Using a $770,000, three-year grant from the USDA, Gary Vallad, associate professor of plant pathology, hopes to harness the advantages of fungi known as trichoderma to fight Fusarium wilt.
Vallad will work on the project with Seogchan Kang, Beth Gugino and Terrence Bell from the department of plant pathology and environmental microbiology at Pennsylvania State University and Priscila Chaverri from the department of plant science and landscape architecture at the University of Maryland.
Scientists hope to use trichoderma to supplement various pest-management methods to help control Fusarium wilt, Vallad said.
Trichoderma are ubiquitous fungi in soil and on plants, and they have been used in agriculture as biological control agents, he said.
UF/IFAS researchers have used trichoderma to try to control pathogens, but with little to no success. With this new round of research, they hope to understand what factors limit the fungus’ benefits as a biological control agent, Vallad said. That way, they hope to develop ways to increase its ability to control Fusarium wilt.
Growers began using other fumigants as methyl bromide was gradually phased out from 2005 until it was completely phased out of use in 2012, Vallad said. As growers tried various ways to control diseases, including alternative fumigants, they saw a re-emergence in soil-borne pathogens and pests on many specialty crops, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, watermelon, cantaloupes and strawberries, Vallad said.
When the project starts July 1, UF/IFAS researchers will do most of their experiments on trichoderma at the GCREC, but they’ll also use crops from commercial farmers during the project.
Vallad emphasizes that their research goes beyond Florida’s borders. Studies in Pennsylvania and Maryland will likely focus on small to medium-sized farm operations.
“We are focusing on tomato production Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania,” he said. “We hope that our findings will help improve management of Fusarium wilt with trichoderma-based biological control agents.”
A world first, the project is researching FLW from a whole of Canadian chain perspective – from primary production to consumer.
The project encompasses Canada’s food and beverage industry (including fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, grains and oilseeds, sugars and syrups, beverages and seafood). The purpose of the study is to establish a framework and metrics that businesses operating in the farming, processing, retail and foodservice sectors can use to 1) understand where losses are likely to occur and 2) identify ways to improve their performance and profitability by reducing losses and waste.
The team will achieve this by collecting data that will allow an accurate estimate of FLW occurring at discrete points along the value chain and evaluating the comparative impact of root causes. The project will also estimate losses that occur during the redistribution of rescued and donated food, for example in foodbanks.
Key outcomes of the project:
- It will calculate the total amount of food available for human consumption in Canada.
- Through conducting pioneering primary research, it will identify where, how and why waste occurs along the chain.
- It will identify potential root-cause solutions to reduce the percentage of Canadian food sent to landfill – by proposing improved redistribution, reuse and recycling practices.
- It will identify greater opportunities for food to be recovered and distributed to people who are food insecure.
- It will culminate in the production and dissemination of a manual of scalable and sustainable solutions for addressing and preventing food waste.
Second Harvest and VCMI are targeting 800 to 1,000 respondents from across the entire value chain to gain insights from farmers, food and beverage processors, retailers, foodservice operators, institutions and food redistributors across Canada (regardless of their size).
If you fall in this category of participants, and would like to take part in the short, completely confidential survey, please access the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2018FLWSurvey
The project will be completed by the end of 2018.
“We are thrilled to be working with Second Harvest on this revolutionary food loss and waste project,” said Martin Gooch, CEO of VCMI. “Prior studies relied on existing data, largely not gathered for calculating food loss and waste; we are collecting and analyzing data that will achieve this. The project outcomes will have important implications for businesses, industry, researchers and government.”
Dr. Tony Savard and his team from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s St-Hyacinthe Research Development Centre re-examined the usual way of treating vegetables -blanching - which refers to briefly heat-treating the vegetables before freezing.
While this method is helpful for ensuring food safety and preventing freezer burn, it also affects the taste and texture which some people don’t like even when nutritional value is retained.
The team worked with Bonduelle Amérique as part of the Canadian Food Innovator research cluster, to come up with a fresh alternative for processing vegetables for freezing: partially drying them using low doses of microwaves combined with a vacuum process. Doing so avoided the breakdown of vegetable tissue that happens with freezing and thawing. This innovative method preserves the natural flavour and even improves it in certain cases, while still ensuring food safety. Furthermore, the texture of the vegetables is maintained.
"New markets are possible if we can improve the taste of frozen vegetables and maintain high standards of food safety," says Savard.
Whether or not a consumer picks a frozen option likely depends on their previous experience with frozen foods. And with healthy choices being so popular among Canadians, creating frozen foods that are both healthy and tasty is important. As such, Savard and his team will continue exploring new options for preserving the veggies that we love to eat.
Ultimately, if new methods of food preservation can be developed then new markets will also be opened. The domestic market for preserved fruits and vegetables is valued at $7.5 billion. The export market is also strong, worth over $3 billion in 2015, according to Statistics Canada. That same year saw almost $6.5 billion in total revenue. There are more than 17,000 Canadians employed in the sector, contributing in different ways to produce great food options. With so much economic activity generated it is important to identify what food areas can be improved upon.
The findings emerged from a "research cluster" organized between government and industry. Bringing together expertise from the public and private sectors has generated positive results like this new preservation method. Best of all, it’s helping Canadians find something both healthy and delicious to eat.
- Soggy onions and peppers no more! New preservation method improves natural flavour and maintains texture during freezing and thawing.
- Food processing industry will have new tools to preserve vegetables, which may open new markets.
The comprehensive report titled Rural Challenges, national opportunity – Shaping the future of rural Canada includes recommendations encouraging the federal government to tackle these challenges head-on and raise Canadians’ quality of life nationwide.
“When it comes to providing the infrastructure necessary to support a strong economy and high quality of life, rural governments are faced with two key problems—the challenge of serving dispersed communities and the limits of their fiscal and administrative capacity,” said FCM’s rural forum chair, Ray Orb.
The report provides recommendations to address the realities rural municipalities face. Key recommendations of this report include:
- Applying a ‘rural lens’ to all federal policies and programs aimed at empowering smaller communities to better support local needs
- Designing future rural infrastructure programs that provide long-term predictable funding with flexibility to account for rural realities
- Committing long-term predictable resources to expanding broadband internet access in rural, northern and remote communities
FCM is leading the way in advocating for new tools that empower rural communities to build tomorrow’s Canada and has secured unprecedented federal investment in recent years. The full report is available here.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is the national voice of municipal governments, with nearly 2,000 members representing more than 90 per cent of the Canadian population.
Potato is the third most important crop in human nutrition, after wheat and rice. Knowing and improving its agronomic, nutritional and industrial aspects is essential and in this task a group of researchers specialized in biotechnology of the INTA Balcarce is focused.
Recently, with a trajectory more than 7 years in gene editing technologies, they were able to confirm that the DNA sequence had been modified, while they hope to corroborate the shutdown of the gene that causes enzymatic browning in potatoes ( Solanum tuberosum L. ).
When applying this technique, the team led by Feingold focused on a polyphenol oxidase gene, whose enzyme causes browning in tubers when they are cut and exposed to air. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Alison Nelson, agronomist and researcher at Carberry’s Canada-Manitoba Crop Diversification Centre, says warming up seed before planting may have more impact on a processing crop than most in-season management of the seed crop the year before.
The AAFC researcher is studying how planting date, harvest date, moisture and storage of a seed crop might impact a daughter crop grown from those seeds. To test this, Nelson designed a multi-year trial first manipulating seed crop management, then returning with those seeds to measure changes in the processing crop the next year. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
But just like in human medicine, the bacteria that cause fire blight are becoming increasingly resistant to streptomycin. Farmers are turning to new antibiotics, but it’s widely acknowledged that it’s only a matter of time before bacteria become resistant to any new chemical. That’s why a group of scientists from the University of Illinois and Nanjing Agricultural University in China are studying two new antibiotics—kasugamycin and blasticidin S—while there’s still time.
“Kasugamycin has been proven effective against this bacterium on apples and pears, but we didn’t know what the mechanism was. We wanted to see exactly how it’s killing the bacteria. If bacteria develop resistance later on, we will know more about how to attack the problem,” says Youfu Zhao, associate professor of plant pathology in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I, and co-author on a new study published in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions.
The bacterium that causes fire blight, Erwinia amylovora, is a relative of E. coli, a frequently tested model system for antibiotic sensitivity and resistance. Studies in E. coli have shown that kasugamycin and blasticidin S both enter bacterial cells through two transporters spanning the cell membrane. These ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters are known as oligopeptide permease and dipeptide permease, or Opp and Dpp for short.
The transporters normally ferry small proteins from one side of the membrane to the other, but the antibiotics can hijack Opp and Dpp to get inside. Once inside the cell, the antibiotics attack a critical gene, ksgA, which leads to the bacterium’s death.
Zhao and his team wanted to know if the same process was occurring in Erwinia amylovora.
They created mutant strains of the bacterium with dysfunctional Opp and Dpp transporters, and exposed them to kasugamycin and blasticidin S.
The researchers found that the mutant strains were resistant to the antibiotics, suggesting that Opp and Dpp were the gatekeepers in Erwinia amylovora, too.
Zhao and his team also found a gene, RcsB, that regulates Opp and Dpp expression. “If there is higher expression under nutrient limited conditions, that means antibiotics can be transported really fast and kill the bacteria very efficiently,” he says.
The researchers have more work ahead of them to determine how Opp/Dpp and RcsB could be manipulated in Erwinia amylovora to make it even more sensitive to the new antibiotics, but Zhao is optimistic.
“By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms of resistance, we can develop methods to prevent it. In the future, we could possibly change the formula of kasugamycin so that it can transport efficiently into bacteria and kill it even at low concentrations,” he says. “We need to understand it before it happens.”
The article, “Loss-of-function mutations in the Dpp and Opp permeases render Erwinia amylovora resistant to kasugamycin and blasticidin S,” is published in Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions [DOI: 10.1094/MPMI-01-18-0007-R]. Additional authors include Yixin Ge, Jae Hoon Lee, and Baishi Hu. The work was supported by a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
In 2016 and 2017, Cheryl Trueman compared several different cucumber downy mildew control programs in plots at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus.
Different product rotations included:
- Bravo-only applied 6 times.
- A high input strategy that focused on optimal control and resistance management: Orondis Ultra A+B; Torrent; Zampro; Orondis Ultra A+B; Torrent; Zampro.
- A low-input strategy that focused on early control and resistance management, switching to lower-cost fungicides in the final weeks of harvest: Orondis Ultra A + B (plus Bravo); Torrent; Zampro; Bravo; Bravo; Bravo.
- A single application of Orondis Ultra, applied early followed by the other targeted downy mildew fungicides (Orondis Ultra A + B; Torrent ; Zampro; Torrent; Zampro; Torrent).
- Control – no fungicides applied.
Under these conditions final yields for both the high input and single Orondis Ultra (in rotation) were both significantly higher than the Bravo only programs and yield for the high input program were significantly higher than all other treatments.
When pressure was moderate in 2017, the high input and single Orondis Ultra in rotation program were very effective. All fungicide programs except Bravo only increased both fruit number and yield by weight.
The average value of Canadian farmland increased 8.4 per cent in 2017, following a gain of 7.9 per cent in 2016. Although average farmland values have increased every year since 1993, recent increases are less pronounced than the 2011 to 2015 period that recorded significant average farmland value increases in many different regions.
"With the steady climb of farmland values, now is a good time for producers to review and adjust their business plan to reflect variable commodity prices and slightly higher interest rates, assess their overall financial position and focus on increasing productivity,” Gervais said. “It’s also a good idea to have a risk management plan in place to protect your business against unforeseen circumstances and events.”
In Ontario, average farmland values increased by 9.4 per cent in 2017, following gains of 4.4 per cent in 2016 and 6.6 per cent in 2015.
While Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia reported the largest average increases, four provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island saw a smaller increase from the previous year.
Quebec and New Brunswick both showed increases that were fairly close to the national average, while Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t have enough transactions to fully assess farmland values in that province.
Some of last year’s average farmland value increase may also be a result of timing as most provinces recorded a faster pace of increase in the first six months of the year while interest rate increases didn’t occur until the latter half of 2017.
Recent increases in borrowing costs and expectations of further increases could cool the farmland market in 2018, according to Gervais.
FCC’s Farmland Values Report highlights average changes in farmland values – regionally, provincially and nationally. This year’s report describes changes from January 1 to December 31, 2017 and, for the first time, provides a value range in terms of price per acre.
“It’s important to remember that farmland prices can vary widely within regions due to many local factors that can influence how much value a buyer and seller attach to a parcel of land,” Gervais said.
He also stressed that every farm operation is unique and there may be a strong business case for buying more land, but not without carefully weighing the risks and rewards.
“Farm operations need to be cautious in regions where the growth rate of farmland values has exceeded that of farm incomes in recent years,” Gervais said.
“The good news is Canadian farms are generally in a strong financial position when it comes to net cash income and their balance sheets,” he said.
To view the 2017 FCC Farmland Values Report and historical data or register for the free FCC webinar on May 2, visit www.fcc.ca/FarmlandValues. For more information, visit: fcc.ca or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @FCCagriculture.
Biologists at the University of California San Diego have developed a method of manipulating the genes of an agricultural pest that has invaded much of the United States and caused millions of dollars in damage to high-value berry and other fruit crops.
Research led by Anna Buchman in the lab of Omar Akbari, a new UC San Diego insect genetics professor, describes the world’s first “gene drive” system—a mechanism for manipulating genetic inheritance—in Drosophila suzukii, a fruit fly commonly known as the spotted-wing drosophila.
As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Buchman and her colleagues developed a gene drive system termed Medea (named after the mythological Greek enchantress who killed her offspring) in which a synthetic “toxin” and a corresponding “antidote” function to dramatically influence inheritance rates with nearly perfect efficiency.
“We’ve designed a gene drive system that dramatically biases inheritance in these flies and can spread through their populations,” said Buchman. “It bypasses normal inheritance rules. It’s a new method for manipulating populations of these invasive pests, which don’t belong here in the first place.”
Native to Japan, the highly invasive fly was first found on the West Coast in 2008 and has now been reported in more than 40 states.
The spotted wing drosophila uses a sharp organ known as an ovipositor to pierce ripening fruit and deposit eggs directly inside the crop, making it much more damaging than other drosophila flies that lay eggs only on top of decaying fruit. Drosophila suzukii has reportedly caused more than $39 million in revenue losses for the California raspberry industry alone and an estimated $700 million overall per year in the U.S.
In contained cage experiments of spotted wing drosophila using the synthetic Medea system, the researchers reported up to 100 percent effective inheritance bias in populations descending 19 generations.
“We envision, for example, replacing wild flies with flies that are alive but can’t lay eggs directly in blueberries,” said Buchman.
Applications for the new synthetic gene drive system could include spreading genetic elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as temperature.
If a certain temperature is reached, for example, the genes within the modified spotted wing flies would trigger its death. Other species of fruit flies would not be impacted by this system.
“This is the first gene drive system in a major worldwide crop pest,” said Akbari, who recently moved his lab to UC San Diego from UC Riverside, where the research began. “Given that some strains demonstrated 100 per cent non-Mendelian transmission ratios, far greater than the 50 percent expected for normal Mendelian transmission, this system could in the future be used to control populations of D. suzukii.”
Another possibility for the new gene drive system would be to enhance susceptibility to environmentally friendly insecticides already used in the agricultural industry.
“I think everybody wants access to quality fresh produce that’s not contaminated with anything and not treated with toxic pesticides, and so if we don’t deal with Drosophila suzukii, crop losses will continue and might lead to higher prices,” said Buchman. “So this gene drive system is a biologically friendly, environmentally friendly way to protect an important part of our food supply.”
Co-authors of the paper include: John Marshall of UC Berkeley, Dennis Ostrovski of UC Riverside and Ting Yang of UC Riverside and now UC San Diego. The California Cherry Board supported the research through a grant.
Fruit grower Bart Van Parijs, from Oeselgem, Belgium, has conducted a trial in open field-grown raspberries using the biofungicide Prestop 4B as the ‘medicine’ against Botrytis.
Bart first heard about this technique at a seminar a few years ago. “With most of the results relating to protected crops I was curious to know what the effects would be in open field raspberry crops”, explains Bart Van Parijs, who owns the 12-hectare biological fruit company, Purfruit in Oeselgem. This enterprising operation grows up to 15 species of fruit, has a pick your own fruit farm, a terrace and a shop. It also regularly welcomes groups and classes.
Protection against Botrytis
A biological grower as Bart Van Parijs cannot use any chemical products to protect their crops against Botrytis − which causes fruit to rot. As the fungus remains latent during flowering, the damage only becomes visible during harvest or storage.
The biofungicide Prestop 4B contains the beneficial fungus Gliocladium catenulatum J1446. Using Flying Doctors, the bumblebees continuously carry the biofungicide to the flowers during pollination, affording protection against Botrytis and preventing the fruit from being harmed.
Beneficial fungus present
Biobest deployed the Flying Doctors with Prestop 4B in the raspberry crops in spring. At the end of May, flowers were collected from plots that were, and others that were not, pollinated by Flying Doctors.
The flowers were examined for the presence of Gliocladium. The beneficial fungus was found in both plots. The fact that a certain percentage of Gliocladium was also found on the untreated crop is due to the distance between the plots. Since they were not far apart, some bumblebees also pollinated the plot that did not receive any treatment. Still, the plot treated by Flying Doctors showed a much higher presence of Gliocladium – namely 80 per cent.
No fruit rot after storage
During harvest in early July, Biobest performed a new trial: raspberries from plots that were and others that were not pollinated were harvested and stored at a temperature of 10°C.
Biobest researcher Soraya França explained, “After two weeks there was no sign of fruit rot in the raspberries treated by Flying Doctors. On the other hand, 30 per cent of the raspberries from the untreated area were affected.
Extended shelf life is positive
Commenting on the results, Bart Van Parijs said, “the shelf life of raspberries is limited, especially in humid periods. Thanks to Flying Doctors with Prestop 4B, raspberries can be kept longer in the fridge, which is reassuring. During humid periods, I normally advise my fruit garden customers to consume the fruit they have picked the next day at the latest. This year I could confidently say that the berries could be kept a few days before being eaten. I will be using Flying Doctors again this year.”
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) has been tracking local food demand trends in various direct to consumer market channels, including on-farm retail, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture (CSA) since 2004.
“Local food sales through direct to consumer market channels have more than doubled since 2008,” says Christine Anderson, local foods specialist with AF. “We are expecting sales from this past year to reach $1.2 billion.”
The Study of Local Food Demand in Alberta 2016 found that food spending at farmers’ markets, farm retail, and restaurants serving local food in Alberta exceeded $1.5 billion in that year.
The 2016 Census of Agriculture included a question about farms selling food directly to consumers. It found that about five per cent, or 2,062 farms in Alberta, sold food directly to consumers, below the national average of 12.6 per cent.
“That breaks down to one Alberta farm selling directly to consumers for every 1,972 Albertans,” says Anderson. “When compared to the national average of one direct to consumer farm for every 1,434 people, there is a clear opportunity for new farms to enter the direct sales market in Alberta.”
Of those 2,062 Alberta farms selling directly to consumers, 35 per cent were new entrants to direct to consumer market channels. Beef cattle farms represented the highest proportion of new entrants at 21 per cent, followed by apiculture at 12 per cent, and animal combination farming at 11 per cent.
More than two-thirds of the new entrants were small farms with annual sales less than $50,000, 18 per cent were medium-sized, and 10 per cent were large with sales in excess of $250,000.
Most farms, or 85 per cent, sold food and products directly to consumers either at a farm gate, stand, kiosk, or U-pick operation. About 20 per cent sold their product at farmers’ markets, and six per cent through CSA.
“Census data indicates that direct marketing farms yielded higher than average profitability compared to farms that did not sell directly to consumers,” explains Anderson. “The profitability ratios of some direct marketing farms were further improved if they sold value-added products through farmers’ markets or CSAs.”
Farms marketing directly to consumers also showed a higher average of gross farm receipts to farm area at $442 per acre, compared to farms that did not sell directly to consumers with $349 per acre.
“Direct marketing farms also revealed a higher percentage of female operators, at 38 per cent, than other types of farms, at 31 per cent,” notes Anderson. “Interestingly, Alberta has more female direct marketing farm operators than the national average, which is 36 per cent.”
The data also showed that young operators who were under the age of 35 were more involved in farm direct marketing in Alberta: Nine per cent compared to eight per cent province-wide in all agriculture operations.
For a more information on opportunities in direct to consumer marketing, visit Explore Local or contact Christine Anderson local foods specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
The Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre in Kentville, N.S., is undertaking a renovation of a lab workspace of 400-square metres to accommodate new grape and wine research.
A Cambridge Nova Scotia construction company has been awarded a contract to renovate an existing pilot plant space in the research centre. The space will be retrofit and converted into a wine research lab.
The development is part of a multi-dimensional research approach at the Kentville centre in support of Nova Scotia grape growers and vintners.
A new scientist, food-wine chemist Shawna MacKinnon has been hired to run the lab.
There will be areas where grapes grown in the local vineyards will be brought in, evaluated and crushed for use in wine production, processing and bottling.
The new facility will include spaces for the fermentation of white and red wines at a wide range of temperatures and volumes, a wine cellar, and a room where wine, created at the centre, can be tasted, tested and sampled by a panel.
The goal is to improve agricultural productivity and support the Nova Scotia government’s goal of increasing vine acreage from 800 acres to 2,000 acres by 2020.
The renovation and installation work is expected to be completed later this year.
The renovation will build on a $400,000 research project in support of the local grape and wine sector currently underway at the Kentville centre on grape varieties, growing techniques and conditions.
To date 70 sites, about 1,000 acres of N.S. vineyards have been mapped for insect pests and grapevine viruses and bacteria. Soil, topography, and climate are also being assessed to see how these factors affect wine taste, flavour and wine quality. Samples were taken from vineyards throughout the province.
A monitoring system is in place to measure the effect of cold weather on grape vines and wine grape winter hardiness. A two-acre research vineyard has been established to study local and European grape varieties.
This vineyard will be used to further analyze factors that influence vine health, hardiness, and wine quality. Information on grape maturity prior to harvest is being collected. A light-emitting hand-held device is being evaluated for its ability to pinpoint grape ripeness to identify the best harvest time which is a key factor in the production of high quality wines.
The single-celled organism responsible for turning sugars into alcohol experiences stress which changes its performance during fermentation. For vintners, stressed yeast introduces difficult production dilemmas that can change the efficiency and even flavor during winemaking.
Patrick Gibney, assistant professor in the department of food science at Cornell University, is on a mission to help New York state wineries. Gibney is working out how metabolic pathways within a yeast cell determine those changes, with implications for how wine is produced.
“Yeast has many significant, perhaps underappreciated, impacts on the public,” Gibney said. “It is critical for producing beer, wine and cider. Yeast is also a common food ingredient additive and is used to produce vaccines and other compounds in the biotech industry. This tiny organism has an enormous impact on human life.”
Yeast has a long history as a model to understand the inner workings of eukaryote cell biology. Gibney, who has been researching yeast for the last 15 years, is interested in factors that affect whether cells become more resistant to stress.
“In other industries, product uniformity is prized, but for winemakers, the year-to-year variations are often more valuable,” Gibney said. “There are dozens of fungi and bacteria that could all make the process go very wrong — or they might add combinations of flavors or odors that are really good. It’s very complex.”
Gibney is collaborating with E&J Gallo Winery scientists and research teams as he applies his expertise in yeast biology to improve production across the wine industry.
In the summer of 2017, the company invited Gibney to meet people involved with wine production from different perspectives: microbiology, quality control, systems biology, and chemistry. Those conversations are already reaping benefits, as Gibney has outlined several major projects for which he and Gallo scientists are crafting research plans.
One project would tackle sluggish fermentations. “Sometimes you’re fermenting and it slows or stops completely. It’s often a microbiology problem,” Gibney said. He plans to gather samples from New York state wineries that have had this issue and inspect them at their most basic levels.
For Gibney, the research is an opportunity to benefit the wine industry in New York and beyond: “It’s exciting to contribute to the scientific research already coming from CALS and help make advances that will help winemakers innovate with their products.”
The research institute, established in 1996 in partnership with the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Wine Council of Ontario, and the Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario, has tackled significant vineyard and winemaking issues, elevating local tipple to world-class status in the process.
It’s done so by taking on the multi-coloured Asian lady beetle, which can taint an entire vintage, and kept many bottles of wine tasting their finest in the process. It has 20 years of research dedicated to icewine production and authentication to ensure integrity for Canadian versions of the sweet nectar.
The effects of climate change on grape growing, sparkling wine production, and resveratrol and the Ontario wine industry also get serious research attention at CCOVI to the benefit of Ontario vintners and grape growers.
Most recently, CCOVI received nearly $2 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund to build its one-of-a-kind Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Sensory Reality Consumer Laboratory. It will be known as R3CL and will be the world’s first mediated-reality wine laboratory, combining sights, smells and sounds to help researchers study the science of consumer choice in the wine industry.
CCOVI’s research is so vital to the industry that an economic impact study pegged its contribution to the Ontario economy at $91 million annually. It also creates the equivalent of more than 300 jobs a year thanks to its research outputs.
Some of the most significant impacts can be credited to its cold hardiness research and flagship VineAlert program, which warns grape growers about cold weather events so they can use their wind machines and other techniques more effectively to protect their vines from cold damage.
VineAlert spared more than $7 million in crop losses in 2014-15, which converted to nearly $74 million in wine sales.
But CCOVI and its team of scientists, led by director Debbie Inglis, aren’t stopping there. Their work is positioning CCOVI to be the Canadian centre of excellence for cool climate viticulture, oenology, wine business, policy and culture with a mandate to advance the industry nationally, not just locally.
CCOVI’s intrepid VineAlert program is being rolled out across Canada thanks to partnerships in Summerland, B.C., and Kemptville, N.S. Equipment and testing methods to determine cold hardiness are being tried on for size in both provinces right now.
“We’re hoping within the next year that we’re going to be able to make the VineAlert program national,” Inglis said.
The Fizz Club, which provides professional development, and shares knowledge and research among sparkling wine producers also went national in 2017. And CCOVI is developing a domestic, certified “clean plant” program for grapevines to supply the industry with plant material that’s free of disease.
“The larger impact has been in Ontario but we’re starting to branch out and see that impact across Canada,” Inglis said.
The new information will provide updated national, provincial and commodity-specific labour market information that will clarify the state of the Canadian agricultural labour market and ways to minimize labour shortages in the future.
The two-year project will augment CAHRC’s previously released Labour Market Information (LMI) research that determined annual farm cash receipt losses to Canadian producers due to job vacancies at $1.5 B or three per cent of the industry’s total value in sales.
Based on 2014 figures, the LMI research estimated the current gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce as 59,000 jobs. That means primary agriculture had the highest industry job vacancy rate of all sectors at seven per cent.
Projections indicated that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. The new research will update the forecast through to 2029.
“Understanding the evolving needs of agricultural labour challenges across the country and across commodities will facilitate the development of informed and relevant initiatives by industry stakeholders to ensure the future viability and growth of Canadian farms,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC.
CAHRC’s research will examine the specific labour needs of all aspects of on-farm production including: apiculture; aquaculture; beef; dairy; field fruit and vegetables; greenhouse, nursery and floriculture; grains and oilseeds; poultry and eggs; sheep and goats; swine; and the tree fruit and vine industries.
The new research will update the demand and supply model of the agricultural workforce with information about projected employment growth, seasonality of labour demand, and labour supply inflows and outflows including immigration, inter-sector mobility, and retirements, as well as temporary foreign workers. It will also conduct secondary investigations and analyses focused on the participation of women and indigenous people in the agricultural workforce.
“The labour gap needs to be filled,” says Debra Hauer, manager of CAHRC’s AgriLMI Program. “To achieve this, we will examine groups that are currently under-represented in the agricultural workforce, particularly women and indigenous people, as well as continue to encourage new Canadians to make a career in agriculture. Removing barriers will improve access to job opportunities and help address labour shortages by increasing the agricultural labour pool.”
The new research findings will be unveiled at a national AgriWorkforce Summit for employers, employment serving agencies, government, education, and industry associations. Additionally, a series of presentations will be delivered to industry associations detailing national, provincial or commodity-specific labour market information.
Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, the Council is collaborating with federal and provincial government departments, leading agriculture organizations and agricultural colleges and training providers to ensure that the needs of this industry research are fully understood and addressed.
The bioplastic is made from the by-products created by industrial processing of certain plants. Not only will this bioplastic protect perishable food better than regular plastic packaging, it is also more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.
Dr. Liu has been working to advance the science around bioplastics for over 15 years. He is a "green" chemist - someone who specializing in making plastics and other goods from agricultural plants.
"I, along with industry, saw great opportunity to create something useful out of the leftover by-product from industrial canola oil processing, which is why this project was funded under the Growing Forward 2 Canola Cluster. We can extract all sorts of things like starches, proteins, and oils from plant materials to make plastics, but I am particularly interested in proteins from canola meal in this research project," says Dr. Liu.
Plant protein-based bioplastic has been shown to have similar attributes to other plant-based bio-products; it can stretch, it doesn’t deform in certain temperatures, and in some cases, it biodegrades. That being said, building the polymers (long chains of repeating molecules) that are the basis of biofilms and plastics can be tricky and finding just the right technique and formula is challenging.
One challenge with some protein polymers is that they are can be sensitive to a lot of moisture - not a good trait if you want to use them to protect food with a natural moisture content. Dr. Liu and his team recently discovered a formula and technique to make soy and canola protein polymers water-resistant by "wrapping" them in another polymer.
The team was also able to add an anti-microbial compound to the mix, which not only made the resulting bioplastic able to prevent nasty bacteria like E. coli from growing - but, depending on how much was added, also could change the porosity of the film.
The porosity of bioplastic (essentially how many holes are in it) is very important in food packaging since different foods need different amounts of moisture to stay fresh. Having a way to adjust porosity (either having more or less small holes in it) is a great feature in a potential plastic because it can either let more or less water go into or out of the area where the food is.
Even though it is in the early stages of development, Dr. Liu believes there is great future for bringing this technology into the marketplace.
"The use of plant-based plastics as a renewable resource for packaging and consumer goods is becoming increasingly attractive due to environmental concerns and the availability of raw materials. My hope is that someday this research will lead to all plastics being made from renewable sources. It would be a win for the agriculture sector to have another source of income from waste and a win for our environment," explains Dr. Liu.
Should this potential biofilm prove viable, it would be a win for the agriculture sector and the environment, as it would provide added revenue by creating a renewable plastic alternative.
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