Research
February 20, 2018, East Lansing, MI – This article provides a brief summary of some of the research being produced by some of the institutions participating in a project titled “Management of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in U.S. Specialty Crops” funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). It is not a detailed summary of all the work being conducted within this project, but provides highlights from areas of the project that may be of interest to growers.

Researchers continue to track the movement and abundance of brown marmorated stink bugs. The largest populations and the most widespread damage to tree fruits is in the Mid-Atlantic region. In Michigan, we have seen brown marmorated stink bug numbers slowly build and currently the majority of the population is found in the southern third of the state with the highest numbers in the southern two tiers of counties. Damaging levels of brown marmorated stink bug do occur in localized areas north of this area and have produced fruit injury on individual farms north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the Ridge area.

The information required to detect the movement and relative numbers comes from trapping. A great deal of effort has gone into finding the most effective trap and lure. A variety of trap styles exist, but the pyramid trap baited with an attractant lure has been the standard way to detect brown marmorated stink bugs. Lures continue to be improved and the current standard is a two-part lure comprised of an aggregation pheromone and an attractant from a related stink bug.

A side-by-side comparison of the pyramid trap with an easier to use clear sticky trap on a 4-foot wooden stake using the same two lures has shown that the pyramid trap catches more stink bug adults than the clear sticky trap early in the season, and more adults and nymphs late in the season, but similar numbers mid-season. Importantly, the number of captured stink bugs on the clear sticky traps is positively correlated with the catch from the pyramid traps, which means the clear sticky traps could replace the pyramid traps and be used to determine presence, relative numbers and seasonal movement.

The pyramid trap was improved by replacing the dichlorvos strip killing agent with a piece of pyrethroid-impregnated netting. The pyrethroid in this case is deltamethrin. The netting is similar to mosquito netting used in malaria prevention programs and is commonly referred to as long-lasting insecticide netting. The benefits are that it lasts for the entire trapping season and is much safer to handle due to its low mammalian toxicity. Long-lasting insecticide netting also shows promise as a means of trapping brown marmorated stink bugs.

The most promising biological control agent continues to be a wasp parasitoid (parasites do not kill their host, but parasitoids do kill them) known as the samurai wasp, Trissolcus japonicas. This tiny wasp puts its own eggs into the stink bug’s eggs, and the developing wasp larvae use the stink bug egg for food until they emerge. In Asia, where brown marmorated stink bug originally came from, 60 to 90 percent of the eggs are parasitized by this wasp. Researchers in the U.S. have determined that the wasp highly prefers brown marmorated stink bug eggs over one of our native stink bugs eggs, spined soldier bug, so they should have little-to-no impact on them.

The USDA has yet to approve the general release of these wasps, but it is under review and could potentially happen at any time. Interestingly, like brown marmorated stink bugs, this wasp has been transported across the ocean. To date, populations have been detected in some Mid-Atlantic states and the Pacific Northwest and are slowly spreading on their own. However, if permission would be given by the USDA, they could be mass-reared and released where they would produce the greatest benefit.

Additionally, other brown marmorated stink bug predators and parasites, ones native to the U.S., have been identified and are being evaluated for their effectiveness. The particular insects attacking brown marmorated stink bugs vary according to habitat in each area. So far, the incidence of attack for these homegrown natural enemies of brown marmorated stink bugs is low.

Another area of interest is looking for ways to protect natural enemies from the negative effects of control procedures used against brown marmorated stink bugs. By carefully managing insecticide use, natural enemies may be preserved. One way to manage insecticide use is by establishing threshold levels for the pest. Determining an accurate threshold level requires testing over several years and in many orchard environments.

Research in West Virginia apple orchards has shown that a threshold of 10 brown marmorated stink bugs per trap can lower insecticide use by 40 percent compared to a grower standard program. A different trapping study compared brown marmorated stink bug captures in traps placed adjacent to wooded areas next to orchards to traps placed within orchards. The interior placement resulted in fewer nymphs captured, but adult catch was similar. However, there is still no clear relationship between the number of brown marmorated stink bugs captured in a trap and the amount of injury this level will cause in the orchard.

Insecticide assays in North Carolina showed that out of four Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)-approved materials – Entrust, Neemix, Pyganic, Azera – Entrust was the most harmful to two native parasitoid wasp species, even when exposed to 0.1-times the field rate. However, when exposed to residues of sugar-laced pesticides, only the lowest rate of Neemix had no impact.

In an Oregon study, more than half of the wasps exposed to dry residues of Actara, Asana or Admire Pro died within an hour of exposure. After 24 hours, mortality was greater than 75 per cent for those materials and for Entrust and Exirel, but not for Altacor.

A promising management tactic is attract-and-kill using pheromone-baited perimeter trees that receive either a regular insecticide application or have long-lasting insecticide netting within the canopy. Seven- and 14-day spray intervals using attract-and-kill or perimeter sprays were compared to 10 adults per trap (cumulative) threshold sprays of two alternate row middle applications and to a control. If the cumulative threshold level was met in the attract-and-kill or in the threshold spray plots, it also triggered two consecutive alternate row middle sprays.

Fruit injury was significantly reduced in the apple blocks using the perimeter sprays on seven- or 14-day intervals in the blocks using attract-and-kill with sprays at seven- and 14-day intervals or with long-lasting insecticide netting, and in blocks treated after reaching threshold levels of brown marmorated stink bugs, compared to the grower standard. This suggests perimeter sprays are an effective management tactic to employ against brown marmorated stink bugs.

Long-lasting insecticide netting placed in attract-and-kill trees in a vertical orientation killed more brown marmorated stink bugs than when the fabric was oriented horizontally. The level of injury to peaches and apples under grower standard programs was similar to the injury found when just orchard perimeters consisting of the exterior row plus one row toward the interior were sprayed. This did not hold for peaches if the orchard was 10 acres or more in size.

Another use of long-lasting insecticide netting is to drape a 5-foot by 5-foot section of it over a pole or fence and attach an attractant to the netting. Several of these are placed on the orchard perimeter between woods and the orchard. Brown marmorated stink bugs attracted to the lure come into contact with the pesticide in the netting and die. This may allow for interception of the adults before they enter the orchard resulting in less fruit damage.

Multi-state research efforts allow researchers to quickly acquire information that would take individual states or regions many years by themselves. Most of these experiments will be repeated in 2018 and new ones will be added as we continue to grow the knowledge base that allows us to successfully meet the challenges that brown marmorated stink bugs bring to the tree fruit industry.
Published in Research
February 15, 2018 – Potatoes used for crisps and chips are usually stored at eight degrees – a temperature high enough to prevent starch from breaking down into glucose and fructose. To slow sprouting, potato producers often use a suppressant like chlorpropham, a chemical the European Union (EU) is looking to phase out due to health concerns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We hope to see these varieties released in the next five years,” concludes Griffin.
Published in Research
Researchers are combining new digital tools, computer technologies and machine learning to bring cost-effective weed control solutions to the field. Although still in the early stages, this new high-tech solution is being designed as an advanced spot-spraying precision technology that will help farmers reduce input costs and add another management tool to their integrated management systems.  
Published in Weeds
Efforts to develop sweet potatoes into a commercial crop for Manitoba farmers are showing good progress at two locations in the province.
Published in Vegetables
The use of biocontrol pest methods in horticulture is growing, whether it’s trap crops, pheromone traps, predatory insects or biopesticides.
Published in Insects
February 9, 2018 – For growers, a fundamental element of integrated pest management is knowing what pest and beneficial species are in your fields. But what if there’s an insect and no one knows if it’s good or bad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The results were pretty clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more about the project at: projects.sare.org/sare_project/gw18-039/
Published in Insects
February 1, 2018, Madison, WI – The Colorado potato beetle is notorious for its role in starting the pesticide industry – and for its ability to resist the insecticides developed to stop it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schoville and Chen are now sequencing another 100 genomes of the Colorado potato beetle and its close relatives to continue investigating the hardiness and adaptability that have captured so many people’s attention for the past 150 years.
Published in Insects
January 17, 2018, Guelph, Ont – Vast amounts of data are being collected on Canada’s farms through the advent of precision agriculture technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Many types of tools, equipment and devices gather data on everything from crop yields to how many steps an animal takes in a day. However, much of that data is underutilized because it’s collected by systems that don’t or can’t communicate with each other.

The need for better decision-making on farms through better data use resulted in Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF), a partnership of agricultural organizations led by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT) that’s developing an open agri-food innovation platform to connect and share data.

The goal, according to lead director Dr. Karen Hand of Precision Strategic Solutions, is getting data, wherever it exists (both data repositories in industry or government and data generated by countless sensors) so it can be used to help advance important food production issues like food safety, traceability and plant and animal disease surveillance.

For example, information about the prevalence and control of insect pests like cutworms that damage soybean crops lies with many different people and organizations, including university and government researchers, crop advisors, input suppliers and farmers.

“There is no single spot where all of the information about a particular pest can be accessed in a robust, science-based system and used in decision-making and that’s where OPAF’s platform will help,” Hand said.

Pilot projects are underway with Ontario’s grain, dairy and poultry producers to identify their needs in areas like crop protection, sustainability and food safety and how OPAF can provide data-driven solutions to benefit farmers.

“We sit down with farmers, advisors, associations, government and researchers to find out what data they have, where they exist and if we were able to connect them, what value or benefit that would offer participants – either specific to the commodity they are producing or on larger food-related issues such as food safety or impact on trade,” she explains.

And OPAF’s efforts are gaining global recognition. Earlier this year, Internet of Food and Farm 2020, a large project in the European Union exploring the potential of IOT technologies of European food and farming, recognized OPAF as one of three global projects to collaborate with.

“This is going to be changing the face of data enablement in Canada and contributing globally,” said Tyler Whale of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT). “We are creating a platform that is the base of something new, and although we are piloting this in Ontario, it will be available nationwide to those who want to use it.”

OPAF partners include OAFT, University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Niagara College, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Farm Credit Canada, Ontario Agri-Business Association, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, and Golden Horseshoe Farm and Food Alliance.

This project was funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists with GF2 delivery in Ontario.
Published in Research
January 11, 2018 - The growing popularity of robotic weeders for vegetable crops has grown partly out of necessity, says Steven Fennimore, an extension specialist at the University of California, Davis.

The need for robotic weeders stems from two issues: a lack of herbicides available for use in specialty crops, and the fact that hand-weeding has become more and more expensive. Without pesticides, growers have had to hire people to hand-weed vast fields.

Hand-weeding is slow and increasingly expensive: it can cost between $150 and $300 per acre. That motivates some growers to look to robotic weeders.

“I’ve been working with robotic weeders for about 10 years now, and the technology is really just starting to come into commercial use,” Fennimore says. “It’s really an economic incentive to consider them.”

Fennimore works with university scientists and companies to engineer and test the weeders. The weeders utilize tiny blades that pop in and out to uproot weeds without damaging crops. He says that although the technology isn’t perfect, it’s getting better and better.

The weeders are programmed to recognize a pattern and can tell the difference between a plant and the soil. However, they currently have trouble telling the difference between a weed and a crop.

That said, Fennimore explains how some companies are training the machines to tell a lettuce plant from a weed. He’s also working with university engineers on a system to tag the crop plant so the weeders will avoid it.

“The problem with the machines right now is that they are version 1.0, and there’s tremendous room for improvement,” he says. “The inability to be able to tell the difference between a weed and a crop requires the grower to be very exact when using them. The rows have to be a little straighter, cleaner, and more consistent because the machines aren’t that sophisticated yet. The robots don’t like surprises.”

The robotic weeders currently on the market cost anywhere between $120,000 and $175,000. For some growers, it is a better long-term option than expensive hand-weeding. Others think it’s a lot of money for a new technology, and are waiting for it to get better and cheaper.

Fennimore believes robotic weeders are the future of weeding in specialty crops. Because of higher labour costs and more incentives to grow organically with fewer pesticides, European growers have been using robotic weeders for some time.

Fennimore is focusing his work on physical control of weeds because it offers the best option. He’s also started working in crops besides lettuce, such as tomatoes and onions. He adds that each crop will require a different system.

“I believe what makes the robotic weeders better than herbicides is that this electronic-based technology is very flexible and can be updated easily,” he says. “We all update our phones and computers constantly, which is a sign of a robust and flexible technology.”

Fennimore recently presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America in Tampa, FL.

 

Published in Spraying
January 4, 2018, Fredericton, NB – Chemicals in the leaves of potato plants – produced naturally by the plant – may hold the key to a new way to control Colorado potato beetles.

Dr. Helen Tai, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist, has turned to the leaves growing on wild potato relatives, leaves that beetles won’t eat, as a new approach to keep the pest away.

Many plants in the potato family contain natural defence chemicals that protect plants against insects and pathogens. Using mass spectrometry and other sophisticated tools, Dr. Tai was able to identify what it is in the wild potato plant leaves that make the beetle avoid them.

Potato breeders at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre used cross breeding of a wild relative with common popular potato varieties to develop a potato with built in beetle resistance. Not all of the potatoes from the cross carry the resistance, but the profile that Dr. Tai discovered identifies which ones do.

“Breeding new potato varieties resistant to beetle feeding, now in the advanced stages, opens the way to a new era where potato growers could reduce pesticide spray applications for insect control,” said Dr. Tai.

Colorado potato beetles are already showing a resistance to the popular pesticides used by potato growers adding to the need for new solutions. Dr. Tai sees use of beetle resistant varieties together with integrated pest management methods as an alternative approach to mitigate pesticide resistance. These resistant potato varieties can provide growers with an option to avoid serious crop losses.

Two of these new resistant potatoes are already in the breeding program and available to industry to trial.
Published in Research
January 2, 2018 – The science behind the home-pregnancy test is now being trialled to detect the presence of diseases that can devastate fields of vegetable crops, including Brussels sprouts.

Current trials are underway to help protect crops of Brassicas – sprouts, broccoli, cabbage – and onions. Diseases including ring spot, light leaf spot and downy mildew are being monitored.

Ring spot in Brassicas is a foliar disease, which if not treated can lead to the loss of 30 per cent of crop.

The test, known as a lateral flow device (LFD), picks up the presence of infective spores carried in the air around crops in the field. Used alongside weather data, test results could indicate how likely a disease is to develop, allowing growers to decide if crop protection methods are needed or not.

Further development work is underway, so growers can gain immediate results, without needing to send samples to laboratories for further testing. The project is the result of an industry partnership between growers, AHDB Horticulture, Warwickshire College and Mololgic Ltd.

“When it’s fully developed, this simple low-cost tool, allowing growers to test whether there is a risk of diseases developing on their crops, will help prevent significant financial losses and reduce the need to use conventional methods to protect their crops,” said Cathryn Lambourne, senior scientist with AHDB. “Over the last four years, we’ve been developing the lateral flow device test, demonstrating how simple and effective it is, to give growers the confidence to rely on the results and make appropriate decisions for their business.”

“This could be a big game changer for growers,” added Carl Sharp, an agronomist at the Allium and Brassica Centre. “If we can get kit like this developed to take out with us, within ten minutes of walking into a field, growers will have results which show what they need to do to protect their crops.” 

Downy mildew in onions can cause damage of up to 50 per cent of individual crops if severe and, in a particularly bad year, the whole industry could see crop losses of up to 25 per cent. This same disease could wipe out a whole field of salad onion.

“The long period between the disease affecting the crop and the symptoms appearing, which are a characteristic of many of the diseases tested, can lead to devastating diseases becoming established in crops turning them into waste,” said Euam Alexander, field operations manager with Kettle Produce in the UK. “Using these tests will allow us to select the appropriate fungicide and time application as part of our crop management strategy, before the disease renders any of the crops unmarketable.”

In addition to the common pregnancy test, LFDs are used to detect human diseases including colo-rectal cancer, cardiac issues and drug abuse screening.

The LFD tests are also being developed to detect for other plant diseases. The AHDB is funding the University of Worcester to develop lab tests and LFDs to test for oomycete pathogens, which cause diseases like blight and sudden oak death. Primarily testing is focused on root, stem and crown rots caused by Pythium and the Phytophthora species, commonly known as ‘the plant destroyer’, which can affect a range of crops. 

Through the same funding, Warwickshire Colleges and Stockbridge Technology Centre are developing and testing two LFDs to test glasshouse air samples for powdery mildew and gummy stem blight, which affect cucumber crops. Canker in apple tree crops is being investigated in a separate research program.
Published in Research
December 20, 2017, Saguenay, Que – Common scab is one of the most important diseases affecting potato crops worldwide. But researchers with the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi have discovered that using fresh residues and/or bio-products from Canadian goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) may offer an alternative to conventional fumigants.

In the study, researchers conducted a preliminary investigation of the utilization of S. canadensis to reduce common scab severity, and determined the allopathic potentials of S. canadensis extracts on Streptomyces scabiei (also known as S. scabies).

Compared with control plants, preliminary results showed that adding 1.2 kg of fresh S. canadensis residue per m2 reduced scab severity by about 45 per cent. Furthermore, concentrations of hexane and dichloromethane extracts from S. Canadensis inhibited the growth of S. scabiei by about 97 per cent.

The results were comparable with those using tetracycline, a known inhibitor of S. scabiei.

Both experiments suggested that S. canadensis may represent a new approach for controlling potato common scab. More studies are required to better understand the mechanisms involved in S. canadensis induced reduction of common scab in order to standardize the approaches.
Published in Research
December 19, 2017, Israel – NRGene, a company involved in genomic assembly and analysis, is working with a team of researchers from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands plus commercial partners to create multi-genome mapping of commercial food potatoes.

Potatoes are the fourth most consumed food crop in the world and its genome is complex. It’s an auto-tetraploid, which means that each potato cell contains four nearly identical copies of each chromosome and gene, making the assembly and phasing of the four copies extremely difficult for traditional technologies.

NRGene has completed the phased assembly of three commercial potato varieties.

It’s hoped the potato pangenome will synergize the assembly information to contribute a comprehensive genomics view of the potato genome. The group, led by potato researcher Dr. Richard Finkers and Dr. Richard Visser from WUR, is seeking other researchers from academia and industry to join the project to enrich the pan-genome analysis and thus better characterize the natural genetic diversity of the species.

“Potato research and breeding faced significant difficulties during the last 100 years,” says Dr. Finkers of WUR. “NRGene’s genomes and pan-genome analysis will allow us to map traits on the level of haplotypes, which was previously almost impossible.”

Dr. Finkers will present the potato genome research at the PAG XXVI conference, Jan. 16, 2018, in San Diego, Calif.
Published in Research
December 14, 2017, Vineland, Ontario – When Dr. Helen K. Fisher retired as viticulture research scientist at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, there were a few loose ends to tie up.

Namely, what to do with her research on advanced wine grape selections for cold climate wine growing regions.

“Breeding work for wine grapes is a very slow process,” says Fisher. “Not only are you trying to find a plant that fits a climate, but it also needs to fit into a wine profile wineries are looking for.”

Vines can take up to four years to become established in the soil and produce quality grapes. To determine if the fruit fits a desired wine profile, it must be processed into wine, and then assessed after aging for three or more years.

“We’re looking for good quality reds that are tough in terms of agronomic potential and can withstand cold winters and wet growing seasons, that aren’t susceptible to disease or weather,” says Fisher.

Fisher says her work holds potential for larger Canadian wineries that want a sturdy but neutral wine that can be used for blending with other grapes. But to get meaningful results, the hybrids need more time. After retiring and losing access to land and laboratories, Fisher found new ways to continue her research.

“I was left with the dilemma of what to do with the plant material when it was at a stage that wasn’t even close to being presented to the public,” Fisher says. “Fortunately, Wes Wiens of VineTech Canada, a local nursery, donated land so the research could continue. It was tough land on a cold site – perfect, for my purposes.”

Fisher worked with the VineTech team to repropagate 40 plant selections from the VRIC property, based on genealogy and a superficial look at the most recent crop. She applied for funding through the Gryphon’s LAAIR Program and hired a summer student to collect data from the field. She also enlisted nearby Niagara College to make wine with the harvested grapes.

“Baco has had a good run in Niagara, but this is a chance to develop a new hybrid that offers a good amount of disease resistance and cold tolerance, perhaps with less acidity,” says Fisher.

Next, Fisher says project partners will test the wine quality, which she hopes to bring to two large wineries, to attract further interest and a long-term home for the research.
Published in Research
December 12, 2017, State College, PA – Unmanned aircraft (UA) – commonly called drones – are a new technology that can quickly collect, quantify, and record a variety of important data about orchards that many growers inherently measure by eye.

Simple examples include location of nonproductive trees, quantity of blossoms in the spring, stress on trees in the summer, and crop load in the fall. To this end, the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP) is supporting an initiative by Joe Sommer and Rob Crassweller at Penn State University to help growers use UA for orchard management. While single images and/or videos captured during manually controlled flight can be useful, this project focused on flying autonomous missions to capture hundreds of images that can be stitched together into a much larger orthomosaic map of a block of trees or even a small orchard. For example, a DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter ($1,500) can inspect 60 acres over 15 minutes flight time at 200 feet above ground level (AGL) and reconstruct a large orthomosaic map of an orchard with one-inch per pixel resolution.

Efforts during the first year developed a user manual for mission planning and orthomosaic stitching of images as well as geo-referencing (locating latitude-longitude) for individual trees.

Growers who are interested in learning more details can visit Unmanned Aircraft for Agricultural Applications or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in Research
December 8, 2017, Mississauga, Ont – Bee Vectoring Technologies recently announced successful trial results in blueberries.

The trial was conducted near Parrsborough, NS, in low bush blueberries with the Wild Blueberry Research Program at Dalhousie University. The trial utilized BVT's newly developed honeybee system, consisting of a honeybee hive outfitted with dispenser technology through which BVT's proprietary plant beneficial microbe, BVT-CR7, can be delivered to crops. The trial was designed to determine the effectiveness of the BVT technology in controlling Botrytis blight (gray mold) and Monilinia blight (mummy berry), two common and devastating diseases affecting blueberry crops across North America, compared to untreated control and current chemicals standards. The trial also examined increases in productivity of the crop measured by marketable yield.

"Our yields went up quite substantially when we used the BVT system, whether alone or in combination with chemical fungicides, but they didn't go up where we used the fungicide alone," said Dr. David Percival, blueberry research program director and professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. "I was really surprised by the first results. I went back and double-checked the raw yield data, then the spreadsheet to make sure the statistical program was correct. The results indicate the potential for floral blight disease control and increased berry yields with the use of BVT technology. Future work will allow us to fine tune the use recommendations."

“These are excellent results once again for the company and firmly establishes another major market opportunity,” said Ashish Malik, CEO of BVT. “Notably, this was the first time we tested our honeybee delivery system in a replicated R&D study, and we got great results. Having a proven system that works with honey bees alongside our first system designed to work with commercial bumble bee hives allows us to reach a far wider market and gives us options to deliver solutions for growers based on the specific needs for their crops."

Blueberries are a high-value crop, fetching as much as US $18,000 in revenue per acre in certain regions. There are almost 300,000 acres of blueberries cultivated in the US and Canada with total farm gate value of US $ 1.1 billion. Blueberry production in North America represents 54 per cent of the worldwide cultivation of the crop with key growing regions including the Atlantic provinces and British Columbia in Canada, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, Michigan, California, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Florida in the U.S.
Published in Research
December 5, 2017, Kimberly, ID — A University of Idaho researcher says a water-efficient irrigation method he helped devise was effective in potatoes during 2017 trials and is poised for significant expansion in the coming season.

UI Extension irrigation specialist Howard Neibling and his Washington State University counterpart, Troy Peters, worked in conjunction with Bonneville Power to develop the first pivot using low-elevation sprinkler application in 2013.

LESA sprays water in a flat pattern from low-pressure nozzles dangling about a foot above the ground — low enough to pass beneath the crop canopy and eliminate drift without excessive runoff. READ MORE
Published in Research
November 30, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – The Canada Organic Trade Association recently released its second comprehensive analysis of Canada’s organic market – The Canadian Organic Market: Trends and Opportunities 2017.

This in-depth publication provides the most up-to-date overview of the Canadian organic market, combining consumer research with sales and trade data to provide valuable insight into market size, growth trends and Canadian consumer perceptions.

“Canada’s organic sector remains on its upward trajectory, gaining new market share as consumers across Canada ate and used more organic products than ever before,” said Tia Loftsgard, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association. “It is an exciting time to be a part of a sector that shows such promise to bring positive economic, social and environmental change to Canada.”

According to the report:

  • Canada’s total organic market (including food and non-food items) is estimated at $5.4 billion, up from $3.5 billion in 2012.
  • The organic food and beverage market is estimated at $4.4 billion, up from $2.8 billion in 2012.
  • The compound annual growth rate of the total organic market is estimated at 8.7 per cent between 2012 and 2017. Over the same time period, the growth rate for the organic food and beverage market is at an estimated 8.4 per cent.
  • As the market has matured, growth rates have slowed but organics continues to capture a greater market share. Between 2012 and 2017, the market share of organic food and beverages sold through mainstream retailers has grown from 1.7 per cent to 2.6 per cent.
  • Ontario has the largest organic market, yet British Columbia continues to have higher organic sales per capita.
  • Two-thirds of Canadian grocery shoppers are purchasing organics weekly. Albertan’s are most likely to be organic purchasers – 74 per cent are buying organics weekly.
  • Currently, Canada tracks 65 organic imports and 17 organic exports – a subset of total organic trade. Tracked Canadian organic imports were valued at $637 million in 2016. Tracked exports are expected to reach $607 million by the end of 2017.

The report combines sales data from the Nielsen Company, consumer data from Ipsos polls, and organic trade data from Statistics Canada. The report is rounded out with secondary research and analysis carried out by the Canada Organic Trade Association, with additional insight and analysis from leading organic experts.

A copy of the report is available for purchase from COTA.

 

 
Published in Marketing
November 27, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Collaboration between vegetable growers, a farm organization, and a grower co-operative is leading to improved plant health and more efficient vegetable production in the Holland Marsh.

The Bradford Co-op, the Fresh Vegetable Growers of Ontario and individual vegetable growers in the Holland Marsh are collaborating on a project with the University of Guelph to test innovative technologies that will make their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs for key crops like onions and carrots more efficient and cost effective.

“We work together with industry partners and growers to fund and collaborate on our IPM programs in the Marsh,” explains Matt Sheppard, Bradford Co-op general manager. “There is tremendous value in early detection and this project is helping us identify issues in real time so we can provide the correct advice and solutions to growers.”

Weekly photos are taken of the vegetable fields in the marsh using an octocopter drone. Lead researcher Mary Ruth McDonald and her team at the University of Guelph’s Muck Crops Research Station run the IPM program and use the images for early detection of diseases and insects so growers can take appropriate measures to protect their crop and prevent or minimize damage.

Downy mildew, which causes lower yields and decreased storability, is the most damaging disease for onions in the area; Stemphylium leaf blight is also a significant concern.

“The technology we are able to access through this project makes our crop scouting program more effective and lets growers be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to crop protection,” explains Sheppard. “It’s very quick for a grower to have a problem area identified early and then decide how to treat it correctly to keep the crop healthy.”

Using information generated from the aerial images to prevent or minimize problems means less and more targeted use of crop protection materials, resulting in immediate savings of $5,000 to $50,000 per grower depending on the crop and the size of the farm.

More importantly, though, use of the technology ultimately ensures growers can keep supplying the market with quality produce and consumers have access to locally grown vegetables.

The marsh’s unique soils mean growers in the area have to work together to find solutions for their crop challenges, says Sheppard, adding that funding from Growing Forward 2 has been instrumental in bringing the collaboration together.

“Muck soil like ours doesn’t exist in other areas so we have to be self-sufficient and proactive to find solutions,” he says. “The technology is expensive so it’s something we wouldn’t be able to initiate on our own, but the investment with GF2 has allowed us to access the funds to make it happen.”
Published in Research
Delta, BC, November 20, 2017 – Farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation to the next. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.

The federal government recently announced a $1.8 million investment with the University of British Columbia to determine carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, and develop beneficial management practices (BMPs) for increasing the efficiency of fertilizer use in blueberry, potato and forage crops.

“This project will provide new science-based knowledge on net GHG emissions by accurately measuring GHG emissions and developing mitigation technologies for blueberry, potato and forage crops in the Lower Fraser Valley,” said Dr. Rickey Yada, dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. “The research team will use state-of-the-art instrumentation and automated measurement techniques to quantify annual GHG emissions. While the specific research objectives are targeted to fill regionally identified gaps in knowledge, they will be applicable more broadly to similar agricultural production systems across Canada and Global Research Alliance member countries.”

This project with the University of British Columbia is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
Published in Research
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