Research
Canadian farmers and food processors across the country work hard every day to put safe, high-quality food on our tables, while driving our economy and creating good, middle-class jobs. Farming can provide an amazing lifestyle with great rewards, but it can also be hard on mental health. Farmers and their families often face high levels of stress because of forces that are beyond their control, such as weather, disease, commodity prices, and trade.
Published in Federal
The Canadian greenhouse sector is the largest and fastest growing segment of Canadian horticulture, thanks to the dedication and endless hard work from our growers across the country. This past year, Canadian greenhouse vegetable sales totalled over $1.4 billion, with over $900 million of sales in Ontario.
Published in News
Researchers at the Fort Valley State University have been working to develop a robotic solution for monitoring and spraying peach orchards.
Published in Fruit
Women in agriculture around the world, whether in developing or developed countries, say widespread gender discrimination persists and poses obstacles to their ability to help feed the world, according to a new study from Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont.

The study was released to coincide with the celebration of the International Day of Rural Women. Corteva Agriscience commissioned the 17-country study to underscore the importance of women in agriculture and to identify barriers to their full and successful participation. The study included 4,160 respondents living in both the developed and developing world on five different continents.

"We conducted this study to further understand the current status of women farmers around the world - from the largest farms in the most advanced economies to the smallest subsistence farms in the developing world - and to create a baseline from which we can measure progress going forward," said Krysta Harden, vice president external affairs and chief sustainability officer of Corteva Agriscience.

Identifying barriers to success 
The survey's findings reveal that although women are overwhelmingly proud to be in agriculture, they perceive gender discrimination as widespread, ranging from 78 per cent in India to 52 per cent in the United States. Only half say they are equally successful as their male counterparts; 42 per cent say they have the same opportunities as their male counterparts, and only 38 per cent say they are empowered to make decisions about how income is used in farming and agriculture.

Almost 40 per cent of the respondents reported lower income than men and less access to financing. High on the list of concerns were financial stability, the welfare of their families and achieving a work/life balance.

Many said they need more training to take advantage of the agricultural technology that has become essential for financial success and environmental stewardship. This desire for training emerged as the most commonly cited need among the respondents for removing gender inequality obstacles. The numbers significantly exceeded 50 percent for all 17 countries, with Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa leading the way.

Removing the obstacles
The majority of women reported progress toward gender equality, but 72 per cent said it would take one to three decades or more to achieve full equality. Five key actions, according to the respondents, were identified to remove obstacles to equality:
  • More training in technology (cited by 80 per cent)
  • More academic education (cited by 79 per cent)
  • More support – legal and otherwise – to help women in agriculture who experience gender discrimination (cited by 76 per cent)
  • Raise the public's awareness of the success women are achieving in agriculture (cited by 75 per cent)
  • Raise the public's awareness of gender discrimination in agriculture (cited by 74 per cent)
"While we know women make up almost half of the world's farmers, this study validates challenges continue to persist, holding back not only the women in agriculture but also the people who depend on them: their families, their communities, and the societies. Identifying the existence of these challenges is the first step in removing obstacles for rural women farmers to achieve their full potential," Harden said.
Published in Research
Protecting fruit crops from birds and other predators has never been easy. Scarecrows, reflective tape, netting, shotguns, propane-powered bangers and other audible bird scare devices, as well as traps and falcons, number among the most popular tools at growers’ disposal.
Published in Research
University of Florida scientists plan to use a $7.3 million, four-year grant to find the genetic traits that will make sweet corn taste even better, last longer and grow better.

Mark Settles, a professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will lead the project. UF/IFAS researchers will also get help from scientists at Iowa State University, the University of Wisconsin, Washington State University and the USDA to conduct the study.

“What we want to do is find those genes that make sweet corn a tasty vegetable and be able to then use those genes in traditional breeding,” Settles said.

For example, researchers hope to boost the sugar levels of sweet corn.

“It’s a really popular vegetable. But there have been few game-changing innovations that would boost the taste and yield of sweet corn.”

Fewer than 14 per cent of American adults consume the USDA recommended amount of vegetables for a healthy diet, and overall, fruit and vegetable consumption is declining in the U.S., Settles said.

“As the fifth most popular vegetable in America, sweet corn is no exception to this trend,” he said. “However, demand for fresh market and frozen corn is increasing, relative to canned corn, and breeders need to be able to provide the best sweet corn seed possible.

“Both fresh and processed sweet corn must meet consumer desires for taste, appearance and convenience,” Settles said. “Many quality traits are best addressed through the genetics of sweet corn varieties.”

Through test panels run by Sims, researchers will find out tastes, aroma and texture that consumers like. As study participants sample the corn, they’ll also tell how much they’d be willing to pay for it, which makes up the economics portion of the research, Settles said.

To get started on finding the best genetic traits, scientists will screen existing sweet corn seeds to find genes that, among other things, help corn grow right after planting, Settles said. This will be particularly helpful for organic farmers, he said.

They also hope to try to beat back any pests.

Lastly, scientists seek genetic traits that make corn last longer on grocery store shelves and requires less pesticide use, Settles said.

“We also want to make corn taste good for longer,” he said.
Published in Research
A University of Florida scientist will lead a team of researchers trying to help battle Fusarium wilt, a major tomato disease around the world.

Sam Hutton, an associate professor of horticultural sciences at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will use a new $490,000 federal grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to find ways to develop improved varieties that contain genes to help tomatoes thwart Fusarium wilt.

Resistance to one type of Fusarium wilt comes from a gene known as I-3, said Hutton, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida. Several years ago, UF/IFAS researchers found this gene in wild tomato relatives and introduced it into commercial varieties through traditional breeding, he said.

But while the I-3 gene makes tomatoes more resistant to Fusarium wilt, it also reduces fruit size and increases the potential for bacterial spot disease, Hutton said.

“We are conducting the study to remedy this situation,” he said. “Less bacterial spot and larger fruit size should both translate into better returns for the grower.”

Hutton wants to know whether the negative impacts that come with the I-3 gene stem from genes that tagged along from the wild tomato relative.

“If this is the case, we should be able to eliminate these problems by getting rid of those extra genes by whittling down the size of chromosome that came from the wild species,” Hutton said. “Plants that lack the negative genes will be developed using traditional breeding techniques, and simple molecular genetic tools will help us identify which individuals to keep.”

In the project, scientists also are looking again to tomato’s wild relatives, searching for new sources of resistance to Fusarium wilt.

“These new resistance genes may not have any of the problems that we currently see with I-3,” Hutton said. “And they may provide novel mechanisms of disease resistance that could further improve breeding efforts.

“We expect these efforts to result in an expanded toolkit of resources that can be leveraged to develop improved Fusarium wilt-resistant varieties,” he said.
Published in Research
A thriving and sustainable agriculture sector is made possible only by the investments made in science, research, and innovation. Canada has some of the world’s best scientists, and the breakthrough technologies they develop give farmers the tools they need to better manage their farms, while growing their businesses and creating good middle class jobs.

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, Lawrence MacAulay, recently announced, the details of the Government of Canada’s transformational $70M investment, over five years, to address significant environmental challenges and hire approximately 75 scientists and science professionals in emerging fields of agricultural science.

Of this $70M investment, $44M is dedicated to hiring the next generation of federal research scientists and science professionals and equipping them with the state-of-the-art tools they need to advance agricultural research, including environmental sampling equipment and analytical instruments.

Minister MacAulay also announced a new Living Laboratories Initiative, which includes $10M to support collaborative research projects with external partners.

Living Laboratories are an integrated approach to agricultural research that bring farmers, scientists and other stakeholders together to co-develop, test and monitor new practices and technologies on farms. The result will be more practical technologies and sustainable farming practices adopted more quickly by Canadian farmers.

The Living Laboratories Initiative led by Canada is a model to the world as other countries also try to improve the resilience and sustainability of their agricultural production. This Living Labs approach was presented by Minister MacAulay at the G20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in Argentina in July and the initiative was endorsed by ministers in attendance.

In the same spirit of collaboration, the remaining $16M of the $70M is earmarked to fund collaborative federal research projects focused on priority areas affecting the agriculture sector, such as environmental issues. With these funds, researchers will have the support, for example, to find better nutrient management solutions to ensure the health of our waterways.

This $70M investment in research and development fulfills the Budget 2017 commitment to support discovery science and innovation.

“This investment allows us to hire the next generation of world-class scientists here in Harrow and across the country, and will help give our farmers the tools they need to grow their businesses for years to come. This transformational investment demonstrates our Government’s strong commitment to science and our focus on the agriculture sector as a primary economic driver for creating good jobs and growing the middle class," said Minister MacAulay.
Published in Federal
Putting research in the hands of those who use it to create and innovate leads to increased competitiveness, economic growth and job creation. That’s why the Government of Canada continues to support the country’s researchers whose discoveries inspire entrepreneurs and innovators in the agriculture, health and commercial sectors.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, recently announced $6.7 million in federal funding for seven new projects under Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) that will match researchers with companies to develop new gene-based technologies in health care, agriculture and environmental protection.

An additional $14.3 million is being invested by provincial governments, businesses and other funding partners for a total of $21 million.

By studying genetic sequences, researchers develop technologies or processes that will improve crop growth, find a better treatment for babies born with a rare disease called cystinosis, and better protect wildlife, among other innovations. Genomics involves the study of genes, other DNA sequences and associated biological information that makes every organism different.

Minister Duncan made the announcement at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, one of the seven research institutions receiving GAPP funding.

This world-class centre for horticulture science and innovation will partner with a team of University of Toronto researchers to create new varieties of vegetables that will be more resistant to diseases.

Resilient vegetables will help increase how much Canadian farmers can grow during a season, giving them a competitive advantage in the billion-dollar agricultural industry.

This is one example of how science leads to new opportunities and good quality jobs. This investment in these projects will help businesses grow while supporting a stronger middle class.

“It all starts with science and our remarkable scientists. By investing in researchers, we are giving them the opportunity to work with each other and their counterparts in the business, health and agriculture sectors to find the ideas and innovations that power a stronger economy and a growing middle class. Congratulations to our successful recipients whose efforts will help us build a bolder, brighter future for all Canadians," said Duncan.
Published in Research
Iowa State University researchers are conducting experiments to determine what advantages may arise from integrating chickens into vegetable production systems. The researchers must balance a range of concerns, including environmental sustainability, costs and food and animal safety. But Ajay Nair, an associate professor of horticulture and a vegetable production specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, said finding ways to integrate vegetable and animal production may lead to greater efficiency and healthier soils.

The experiments, currently in their second year, take place at the ISU Horticulture Research Station just north of Ames. The researchers are testing what happens when a flock of broiler chickens lives on a vegetable field for part of the year.

The chickens forage on the plant matter left behind after the vegetables are harvested and fertilize the soil with manure. This integrated approach could reduce off-farm inputs and also provide producers with sustainable crop rotation options.

The researchers are testing three different systems on a half acre of land at the research farm. The first system involves a vegetable crop – one of several varieties of lettuce or broccoli – early in the growing season, followed by the chickens, which are then followed by a cover crop later in the year.

The second system involves the vegetable crop, followed by two months of a cover crop, with the chickens foraging on the land later in the year. The third system is vegetables followed by cover crops, with no chickens.

The experiment involves roughly 40 chickens, which live in four mobile coops that the researchers move every day. Moving the coops around ensures the chickens have access to fresh forage and keeps their manure from concentrating any particular part of the field. An electric fence surrounds the field to keep out predators.

Moriah Bilenky, a graduate assistant in horticulture, checks on the chickens every morning to make sure they have food and water. She also weighs them periodically to collect data on how efficiently they convert food into body mass. The researchers designed the trial to uphold animal health, and Bilenky said she keeps a detailed log on how foraging in the fields impacts the birds’ health and performance.

Nair said the researchers are looking at several facets associated with sustainability. Nitrogen and phosphorous deposited in the soil from the chicken manure could alleviate some of the need for fertilizer application, while working cover crops into the system can prevent the loss of nutrients into waterways. Economics must also factor into the research, he said.

“We might come up with results that really help the soil, but if the system is not economically stable, I doubt growers will be willing to adopt it because it has to work for their bottom line as well,” he said.

The trials also adhere to food safety regulations. For instance, all vegetables are harvested before the chickens are introduced to the fields, ensuring none of the produce is contaminated. The researchers consulted food safety and animal science experts at Iowa State while designing their experiments, and the work undergoes regular IACUC (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee) inspection and documentation, he said.

The trials remain ongoing, so the researchers aren’t drawing any conclusions yet about the success of their integrated system. The project is currently supported through a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant. Nair said he’s seeking additional funding to investigate the animal health and integrated pest management aspects of this research.

So why did the chicken cross the road? It’s too early to tell, but maybe so it could get into the lettuce and pepper fields.
Published in Research
Songbirds and coffee farms in Central America. Ladybugs and soybean fields in the Midwest. These are well-known, win-win stories that demonstrate how conserving natural habitat can benefit farmers.

But an international team of authors, including Megan O’Rourke, assistant professor in the Virginia Tech School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, found that natural habitat surrounding farm fields is not always an effective pest-control tool for farmers worldwide. The team’s analysis was published Aug. 2 in the journal PNAS.

“For the last 20 years, many scientists have suggested that you will have fewer insect pests on your farm if the farm is surrounded by natural habitats, such as forests,” O’Rourke said.

To test that assumption, lead authors Daniel Karp, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology, and Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, of the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, organized an international team of ecologists, economists, and practitioners at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center.

Together, they compiled the largest pest-control dataset of its kind, encompassing 132 studies from more than 6,700 sites in 31 countries worldwide — from California farmlands to tropical cacao plantations and European wheat fields.

Surprisingly, the results were highly variable across the globe. While many of the studies showed surrounding natural habitat does indeed help farmers control pests, just as many showed negative effects on crop yields. The analysis indicates that there are no one-size-fits-all recommendations for growers about natural habitat and pests.

“Natural habitats support many services that can help farmers and society, such as pollination and wildlife conservation, but we want to be clear about when farmers should or should not expect the land around their farms to affect pest management,” said O’Rourke, who works within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Fralin Life Science Institute. “Diverse landscapes are not a silver bullet for pest control but should be considered as part of a holistic and sustainable pest management plan.”

Critically, Karp and his team of 153 co-authors have made their pest-control database publicly available, opening the door for further scientific insights. Karp hopes the database will grow over time and help inform predictive models about when surrounding habitat helps control pests and when it does not.

The research was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center and the National Science Foundation.
Published in Research
When it comes to food production, three letters can cause panic: GMO. Yet, genetically modified organisms have become an integral part of the food supply chain, and it appears they will remain there for years to come as new techniques to alter the genetics of foods become more prevalent.

Case in point: the J.R. Simplot Co. entered a joint intellectual property licensing agreement for CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene editing tools with DowDuPont and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

The technology allows scientists to make precise changes to the genome of living organisms, which Simplot estimates will bring desirable traits forward in certain fruits and vegetables and advance products to the market in the U.S. | READ MORE 
Published in Research
The use of biocontrol pest methods in horticulture is growing, whether it’s trap crops, pheromone traps, predatory insects or biopesticides.
Published in Insects
Research at the James Hutton Institute has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress and suited to the requirements of growers, industry and retailers.
Published in Vegetables
Chinese scientists have developed a nanomaterial to control potato sprouts and reduce the poisonous substance in potatoes, providing a new method for potato storage.

Stored potatoes usually sprout rapidly, at the same time producing a significant amount of solanine, a toxic substance which endangers human health. Potato sprouts can be controlled using various techniques such as temperature control, irradiation and use of chemical inhibitors.

Scientists from Hefei Institute of Physical Science under Chinese Academy of Sciences developed a new nanomaterial called hydrophobic nano silica that can be used to inhibit the growth of potato sprouts. When potatoes are immersed in the solution of the material, a hydrophobic coating is created on the surface of the potatoes, effectively inhibiting potato sprouts and decreasing solanine. | READ MORE
Published in Research

Shipping cherries overseas is a high stakes game – every container carries approximately $100,000 of fruit. International consumers are becoming increasingly picky and buyers will only accept high quality cherries at port. Growers and packers are making it a top priority to ensure cherries make the journey in top form, impressing both international buyers and consumers.

Fortunately, advances in science are making it possible to measure cherries’ quality while they are still hanging on the tree, without damaging any in the process.

A team of researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Summerland is working with mobile hand-held optical spectrometers to develop models to precisely gauge the quality of cherries, and predict their firmness and flavour after storage or shipping.

The research team 
Dr. Peter Toivonen leads the Postharvest Physiology program at AAFC’s Summerland Research and Development Centre, which includes research technician Brenda Lannard and biologist Changwen Lu.

Together, they are fine-tuning models using specific commercial spectrometers to make this technology useful for Canadian cherry producers.

The team is determining the best values for fruit quality and storability for cherry varieties, including Lapins, Staccato, Sweetheart and many others that are grown commercially.

The work includes fine-tuning and expanding the use of the technology by developing specific protocols for working under a variety of conditions while ensuring consistent and meaningful readings.

The team is also working to identify any limitations to the technology before transferring it to end-users. As with other technologies, users – most likely skilled quality assurance or field service staff – will need training before putting these devices to work in the field. Working with industry to properly implement the technology will be the key to success.

What is the impact to growers?
Using hand-held spectrometers, in combination with knowledge generated from Dr. Toivonen’s research, will give cherry growers precise data on their crop’s ‘best before’ date.

“Being able to reliably measure the maturity and quality of cherries, without sacrificing any of that crop to sampling, will save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on container shipment claims for the industry,” estimates Dr. Toivonen.

Consumers’ expectations are high and if Canadian growers can improve their reputation for consistent high quality and flavour, the industry will benefit. Growers could see a 10-20% increase on returns thanks to improved consistency in quality.

“People are doing this work in other countries. If we are not part of it, we are behind,” advises Dr. Toivonen. Luckily, his team is working to keep the industry on the leading edge and consumers happy.

A closer look at the science: Q&A with Dr. Toivonen
What are optical spectrometers?

An optical spectrometer is a scientific instrument that emits light and measures how much of that light reflects back to the instrument. You hold the device against a cherry, it shines light on the surface of the intact fruit, and it measures the amount of light of each wavelength reflected back. The reflected light depends on the chemical composition of the fruit. Spectrometers were once cumbersome pieces of equipment, suited only for laboratory use, but now they are designed specifically for use in orchards.

What is dry matter?

Dry matter is what’s left in the fruit after all the water is removed. In cherries, dry matter is equivalent to sugar content, and is a good indicator of ripeness, quality after storage and flavour.

A grower who knows the dry matter content of their cherries can determine how well that fruit will do in storage, and decide which fruit to sell immediately and which to store or ship internationally. In short, using dry matter to make decisions on storage, shipping and market selection could lead to a consistent supply of crisp and delicious cherries from Canadian growers.

How do you measure dry matter?
The ‘old fashioned way’ of measuring dry matter isn’t practical for an orchard operation. You cut fruit into thin slices, weigh it and bake it at 60oC in an oven for two to three days until all the water is removed, then weigh it again. Your sample size is limited by oven space, samples are tedious to process, and valuable time is lost waiting for results. That could mean missing the best time for harvesting and shipping your cherries.

After the team completes validation of the scientific models for commercial spectrometers, growers will have a tool that can produce instant dry matter readings on as much fruit as needed without damaging any of it.

Published in Fruit
Canada's agriculture and agri-food system contributes $110 billion to Canada's economy, with more than $64.6 billion in exports.

Agriculture risk management is important to the sector – it helps stabilize farmers' incomes, strengthens farm businesses, and encourages growth in the agricultural sector.

Under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, governments continue to support the development of new risk management tools that reflect the changing nature of the business.

Building on the successes of Growing Forward 2, the AgriRisk Initiatives Program has been renewed under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay announced that the $55 million program will encourage partnerships between agriculture industry stakeholders, researchers, and federal, provincial and territorial governments to proactively explore and develop new risk management products and services for the agricultural sector.

Funding is available under two components: Research and Development and Administrative Capacity Building.

In response to recommendations received from the BRM Review Expert Panel, priority will be given to proposals for industry-led projects to develop new and innovative business risk management tools.

"Canada's hard-working farmers constantly face volatility and unpredictability in their business. Our Government is launching this renewed AgriRisk program to help protect our hardworking farmers from the risks they face so they can continue to grow the economy and create good, well-paying jobs. This announcement responds to what we heard from the external advisory panel on business risk management," said Minister MacAulay
Published in Federal
Canada's wine sector is growing, with the industry generating revenues of $1.2 billion in 2016 and employing over 5,600 people. Wine makers and grape growers across the country are working hard to ensure their businesses are able to thrive in Canada's climate, and innovate as the industry grows.

Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay, recently announced an investment of up to $8.4 million to the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN) under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership's AgriScience Clusters.

This is the first time grape and wine producing organizations from across the country have come together, as the CGCN, to develop a national research cluster.

This research investment, which includes up to an additional $3.7 million from industry contributions, will help growers better protect their crops, test new vine varieties, and analyze growing practices in Canadian vineyards that are better for the environment.

Minister MacAulay also congratulated the Canadian Vintners Association on completing a $1.5 million project under Growing Forward 2's AgriMarketing program.

This funding helped the Canadian wine industry enhance Canada's international reputation as a top cool climate wine producer through market development and trade advocacy activities, and helped launch the Wines of Canada brand.

Minister MacAulay also announced an additional investment of $1.5 million over three years to the Canadian Vintner's Association under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership's AgriMarketing program. The funding will assist the industry in activities such as participation in trade shows, missions, and promotions in traditional markets, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and China, as well as CVA's participation at international trade advocacy events.

"Today's announcement and investment in the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network for Canada's grape growing industry comes after many years of hard work and collaboration. The Grape Growers of Ontario are pleased to be working alongside our partners in Nova Scotia, Quebec, British Columbia and with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to create a domestic supply of clean rootstock which is critical to the future of Canada's grape growing industry," said Matthias Oppenlaender, chair, Grape Growers of Ontario.

Today's announcement is part of the Minister's cross country 'Growing Canadian Agriculture' tour which started in Quebec last week and ends in B.C. on July 17.

The Minister is meeting with farmers, processors and industry leaders, as well as participate in rural agricultural events, to highlight strategic federal agricultural investments and programs - including those recently launched under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership—and how they will help to build an even stronger and more innovative sector for Canada.

"I'm thrilled to be launching Canada's first-ever grape and wine cluster. Our domestic grape and wine sector has had a positive impact on Canada's economy, and it continues to grow. Today's announcement will help increase the market share of Canadian wines by supporting research that improves wine quality and vineyard management practices, addresses challenges faced by the sector, and build upon Canada's international reputation as a top cool-climate wine producer," said Minister MacAulay.


Published in Federal
It is well known that vegetables are good for people but they could also be the key to making stronger and greener buildings.
Published in Vegetables
A group of fungi might fight a disease that’s dangerous to tomatoes and specialty crops. University of Florida scientists hope to develop this biological strategy as they add to growers’ tools to help control Fusarium wilt.

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.”
Published in Research
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