said.

“Sevin is the most important thinning chemistry at this time as the balance of the thinning chemistries perform better when mixed with Sevin. For Galas, we put on a full dose of Sevin, 115 parts per million of 6-BA at 8 to 10 mm fruit size, and we felt we did a good job. But, at the end of the day, we still left too many apples on the trees,” said Stevens.

“We will use 6-BA for size enhancement. It’s not strong as a chemical thinner so, without Sevin, it does not do a good job on anything,” he said.

“In all my chemical thinning days, Ambrosia is the only crop that I dropped on the ground one year because it was temperature and climate related. I used the same chemistry as the years before and it was cloudy for a couple of days. I sprayed and the next day it was 28 degrees [Celsius]. We dropped all our Ambrosia on the ground. That was probably the only over thinning of apples I have ever done,” said Stevens.

“Last year, we did a perfect job on Ambrosia. I feel that the size of the apple at around at least 11 to 12 mm bud size is the time to thin. From my experience, anything earlier and you’ll over thin Ambrosia. We use a full dose of Sevin and about 60 parts per million of 6-BA. So, that’s the story on Ambrosia. It’s a little simpler apple to thin and makes for a beautiful crop,” he said.

“In the world of chemistries that are coming along, there are two acids that are in the works and hopefully will be registered for use here in Canada. One is called ACC [1-aminocyclopropane carboxylic acid] and the other is Brevis,” he said. “Both ACC and Brevis are stand alone products that don’t require the use of Sevin and also have a wider range of use, meaning that they can be used on a larger apple.”

Zac Farmer

“I’m going to touch on the same three apples as Charles: Honeycrisp, Gala and Ambrosia. We were in the same boat as him. In the past, we took the same approach with a Sevin (application) at petal fall early,” said Farmer.

“We chose not to do that last year to jump-start our learning curve on living without Sevin, using it just once a season.”

On younger Honeycrisp trees, Farmer applied 10 parts per million of NAA, thinning at the 100-gallon rate.

“It seemed to work nicely with two applications,” he said. “We live just 10 minutes from Charles and we got the same heat but we didn’t back off on the second application except for two blocks at 5 parts instead of 10 parts per million NAA. We wish we hadn’t. We did less hand thinning last year, and I still wasn't happy with the amount we took off.”

“We did some trials with ATS, our second year with it, and we’re running two per cent oil. At full bloom, you’re aiming for the kings. You have to watch the bees to make sure they’re done pollinating or you’ll burn a lot more off than you wanted. We did that on a block of Gala. Not everything got burned but there was a valley in the field where pretty much everything there got smoked due to lack of pollination. It was all sprayed at the same time so it’s very weather and time sensitive,” said Farmer.

They also did some trials with lime-sulphur at 1.2 per cent with two per cent oil.

“We did it again this year and we’re happy with it. It’s a lot more finicky than ATS so we’re going to do more ATS this year,” he said.

“All that stuff we try to do early, then we come back in with a litre of Sevin or two litres of MaxCel, plus one or two per cent oil. If we’re limited on the Sevin, we’re going to have to do more with the NAA and those new thinners once they come along,” said Farmer.

“On Ambrosia, we’ve never used a lot of Sevin. We do thin a little bit earlier than Charles but usually one litre of MaxCel is enough, or a half litre of Sevin on the really heavy stuff. They seem to respond really well to that. I think Ambrosia is very manageable with one application of Sevin, it’s Gala that’s a really hard one.”

Last year, Watson Farms Ltd. had a drought so thinned hard on the Gala. The variety never did size and part of that was due to lack of moisture.

“On older trees, we did some side by side trials with Gala and Honeycrisp with two per cent ATS versus 10 parts NAA at full bloom, and there was a noticeable difference between the two.”

“If you hit that ATS on the nose, it thins as fast as you can walk by the tree. We’re very happy with that. I’m not saying that’s what we’ll rely on as it’s very weather sensitive but we’ll keep working on it and fine tuning it so we can knock those fruit off at early bloom,” concluded Farmer.

Sean Bartlett

“I just want to touch on some of the different things guys across the province are doing for apple thinning,” said Bartlett.

“Ultimately we are doing more and more to get down to the promised land for fruit per tree to create the best returns at the end of the day. With this, we have started to follow many precision thinning tools to do this, including pruning models, carbohydrate model, and pollen growth tube model, to name a few. With these models in mind, we have started thinning at different timings and more often lending itself to the nibble thinning approach,” he said.

“We’re also having to re-invent old chemistry using bloom thinners, like lime sulphur and oil, and ATS and NAA. Of course, we’re looking for some new chemistries down the road, like Brevis and ACC. We have also started reaching out to other non-chemical alternatives, such as mechanical thinning,” said Bartlett.

“Mechanical thinning is popular in Europe where over 600 of the Darwin Blossom Thinners are in use in pome and stone fruit orchards. These are popular in peaches in North America but slow to take hold in apples, perhaps because there are some great thinning products available there,” he said.

“A three-year study by Cornell University found that it was possible to replace a conventional thinning program with mechanical thinning. In the study, they compared a comprehensive thinning program with NAA, 6BA and Sevin to mechanically thinning with a follow up of 6BA. In the end, they were able to perform comparably with the standard on Honeycrisp and Gala,” said Bartlett.

“The important factors in this were the correct spindle speed, depth, and speed of the tractor. It took them a few attempts to perfect the thinning response. It will be different for most blocks as canopies are never the same,” he said.

“What we have learned is more strings are better, and the deeper into the canopy they can get is also better. Hedged rows are optimal and 6BA has a synergistic affect with the use of mechanical thinners. Thus far, the work has not shown to cause fire blight but, if in doubt or a troubled block, I would recommend following up with a strep.”

“Do your own trials and keep good records. Research is proving that mechanical blossom thinning is a viable option,” he concluded.
Published in Chemicals
Days may be numbered for carbaryl, an insecticide and apple-thinning agent commonly sold under the brand name Sevin by Bayer.

Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulation Agency (PMRA) completed a re-evaluation of carbaryl in 2016, which led to some changes and restrictions on the product label. This included eliminating its use in residential areas plus as an insecticide on some fruit and vegetable crops. Apple thinning has remained on the label but at reduced rates:
  • Maximum seasonal rate of 1.5 kg a.i./ha and an REI of 14 days for hand thinning [high-density trellis production such as spindle or super spindle]
  • Maximum seasonal rate of 1.0 kg a.i./ha and an REI of 17 days for hand thinning [dwarf, semi-dwarf and full-sized trees]
As a result, research is underway to discover a new thinning regime for Canadian apple producers.

“We’re restricted to one application per season with further restrictions on re-entry into the orchard,” explained Dr. John Cline, apple researcher and associate professor at the University of Guelph. “We’re looking for an alternative that works as well as carbaryl.”

He recently shared the initial findings of his work, which he undertook with the assistance of graduate student Michelle Arsenault, during the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Convention held in Niagara Falls, Ont.

“Apple thinning is something done to prevent over cropping and small fruit,” said Dr. Cline. “When we thin early, we are able to focus more energy resources into the fruit that persist until harvest. When you have larger fruit, harvest efficiencies increase dramatically.”

Hand thinning is the least desirable way of managing crop load because it has the least effect on return bloom and final size at harvest but it is still an option. It also requires a large labour requirement.

“We rely on bio-regulators or chemical thinners as a result,” Dr. Cline said. “We have to remember that fruit drop in early June is a natural process. The tree goes through this process naturally and the bio-regulators are meant to augment it.”

There are a number of bio-regulators registered and these affect the plant metabolism and add to the natural process of fruit drop. The registered products in Canada are Sevin XLR Plus [carbaryl], MaxCel [6BA] and Fruitone [NAA]. The industry is hopeful some alternatives will become available. One product registered in the U.S. is Ethephon or Ethrel, which involves ethylene needed for fruit drop.

Dr. Cline’s research team’s objectives were to determine the optimal concentration of new and existing plant bio-regulators for the thinning of Gala during fruit set. Doing an early spray followed by a second spray was the focus of their work plus what thinners perform the best, and what the final crop load, yield and final size would be.

The first experiment was done on Gala using a hand-thinned control plot and compared to carbaryl and 6BA/MaxCel sprays.

Late frost in 2015 forced the researchers to find another orchard where they applied thinners at the 17 mm stage. The treatment was thought to be ineffective because it was conceivably applied too late. Compared with 2014, they found fruit set was 40 per cent, considered too high for a commercial crop, and 2015 was slightly less than that.

“In 2014, we found that 6BA tank mixed with NAA reduced fruit set by 50 per cent, whereas the ACC compound did not work at all,” Dr. Cline said. “In 2015, 6BA tank mixed with 5ABA and ACC reduced fruit set to a level comparable with carbaryl.”

The crop load at harvest was reduced with thinners in 2015, explained Dr. Cline. The hand thinned was just under three fruits per trunk cross-sectional area while the target was about five to seven, so crop load was light so the trees probably didn’t need the aggressive thinning that might be needed in a heavy crop year.

The researchers tried high and medium rates with the thinners and found a reduction in yield but no effect on quality factors, such as sugars, titratable acidity, starch index and fruit firmness.

Conclusions on the two-year study suggest that at low rates, the ethylene precursors were effective the one year. However, crop loads were light in both years of the study and response could change with a heavier crop. Dr. Cline said the study needs to be repeated over several years to get a more definite answer.

ACC and 5ABA appear to be effective alternatives for Gala if carbaryl is removed from registration, he added.

“I think the results are encouraging.”

In a study working with Gala conducted over 2013 and 2014 – before the concern with carbaryl came up – researchers wanted to know if growers applied the first thinning spray at 8 mm, what happened when the second spray was applied? This was a concern for growers who wanted to know if they should go in with a second spray and, if so, what should they use.

In 2013, researchers used a standard rate of carbaryl, as recommended for Gala, and applied at 8 mm, then again with a second spray in seven days, near the closing of the window for thinning. It seemed to work, Dr. Cline said, adding carbaryl did reduce fruit set.

“A tank mix of 6BA and carbaryl applied at 8 mm followed by carbaryl at 15 mm thinned the most.”

Fruit size, for the untreated, was around 140 grams. In 2013, 6BA followed by a carbaryl spray produced the largest fruit size.

“Yields always go down when you thin but hopefully you are compensated by the higher price of the fewer but larger fruits,” Dr. Cline said.

“To summarize, 12 to 14 days was required from the time of the first spray to initiate fruit drop. A single application at 8 mm, applied separately or tank mixed, of 6BA and carbaryl was the most effective.”

When it comes to future research, new thinning techniques and mechanical blossom thinning are on the list to be examined. According to the industry, string thinners are more effective now with the movement toward high-density, spindle-type orchards. New products, such as Metamitron – a herbicide registered in the EU and U.S. – are also of interest.

“We will ... be looking at that,” Dr. Cline said.
Published in Chemicals
May 10, 2017, Chatham, Ont. - AGRIS Co-operative, Wanstead Farmers Co-operative and Haggerty Creek Ltd. announced an aggressive expansion of its web based weather service, the "AGGrower Daily Dashboard" across southwestern Ontario.

This collaborative effort will see the current compliment of 80 automated weather stations across southwestern Ontario expand to a goal of more than 400 reporting locations when completed. Producers who sign up for the AGGrower Daily Dashboard will have the ability to have field specific climate information delivered directly to their laptop, cellular phone or tablet.

"Our web based weather service will assist producers in managing their crops by providing real time precipitation, relative humidity, wind speed, growth models on individual fields and notifications of critical stages during the growth cycle," says Dale Cowan, senior agronomist and sales manager for AGRIS Co-operative and Wanstead Farmers Co-operative. "The AGGrower Daily Dashboard will also assist in timely do it yourself crop scouting using integrated pest management principles," added Cowan.

To supplement the web based weather reporting network, Cowan is now recruiting dedicated "citizen scientists" to join the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow network, (CoCoRahs).

"These volunteers would be part of a larger community of like-minded people that would help support our automated weather stations with additional rainfall data to support our new initiative of the AGGrower Daily Dashboard program," says Cowan.

Volunteer "citizen scientists" must live in Essex, Chatham-Kent, Lambton, West Middlesex or Elgin Counties, have a keen interest and dedication to collecting rainfall and a smart phone.

Installation and training on the use of the special rain gauge is provided at no charge to those participating. For more information on how you can become a "citizen scientist" contact Paul deNijs at 226-626-1048.

This project is funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Published in Equipment
May 10, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. – Statistics Canada released the 2016 Census of Agriculture today, providing an overview of each agriculture sector in Canada.

According to the Census, fruit, berries and nuts acreages rose 6.7 per cent from 2011.

Blueberry area continues to expand in Quebec, B.C. and the Atlantic regions. Overall, blueberries hold 196, 026 acres nationally.

The Census reports that the blueberry sector is being driven by international demand and in 2016, Canada exported 94.8 million kilograms of frozen blueberries, an increase of 33.7 per cent from 2011.

Cranberry acres have also increased from 15,191 acres in 2011 to 18,134 acres in 2016. Cranberry exports increased by 77.6 per cent to 63.5 million kilograms.

The Census notes that both blueberries and cranberries are amenable to mechanized harvesting, allowing operators to increase the scale of their operation with a minimal increase in the number of employees.

The area of strawberries, raspberries and apple orchards show declining numbers. Strawberry acres dropped 8.4 per cent to 10,155 acres and raspberry acres decreased by 23.7 per cent to 5,651 acres.

According to the Census, both the strawberry and raspberry sectors have been faced with disease outbreaks and labour and market challenges.

Apple orchard acres across Canada have decreased 3.2 per cent from 2011 to 43,631 acres in 2016. The largest decrease in has been in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

However, despite declining area, the apple sector reports acres being used more intensively, with the yield of apples in Canada increasing from 7.2 tons per acre in 1996 to 10.0 tons per acre in 2016.

Field vegetable area rose 10.3 per cent from 2011 to 270,294 acres. Sweet corn remains the largest vegetable crop in terms of production area, but reports a decrease of 16.9 per cent since 2011.

According to the Census, one in eight farms, or 12.7 per cent, sell food directly to consumers, with 96.1 per cent of products being fruits and vegetables.

Overall, farm profits are unchanged since 2010 and farms were as profitable in 2015 at the national level as they were in 2010. The gross farm receipts totaled $69.4 billion in 2015, with primary agriculture accounting for 1.5 per cent of the national gross domestic product in 2013.

Agriculture goods accounted for 2.2 per cent of Canada’s total imports and 4.6 per cent of total exports.

For more information or to view the entire Census of Agriculture, visit: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/170510/dq170510a-eng.htm
Published in Research

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