Specialty 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
Wageningen University & Research uses computer models to develop sustainable management strategies in the control of potato late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans.

At the moment, large amounts of fungicides are used to control the disease. Organic farmers face an additional challenge because they are not allowed to use these chemicals. From an environmental point of view, these chemicals are also very polluting and therefore sustainable late blight management strategies are needed.

In Ph.D research study, computer models have been used to investigate how the disease spreads in an agricultural landscape and to analyze the effect of growing resistant varieties.

In Francine Pacilly's Ph.D. research, computer models have been used to investigate how the disease spreads in an agricultural landscape and to analyze the effect of growing resistant varieties.

These models show that an increase in the number of potato fields with resistant varieties increases the risk that aggressive strains of the pathogen emerge and spread.

This risk decreases if more than 50 per cent of the acreage of potato fields consists of resistant varieties. So, many resistant potatoes are not yet available so alertness is required. Various strategies are available to limit the consequences of a breakthrough, for example the spatial allocation of crops in combination with the use of small amounts of fungicides to limit the environmental impact.

In addition, growing resistant varieties with multiple resistance genes reduces the risk of susceptibility to the potato disease. It is expected that these type of varieties will enter the market soon.

Last year workshops with farmers were organized to increase awareness about the risk of resistance breakdown. In these workshops, the computer model was used to present several model scenarios to conventional and organic farmers. These workshops were very useful for showing farmers how the disease spreads in a landscape over time and space and for showing the effects in the long term.

After the workshop farmers agreed that resistance management is important to increase the durability of resistant varieties and that collaborative action is needed. The workshops were useful to bring farmers together and to discuss strategies in the control of late blight to reduce the impact of the disease.

In order to develop sustainable strategies it is important to consider all factors that influence late blight control such as the disease, the crop and control strategies of farmers. This research is part of the Complex Adaptive Systems program of Wageningen University where the goal is to identify these factors and to analyze how they influence each other. Potato late blight as one system brings a future without chemical control closer.
Published in Diseases
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
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
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
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
A Purdue University entomologist suggests that high-tunnel fruit and vegetable growers carefully consider species and tunnel construction when using natural enemies to control pest insect species.

Laura Ingwell, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of entomology, studies pest-control methods in protected agricultural systems. She’s interested in determining best practices for fruit and vegetable growers using high tunnels, which can extend the growing season. Her previous research has shown that high tunnels can increase not only crop yield, but also damaging pests.

In research published in the journal Biological Control, Ingwell tested augmentative biological control, which employs predatory insects that prey on crop pests. Producers supplement natural enemies in the environment with commercially available predators. The study sought to determine the best way to retain the beneficial insects in the high tunnels, reducing their dispersal to neighboring habitats.

Ingwell used small-opening, 0.18 mm2 screens on a subset of tunnels to test a variety of predatory insects, including lady beetles, minute pirate bugs, spined soldier bugs and green lacewings on tomatoes and cucumbers. Three times in the space of a week, researchers collected and counted the predators, but few had survived. Meanwhile, crop pests thrived.

“We had a really low recapture rate of all the predators that we used — less than 10 per cent,” Ingwell said. “The screens did not work, which really surprised us.”

Ingwell said the heat created by the screens was the likely culprit. It might have driven some to escape through cracks and holes in screens that are inevitable with high tunnels. The heat, which reached average maximum temperatures of 98°F, might have also killed many of the predators. The physical barrier prevented other predators from naturally colonizing in these tunnels.

“Airflow was significantly reduced by the screens, which trapped so much heat that it changed the environment inside the tunnels making it inhospitable for the predators we released,” Ingwell said. “The mites and aphids, which damage crops, seem to be less affected by the heat stress. They may be able to better handle those temperatures, or they may reproduce so quickly that their populations were better able to survive.”

In another set of tunnels, flowers and chemicals meant to attract predatory insects were used. The flowers provide alternative food for the predators when prey populations are low and the chemicals, called herbivore-induced plant volatiles, attract predators because they mimic the scents created when pest insects damage crops, signaling to predators that a meal is nearby. In those tunnels, twice as many minute pirate bugs were retained.

Ingwell suggests growers consider using flower varieties that can be sold commercially so as not to waste space that might be used for crops. For this study, Benary’s giant golden yellow zinnia and fireworks gomphrena were effective.

The take-away message from Ingwell is that using beneficial insects can work in some scenarios, but getting the right balance is tricky.

“In general, augmentative biocontrol may not be worth the investment because in most cases, those insects aren’t staying or surviving long enough to have an effect,” Ingwell said. “Unless you alter those environments to keep the predators there, this may not be a cost-effective method for controlling crop pests.”

Ingwell is continuing to test screen sizes and different predator pests to improve pest control in high tunnels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded this study.
Published in Research
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
E.W. Gaze Seeds Co. and Phytocultures Ltd. are working together to bring new types of potatoes to Newfoundland and Labrador from South America.
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
If you were going to tank mix chemical pesticides, you would of course read the label to check for compatibility before mixing products.

The same concept applies when using living organisms for pest control. Whether you are using parasitoid wasps, predatory mites, microorganisms, or nematodes, you need to know whether your biocontrols are compatible with each other and any other pest management products you plan to use.

For example, a biocontrol fungus might be killed if you tank mix it with (or apply it just before) a chemical fungicide. Insecticides (whether or not they are biological) could be harmful to natural enemy insects and mites. Even some beneficial insects are not compatible with each other because they may eat each other instead of (or in addition to) the pest. | READ MORE 
Published in Insects
A potato variety genetically engineered to resist potato blight can help reduce the use of chemical fungicides by up to 90 per cent, according to a new study - drastically reducing the environmental impact of potato farming.

Potato blight, caused by a water mould called Phytophthora infestans, can rapidly obliterate potato crops, and is one of the biggest problems in potato farming. 

Working together, scientists from Wageningen University & Research and Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, have developed a two-pronged approach: a genetically modified potato, along with a new pest management strategy, that combine for healthy crops with minimal fungicide use. | READ MORE
Published in Insects

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.

Published in Research
When humans get bacterial infections, we reach for antibiotics to make us feel better faster. It’s the same with many economically important crops. For decades, farmers have been spraying streptomycin on apple and pear trees to kill the bacteria that cause fire blight, a serious disease that costs over $100 million annually in the United States alone.

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.
Published in Research
Comparison of fungicide programs:

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.
Results indicate that the highest level of control was achieved using a high input three product rotation of Orondis Ultra A+B, Torrent and Zampro when downy mildew pressure was high in 2016.

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.
Published in Vegetables
In the past 10 years, the invasive fruit fly known as the spotted-wing drosophila has caused millions of dollars of damage to berry and other fruit crops.

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.
Published in Research
Developed by Biobest, Flying Doctors - bumblebees that pollinate flowers while at the same time delivering a ‘medicine’ to the plant - have been available since 2013. Highly innovative and efficient, these bumblebees kill two birds with one stone.

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.”
Published in Fruit
Alberta farms are seeing more opportunities to sell their products directly to consumers, as more people want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced.

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.
Published in Marketing

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.

Published in Research
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