June 27, 2017 – Why do the best fruits seem to have the shortest shelf life? It’s a challenge that plagues fresh fruit markets around the world, and has real implications for consumers and fruit growers.

Now, new research from University of Guelph has led to the development of a product that extends the shelf life of fresh fruits by days and even weeks, and it is showing promise in food insecure regions around the world.

“In people and in fruit, skin shrinks with age — it’s part of the life cycle, as the membranes start losing their tightness,” said Jay Subramanian, Professor of Tree Fruit Breeding and Biotechnology at the University of Guelph, who works from the Vineland research station. “Now we know the enzymes responsible for that process can be slowed.”

The secret, according to Subramanian, is in hexanal, a compound that is naturally produced by every plant in the world. His lab has developed a formulation that includes a higher concentration of hexanal to keep fruit fresh for longer.

Subramanian’s research team began experimenting with applying their formula to sweet cherry and peaches in the Niagara region. They found they were able to extend the shelf life of both fruits and spraying the formula directly on the plant prior to harvest worked as well as using it as a dip for newly harvested fruit.

“Even one day makes a huge difference for some crops,” Subramanian said. “In other fruits like mango or banana you can extend it much longer.”Once the formula is available on the market, Subramanian sees applications on fruit farms across Ontario, including U-pick operations, where an extended season would be beneficial. But the opportunities could also make a significant impact on fruit markets around the world.

Subramanian’s research team was one of only 19 projects worldwide awarded an exclusive research grant from the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund, a program governed by the International Development Research Centre and funded through Global Affairs Canada.

The team used the funding to collaborate with colleagues in India and Sri Lanka on mango and banana production. Mangos are one of the top five most-produced fruits in the world, with 80 per cent of the production coming from South Asia. After more than three years, researchers learned that by spraying the formula on mangos before harvest, they were able to delay ripening by up to three weeks.

“A farmer can spray half of his farm with this formulation and harvest it two or three weeks after the first part of the crop has gone to market,” Subramanian said. “It stretches out the season, the farmer doesn’t need to panic and sell all of his fruit at once and a glut is avoided. It has a beautiful trickle-down effect because the farmer has more leverage, and the consumer gets good, fresh fruit for a longer period.”

The team is at work in the second phase of the project applying similar principles to banana crops in African and Caribbean countries, and hopes to also tackle papaya, citrus and other fruits.

The formula has been licensed to a company that is completing regulatory applications and is expected to reach the commercial market within three years.
Published in Research
June 15, 2017, Guelph, Ont. - It seems like recently there have been a rash of proposed or pending pesticide regulation changes that affect field growers, and tomato growers are no exception.

There are re-evaluations ongoing for a number of products used in tomatoes, including mancozeb, neonicotinoids, and Lannate, as well as Ethrel, but the big one that comes to mind for field tomato growers is the proposed changes to the use of chlorothalonil (Bravo, Echo).

The final outcome of this review is not yet known, but it’s likely that significant changes to the chlorothalonil labels are coming.

Chlorothalonil is a go-to fungicide for tomato growers. Data from trials at Ridgetown Campus demonstrate its value. Chlorothalonil is often just as good at controlling early blight, Septoria leaf spot, and anthracnose fruit rot as alternative fungicides, and it also provides protection from late blight, which many targeted fungicides do not.

It’s a good value active ingredient for tomato disease management and has a low risk of resistance development. But, if proposed changes go through, the number of chlorothalonil applications you can use will be drastically cut. READ MORE 
Published in Chemicals
May 17, 2017 – The tip-and-pour method, as well as poorly designed pumps, can expose workers to injury and companies to significant financial losses.

Every day, handlers and applicators transfer potentially hazardous chemicals and concentrates such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and liquid fertilizers from large drums into smaller containers or mixing tanks. This transfer process can have serious consequences if manual “tip-and-pour” techniques or poorly designed pumps are used.

Whether the chemicals are toxic, corrosive, or flammable, the danger of accidental contact can pose a severe hazard to workers.

In fact, each year 1,800 to 3,000 preventable occupational incidents involving pesticide exposure are reported in the U.S. A closed system of transferring chemicals reduces unnecessary exposures by providing controlled delivery of chemical products without fear of worker exposure, over-pouring, spilling, or releasing vapours.

“When handling pesticides, toxicity and corrosiveness are the main dangers, but even organic pesticides can be harmful if there is exposure,” says Kerry Richards, Ph.D., president elect of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators and former director of Penn State’s Pesticide Safety Education Program. “No matter what their toxicity level, all chemicals, even those that are organic are a particular contact exposure risk if they are corrosive.”

In addition to the potential for injury, there can also be serious financial ramifications for the grower or ag product manufacturing facility if pesticides or liquid chemicals spill.

“Beyond workers compensation issues related to exposure, there can be other huge potential liabilities,” Richards says. “This is particularly true if a pesticide gets into a water source, kills fish, or contaminates drinking water.”

Richards, who works with the National Pesticide Safety Education Center, has seen and heard many examples of worker and environmental exposure from pesticides during more than 30 years of pesticide safety education experience.

“Exposure risk is highest for those loading chemicals into mix tanks because it is more concentrated and hazardous before diluted with water,” she says. “Any time you lose containment of the chemical, such as a spill, the risks can be serious and spiral out of control.”

Corrosive chemicals, for example, can severely burn skin or eyes, and many chemical pesticides are toxic when touched or inhaled.

“Some organic herbicides are so highly acidic that they essentially burn the waxy cuticle off the above ground parts of plants, killing them,” says Richards. “If you splash it in your eye or on your skin, it can burn in the same way and cause significant damage.”

Some chemicals are flammable as well, and if not properly handled and contained, can be ignited by sparking from nearby motors or mechanical equipment. The danger of a fire spreading can be serious both in the field and at ag product manufacturing facilities.

In addition to the cost of cleanup or treating injuries, substantial indirect costs can also be incurred. These include supervisors’ time to document the incident and respond to any added government inspection or scrutiny, as well as the potential for slowed grower production or even a temporary shutdown at ag manufacturing plants.

“The direct and indirect costs of a pesticide spill or injury can be substantial, not the least of which is the loss of wasted chemicals,” says Richards. “Pesticides, particularly newer concentrated formulations, are very expensive so spilling a few ounces could cost you several hundred dollars in lost product during a single transfer.”

Traditional practices of transferring liquid chemicals suffer from a number of drawbacks.

Manual techniques, such as the tip-and-pour method, are still common today. Tipping heavy barrels or even 2.5-gallon containers, however, can lead to a loss of control and over pouring.

“When manually transferring chemicals from bulk containers, it is very difficult to control heavy drums,” cautions Richards. “I’d advise against it because of the significantly increased risk of exposure or a spill, and the added potential of a back injury or muscle strain.”

Although a number of pump types exist for chemical transfer (rotary, siphon, lever-action, piston and electric), most are not engineered as a sealed, contained system. In addition, these pumps can have seals that leak, are known to wear out quickly, and can be difficult to operate, making precise volume control and dispensing difficult.

In contrast, closed systems can dramatically improve the safety and efficiency of chemical transfer. California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, in fact, requires a closed system for mixing and loading for certain pesticides so handlers are not directly exposed to the pesticide.

“The availability of new technology that creates a closed or sealed system is ideal for handling pesticides or other dangerous chemicals, and should become a best management practice,” suggests Richards. “With such devices ... pesticide handlers can maintain a controlled containment from one vessel to another and significantly reduce any potential for exposure or spill.”

A sealed system delivers liquids to an intermediate measuring device and is useful for low toxicity liquids. A closed system moves the material from point A to point B through hoses using dry-break fittings on the connection points. This prevents leaking and exposure to the handler which helps guarantee safety. Liquids are transferred from the source container, into the measuring system, and then to the mix tank.

Small, versatile, hand-operated pressure pumps are engineered to work as a system, which can be either closed or sealed. The pumps can be used for the safe transfer of more than 1,400 industrial chemicals, including the most aggressive pesticides.

These pumps function essentially like a beer tap. The operator attaches the pump, presses the plunger several times to build up a low amount of internal pressure, and then dispenses the liquid. The device is configured to provide precise control over the fluid delivery, from slow (1ML/ 1 oz.) up to 4.5-gallons per minute, depending on viscosity.

Because such pumps use very low pressure (<6 PSI) to transfer fluids through the line and contain automatic pressure relief valves, they are safe to use with virtually any container from 2-gallon jugs to 55-gallon drums.

When Jon DiPiero managed Ricci Vineyards, a small wine grape vineyard in Sonoma, Calif., he sought a safer, more efficient way to transfer pesticides for mixing and spraying that complied with the state’s closed system requirement for certain pesticides.

“We had to fill 2.5-gallon containers from a 55-gallon drum,” says DiPiero. “Traditional tipping and pouring from a drum wasn’t going to work due to the potential for spills, splashes, over pouring and chemical exposure, as well as the state mandate for a closed system for some pesticides.”

DiPiero turned to GoatThroat Pumps and was happy with the results for a number of reasons.

“Because the pump is closed, sealed, and allows containers to remain in an upright position, it complied with state regulation and virtually eliminated the potential for all forms of chemical exposure,” DiPiero says.

He adds the air pressure supplied by the hand pump allows the precise flow required into a measuring cylinder.

In case of overfill, “the operator can open a valve to release air pressure and the pesticide will backflow into the tank with no cross contamination,” DiPiero says. “This gave us the exact amount we needed so there was no waste.”

According to DiPiero, a multi-directional spray attachment also enables rinsing of every corner of the container without having to pour into it and shake it. He says this helps to minimize exposure when cleaning a container for reuse and satisfies California “triple rinsing” requirements.

“Whether for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or liquid fertilizers, a closed and sealed pump design could help with the safe production or mixing of any liquid chemical,” says DiPiero.

When Lancaster Farms, a wholesale container plant nursery serving the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, required a lower pH to adjust its well water for a pesticide spray application, it had to transfer sulfuric acid to buffer the spray water.

According to Shawn Jones, Lancaster Farms’ propagation and research manager, the nursery chose to purchase 55-gallon drums of sulfuric acid to raise chemical pH. The drums of chemicals were much more cost effective than multiple 2.5-gallon containers and much easier to recycle. However, Jones was wary of the danger that tipping and pouring acid from the drums would pose, along with pouring bleach and another strong disinfectants for different uses in the propagation area.

“We use 40 percent sulfuric acid to buffer our spray water,” Jones says. “Our irrigation water is all recycled from ponds, with the drum storage areas relatively close to our water source, so we wanted to avoid any possibility of accidental spillage.”

Previously, the nursery had used siphon pumps to transfer the acid, bleach, and disinfectant, but Jones was dissatisfied with this approach.

“None of our siphon pumps lasted more than six months before we had to replace them, and none allowed metering with the kind of precision we required,” he says.

Instead, Jones chose to implement several closed, sealed GoatThroat Pumps, along with graduated cylinders for precise measurement.

“With the pumps, the drums always remain in an upright position so they won’t tip over accidentally,” Jones says.

The one-touch flow control dispenses liquids at a controlled rate.

“We get precise measurement into our mix tanks. We use every drop, spill nothing, and waste nothing.”

In terms of longevity, Jones’ first sealed pump has already lasted six years and outlasted a dozen previous siphon pumps.

“Our GoatThroat Pumps paid for themselves in safety and savings our first growing season, and should last a decade or more with just routine maintenance or repair,” Jones concludes. “Any grower, farmer, or nursery that needs to move or measure dangerous liquids safely and reliably should consider one.”

Agricultural chemicals are very expensive, and growers are always looking for ways to decrease the cost of inputs to help increase profits. Sealed systems and closed systems allow for accurate and precise measuring of chemicals, which ensures that you’re using only the amount of product required and not one extra drop.

Taking the guesswork out of measuring costly materials, and providing an efficient means of transferring custom blended or dilute products from original containers to mix tanks or back pack sprayers cuts input costs. This keeps expenses to a minimum, with the important bonus of increasing the safety of handlers by reducing the potential exposure to the chemical, which helps increase the bottom line and can assist with regulatory compliance.
Published in Chemicals
May 17, 2017 - In an effort to educate growers about the use of injectors in chemigation and fertigation agricultural applications, Mazzei has put together a PowerPoint training program.

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Stevens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zac Farmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Bartlett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think the results are encouraging.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We will ... be looking at that,” Dr. Cline said.
Published in Chemicals
April 17, 2017, Guelph, Ont – The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) recently announced the approval of an URMULE registration for Prowl H2O herbicide for control of labeled weeds on direct seeded, green (bunching) onions grown on muck soil in eastern Canada and British Columbia.

Prowl H2O herbicide was already labeled for use on a number of crops in Canada for control of weeds.

The minor use project for green onions grown on muck soil was sponsored by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pest Management Centre (AAFC-PMC) as a result of minor use priorities established by growers and extension personnel.

Prowl H2O herbicide is toxic to aquatic organisms and non-target terrestrial plants. Do not apply this product or allow drift to other crops or non-target areas. Do not contaminate off-target areas or aquatic habitats when spraying or when cleaning and rinsing spray equipment or containers.

Follow all precautions and detailed directions for use on the Prowl H2O herbicide label carefully.

For a copy of the new minor use label contact your local crop specialist, regional supply outlet or visit the PMRA label site http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/registrant-titulaire/tools-outils/label-etiq-eng.php .
Published in Weeds
April 17, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has completed a special review on Paraquat (Gramoxone Liquid Herbicide) and proposed a phase-out of the product. See part of the decision below:

[PMRA] recently conducted a Special Review of Paraquat and concluded that changes to the Gramoxone Liquid Herbicide with Wetting Agent, Reg. No. 8661   (i.e. “Gramoxone”) product formulation and packaging are required. As a result of this decision, a phase-out of the current product is being implemented.

As mandated by the PMRA, Syngenta will not be selling Gramoxone (in its current form) after March 31, 2017. The last date that retailers can sell this product is September 30, 2017.

Growers may continue to use the current formulation of Gramoxone during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. After December 31, 2018, this formulation of Gramoxone must not be used and must be properly disposed of. Please contact CleanFarms (1-877-622-4460) for information regarding the pesticide disposal program in your area.

Options to make this tool available to Canadian growers beyond December 31, 2018, are currently being considered and evaluated. We will update you in the future, as appropriate.

In order to continue to use Gramoxone for 2017 and 2018, there are additional stewardship requirements that must be met:
  • Gramoxone may only be sold to and used by individuals that hold an appropriate pesticide applicator certificate or license as recognized by the appropriate provincial/territorial pesticide regulatory agency.
  • See amended label for changes in PPE and first aid instructions.
  • Gramoxone may only be tank-mixed with products on the label.
  • Retailers must provide a copy of the Paraquat Stewardship Counter Card to the end-user (i.e. grower, applicator, etc.) at the time of sale.
These stewardship requirements can be found on the Gramoxone Product Page, short video and Powerpoint presentation.
Published in Weeds
April 10, 2017, Calgary, Alta – An exclusive new Canadian distribution agreement between bio-ferm and Nufarm Agriculture Inc. adds two biological fungicides to Nufarm’s horticultural line of crop protection solutions.

Blossom Protect and Botector are now available from Nufarm in Canada, as part of the company’s lineup of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides for Canadian horticultural growers.

“Biological fungicides make up an important and growing part of our fungicide portfolio,” says Maria Dombrowsky, horticultural specialist at Nufarm Agriculture Inc. “Blossom Protect and Botector are great complements to our existing products, and will allow Nufarm to continue to support growers and their IPM programs.”

Blossom Protect is a biological fungicide that provides protection for pome fruit against fire blight (Erwinia amylovora). Botector is a biological fungicide used to protect grapes from botrytis (Botrytis cinerea).

bio-ferm products contain a unique mode of action that hinders the development of resistance,” says Werner Fischer, managing director with bio-ferm. “Our products are suitable for conventional and organic production, and bring the additional benefit of being safe for humans, animals and beneficials. They are certified through Ecocert Canada.”

Blossom Protect and Botector are available exclusively through Nufarm Agriculture Inc., its distributors and retailer partners across Canada.
Published in Diseases
April 3, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Syngenta Canada recently launched Aprovia Top fungicide, a new tool for controlling foliar early blight and suppressing brown spot.

Early blight, which is caused by the Alternaria solani fungus, is found in most potato growing regions. Foliar symptoms include small, brown, irregular or circular-shaped lesions that form on the potato plant’s lower leaves later in the season. The disease prefers warm, dry conditions to develop, and can be more severe in plants that are stressed and weakened.

Brown spot, caused by the Alternaria alternata fungus, is closely related to early blight and is found wherever potatoes are grown. Unlike early blight, brown spot can occur at any point during the growing season, producing small, dark brown lesions on the leaf surface.

Aprovia Top fungicide combines two modes of action with preventative and early curative activity on these two key diseases. Difenoconazole (Group 3) is absorbed by the leaf and moves from one side of the leaf to the other to protect both surfaces against disease. Solatenol (Group 7 SDHI) binds tightly to the leaf’s waxy layer and is gradually absorbed into the leaf tissue to provide residual protection.

“After a strong start, a foliar application of Aprovia Top can be used to manage these key diseases and keep potato crops greener longer,” says Eric Phillips, fungicides and insecticides product lead with Syngenta Canada.

Aprovia Top is available now for use in 2017 production. In potatoes, one case will treat up to 40 acres.

At this time, maximum residue limits (MRLs) for Solatenol use on potatoes have been established for markets in Canada and the U.S. Growers should consult with their processor prior to use.

In addition to potatoes, Aprovia Top can be used to control scab and powdery mildew in apples. Aprovia Top also provides control of early blight, powdery mildew, and Septoria leaf spot in fruiting vegetables, as well as powdery mildew, Alternaria blight and leaf spot in cucurbit vegetables.

See the Aprovia Top label for a complete list of crops and diseases.

For more information about Aprovia Top fungicide, please visit Syngenta.ca or the Customer Interaction Centre at 1‑87‑SYNGENTA (1‑877‑964‑3682).
Published in Diseases
March 28, 2017, Calgary, Alta – Four new crops have been added to the Presidio fungicide label as the result of Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) minor use approvals.

Presidio is now approved for use on ginseng, tobacco, brassica leafy vegetables and greenhouse ornamentals for a variety of troublesome diseases. The PMRA has also approved Presidio for control of pink rot on potatoes.

“These Presidio label additions are really important news for Canadian growers that depend on minor use approvals to protect their high value crops,” says Maria Dombrowsky, horticultural specialist at Nufarm Agriculture Inc. “Now more growers can access Presidio as part of their integrated pest management (IPM) program with a unique class of chemistry for better resistance management.”

Presidio (Group 43) provides growers with preventive and some curative reach-back action against downy mildew and Phytophthora spp., including late blight, on a variety of crops. In addition to these new crops, Presidio is also registered for use on head, stem and root brassica, cucurbits, fruiting vegetables and leafy vegetables.

“Presidio offers a great new option for domestic potato growers managing pink rot,” says Dombrowsky. “Growers should check with their processors before using Presidio on potatoes, because maximum residue limits (MRLs) for potatoes have not been established in all export markets.”
Published in Diseases
March 27, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Engage Agro Corporation has announced the release of two new products to serve horticultural producers across Canada.

Property 300 SC fungicide is a suspension concentrate fungicide that offers protection against powdery mildew in grapes, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash and melons.

Pyriofenone, the active ingredient in Property, is the newest generation chemical found in the FRAC U8 group. It demonstrates extremely fast translaminar activity that is complemented by a “vapour effect” that is stronger and longer lasting than that of other chemistries found in the same group.

Property is the only group U8 fungicide that can be applied up to the day of harvest on grapes.

Cosavet DF is a dry flowable sulphur fungicide that prevents powdery mildew and controls erinium mite of grape. Its patented formulation ensures a low dust, easy to mix product that helps to minimize the risk of scorching. Cosavet DF also controls a wide variety of diseases in tree fruit, Saskatooon berries, cucumbers and peas.

Variations in particle size ensure immediate, mid-term and residual activity through contact and vapour action to protect against target fungi.

For more information contact Engage Agro at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 1-866-613-3336.
Published in Diseases
March 1, 2017, Calgary, Alta – Chateau herbicide, by Valent Canada, Inc. is now registered for use on broccoli and caneberry.

Broccoli and caneberry growers in Canada now have another tool to assist in the control of Group 2-acetolactate synthase (ALS) resistant weeds, such as red root pigweed, green pigweed, eastern black nightshade and common ragweed.

Chateau, containing flumioxazin (51.1 per cent), is a residual pre-emergent herbicide. A PPO inhibitor, Chateau’s mode of action is different than many other herbicides, so it helps fight resistance, while providing long-lasting control of tough weeds including Group 2-resistant weeds.

“Chateau has proven to be an effective herbicide on a wide range of crops” says Maria Dombrowsky, horticulture specialist at Nufarm Agriculture Inc. “I am pleased that this tool is now available to broccoli and caneberry growers for incorporation into their IPM program.”

Chateau should be used in rotation with other herbicide modes of action. Chateau is also registered for use on other crops, including pome fruit, blueberries and strawberries. For more information, consult the complete product label at www.nufarm.ca/product/chateau/.
Published in Weeds
February 21, 2017, Ridgetown, Ont – The Ontario Pesticide Education Program has released a new manual for farm workers.
If you work on a farm where pesticides are used, you need to know how to work safely around pesticides. The information in this manual explains how farm workers can work safely on a farm that uses pesticides.

It can be downloaded from their website (5 MB). For those without Internet access or with a need for a print version, you can request the manual from OPEP at 1-800-652-8573 (Ontario only) or 519-674-2230.

A Spanish version will be released very soon.

Please ensure that all your farm workers are familiar with the information in this manual.
Published in Chemicals


When applying chemicals to crops, where the chemical is delivered is sometimes more important than how much is delivered.

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists has developed a new laser-guided spraying system that controls spray outputs to match targeted tree structures.

“Conventional spray application technology requires excessive amounts of pesticide to achieve effective pest control,” says ARS agricultural engineer Heping Zhu. “This challenge is now overcome by our automated, variable-rate, air-assisted, precision sprayer. The new system is able to characterize the presence, size, shape, and foliage density of target trees and apply the optimum amount of pesticide in real time.”

The system has many parts that have to work together with precision, including a high-speed laser-scanning sensor working in conjunction with a Doppler radar travel-speed sensor.

“Our field experiments showed that the precision sprayer, when compared to conventional sprayers with best pest management practices, consistently sprayed the correct amount of chemicals, despite changes in tree structure and species,” Zhu says.

“Pest control with the new sprayer was comparable to that of conventional sprayers, but the new sprayer reduced average pesticide use between 46 and 68 per cent, with an average pesticide cost savings of $230 per acre for ornamental nurseries. The cost savings can be much higher for orchards and other fruit crop productions.”

Additional tests in an apple orchard demonstrated that the new sprayer reduced spray loss beyond tree canopies between 40 and 87 per cent, airborne spray drift by up to 87 per cent, and spray loss on the ground between 68 and 93 per cent.

Sharon Durham is with Agricultural Research Service’s information staff.





Published in Spraying


With the increases in minimum wage, labour costs have jumped significantly for Ontario horticulture farmers in recent years. While this has been tough on many producers, apple growers have been feeling the bight keenly considering there is more labour required to keep an orchard running.

Some have approached the challenge head-on, aggressively reducing the need for labour through planning, management and intensive production. But one Ontario grower has thrown a lot of effort into doing more with less. For his hard work and experimentation, Werner Zurbuchen, the owner of Zurbuchen Farm in Norfolk County, was recognized with a 2014 Premier’s Awards for Agrifood Innovation Excellence.

“We still have to work long hours at times,” he admits. “But we’re doing significantly more with less.”

In 1993, Zurbuchen and his family decided to sell their broiler operation and orchard/vineyard in Switzerland and immigrate to Canada. They purchased a broiler chicken farm in the Waterford area, which featured 185 workable acres of loam soil that has since been systematically drained. During his first autumn on the new farm, Zurbuchen got going right away with apple growing. He planted 100 apple trees and also grafted other varieties to test how they would perform in the Ontario climate. Once he saw them doing well, he budded 17,000 trees on rootstock in his own nursery, and then planted them on 17 acres. From 2009 to 2012, Zurbuchen and his family expanded the orchard to 50 acres. The farm now has 48 acres of apples (with 10 being mature, high-density cultivation), two acres of pears, and the rest supporting a rotation of corn, soybeans and wheat.

“The apple crop estimate for 2015, if things go well, is about 1,000 bins,” Zurbuchen says. “In terms of what we grow, over the past two years, we have cut out our Spy, Mutsu and Macintosh cultivars because these varieties aren’t favoured today, and are now growing a majority of newer varieties. By today’s standards, we plant a medium-density orchard of 1,000 trees per acre and train them as tall spindle.”

Tall spindle tree care, once the trees reach their maturity, is time-consuming in terms of taking care of the upper section beyond normal arm reach from the ground.

“If you use a ladder for this – and for thinning, tying, trellis installation and harvesting – it’s quite expensive because of the labour involved,” Zurbuchen says. “In addition, ladders and heavy bags of apples can be dangerous.”

Zurbuchen had already designed the high-density part of the orchard for mechanization, so when labour costs started increasing around 2010, he went the automation route and bought machinery. (He also welcomed his son-in-law Joseph Taylor to the farm as mechanic and, after some training, as seasonal field manager.) Zurbuchen’s first purchases were an imported European mechanical thinner, a Frumaco platform/harvest-aid and a bin trailer. In 2011, he bought a Feucht windfall pick-up machine, and in 2013, a Fama mechanical pruner.

The Frumaco platform has performed as expected, boosting operational efficiency by a significant amount.

“It cuts both pruning and harvest time by 35 per cent, and thinning and trellis/tying worktime each by 50 per cent,” Zurbuchen says. “I can’t provide an accurate figure for the mechanical pruner right now as we’re still experimenting with it, but together with the platform, we are hoping for at least a total 50 per cent reduction in pruning time. We have used it a lot in a leased orchard with standard planting density and with varieties prone to dropping, and we can pick up at least 50 bins in seven hours with two men running it.”

While worker safety has also been improved with the machinery additions, Zurbuchen says that proper instruction for each worker is still critical in order to keep the risk of accidents to a minimum.

Because he thought there might be other growers besides himself interested in mechanizing, Zurbuchen also started an orchard equipment business called Tazu Technology. The company imports and distributes mechanical pruners, platform picking machines and other orchard equipment.

“We stand by what we sell because we have firsthand experience with it,” he says.

There are six Frumaco harvesters currently being used in Quebec and Ontario orchards, and Zurbuchen believes that number will increase.

“There’s been a lot of interest from growers and we’re confident that in the coming years, more farmers will move forward in mechanising their operations,” he says. “We are currently in the process of purchasing a Lipco twin row tunnel sprayer which will be able to spray two rows at once, recycling lost chemicals while not being effected by the prevailing winds we seem to have quite often.”

Zurbuchen is also thinking seriously about buying a Frost Buster – a propane air blast heater that will help combat night frost in the spring and also assist with pollination.

The current challenges for this operation include planting new varieties that will be strong market leaders for many years to come. Replacing some of the less desirable older varieties with newer ones will also help to fill out the orchard’s harvesting window. Zurbuchen also wants to continue honing his integrated pest management (IPM) program, as well as his strategies for finding committed local labour.

“It’s also a challenge these days to deal with more and more paperwork, not only related to employees but also to comply with regulations and burdensome red tape,” he says.

Of winning the award, Zurbuchen says he’s happy that it’s brought some positive attention to the apple industry.

“It is our hope that the government understands that for Ontario farmers to be successful in a very competitive market is a very real challenge,” he says. “We are thankful to the premier and her staff who put the work into recognizing the hardworking people in the agriculture industry.”




Published in Harvesting

May 19, 2015, Fresno, CA – Agrian announced recently that its cloud-based agriculture data management platform is now available for Canadian agriculture and food system businesses.

The recently released Agrian 6 software platform includes several new capabilities, all of which are designed to help growers, crop advisors, ag retailers and food processors manage, share and leverage farm data simply and efficiently.

Building on software platform, Agrian is now introducing its updated Agrian 6 software program for Canadian growers and agribusinesses. The platform brings together elements of precision agronomy, analytics, compliance and sustainability in a single farm data management system.

“One of the major challenges growers have with the recent proliferation of farm data technologies is the lack of a cohesive and unbiased source for comprehensive compliance, precision ag data management and recordkeeping,” said Nishan Majarian, CEO and founder of Agrian.

“There’s been an explosion of point solutions that provide just one piece of the precision ag puzzle, like equipment tracking, for instance. But that fragmentation has led to frustration from growers and agrifood professionals with having to use six or eight different apps or software programs to manage information that impacts their operation. That frustration is compounded when farmers can’t access all of the data points and records in unison.”

Agrian’s expanded software program is designed to accommodate all facets of precision ag data in one platform. With a single Agrian account, users can access a suite of customizable applications via computer, tablet or smartphone.

The Agrian 6 system is programmed to capture data on fertilizer applications; nutrient management; planting records; field scouting reports; spray records; integrated soil, tissue and water laboratory analysis; and asset tracking with wireless data transfer from field equipment.

The Agrian 6 mobile mapping application allows users to plot field samples and track inputs, scouting records, seeding rates, crop performance and yield records. The robust mapping features are customizable and can be used to document field-specific records and events.

Satellite imagery is available, capturing up to two-million square miles daily, and provides access to high-resolution, multispectral, in-season imagery for timely extraction of data that directly impact crop production and performance.

Agrian 6 dashboards can be easily customized to provide users with summary snapshots or detailed real-time reports on water use, fertilizer and chemical inputs. With permission from growers, the dashboards also allow for a network of users such as applicators, agronomists or ag retail partners to record their field-level activities. Growers can also program “alerts” so they are automatically notified when trigger points are reached or action is required.

“We’re excited about the design and architecture of Agrian 6,” said Chad Matthies, Canadian business manager for Agrian. “It’s very simple to use and it’s consistent across platforms. Whether you’re working on a desktop, tablet or phone, all the features look and function in the exact same manner. The feedback we’ve received from customers involved in beta testing has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Matthies added that every page has help capabilities built in, providing information directly to the user when they need it. Agrian also provides regular training webinars to help new and existing users customize the system to best suit the needs of their operation.

To date, commodity crop growers who have adopted data management and precision agronomy tools have done so to drive efficiency and optimize production. With few exceptions, their adoption has been optional.

But for produce growers, who are required to adhere closely to a myriad of governmental regulations and food company standards, using data management and compliance reporting systems like Agrian’s is, by and large, standard operating procedure as a means to efficiently document practices for compliance purposes.

Analysts foresee the potential for more demands being made on commodity crop growers for documentation of nutrients, chemicals and other applications. Increased pressure is being placed on the entire agrifood supply chain from consumers, voters, government, export markets and food retailers.

Greater emphasis is also being placed on environmental stewardship and sustainable farming practices. The rapid growth of markets for organics and other non-conventionally produced foods has also increased the number of growers documenting inputs.

“There’s no question the application of data and technology will continue to increase at a rapid pace, whether it’s for production efficiency, compliance reporting or documenting sustainability measures,” said Majarian. “The Agrian 6 platform is designed exclusively to help growers, ag retailers and food companies manage data in a unified format that contributes to the success of their businesses.”

Published in Companies

February 10, 2015, Racine, WI – Orchard growers eager to match tractor power and efficiency with the best-possible working environment now have a cab tractor option from Case IH. The new cab combines a low profile with a roomy interior to protect crops while maximizing operator comfort.

With an overall height of 83 inches, the new cab provides one of the lowest profiles in the industry and will help keep produce on the trees. The Orchard Cab provides the operator with a 360-degree view, and all the windows are recessed into the cab for a smooth exterior surface that will not catch on tree limbs.

The ergonomic control layout, large entry and exit doors, cab pressurizer and HVAC system are designed to maximize operator comfort while reducing operator fatigue. Plus, the cab offers spacious design.

With 98 per cent Case IH OEM parts, dealers are able to service almost every part through the Case IH part system. This ensures adequate parts stock inventory and overnight availability of these parts using the dealer’s order system (already in place).

The cab is compatible with the Tier 4A Farmall 85C, 95C, 105C and 115C and will be available for the Tier 4 B 90C, 100C,110C and 120C soon.

Published in Spraying
Orchard management and harvesting hasn’t changed greatly in the past few decades but that is changing quickly.

“The orchard industry is one of the last industries to automate or mechanize,” said Matt Peters with N.M. Bartlett Inc., a Niagara, Ont.-based supplier of crop protection products and machinery.

Peters is on the advisory committee of the Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops (CASC) group, whose goal is to develop automation strategies and technologies for the specialty crop (tree fruit) industry. The organization is comprised engineers, scientists and extension specialists based at various universities, government officials, growers and industry representatives from five U.S. states. This area represents 70 per cent of U.S. apple production.

In 2008, the United States Department of Agriculture provided research funds to the tree fruit industry through the Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) program to match contributions

by industry, said Peters. The funding was to assist in establishing research partnerships to focus on efforts to improve production efficiency. Its $47 million in funding will end January 2014.

He estimates U.S. specialty agriculture generates $50 billion annually, while Canadian speciality crops create another $7 to $10 billion annually.

One of the funded projects is examining mechanical blossom thinning without chemicals and minimal hand labour. The CASC is looking at European technology, such as the Darwin Mechanical Blossom Thinner, which offers a saving in peaches of between $185 to $935, Peters said.

The Darwin thinner – when equipped with sensors and mounted on the back of a tractor – offers an additional saving of $63 to $135, he added, noting that N.M. Bartlett is starting to build and market the thinner for North America.

CASC, under the SCRI program, is also looking at crop intelligence, including pest monitoring, crop load scouting, stress and disease detection. As an example, the organization is studying an automated insect trap, the Z-trap, to identify pests, relay information to growers and crop consultants as well as destroying insects using pheromone lures to lure them into an electric coil, said Peters. He added it allows faster access to information than a scouting trap.

CASC is also reviewing vehicles that offer mobility and accurate positioning to assist in harvesting, including an autonomous prime mover that uses a laser, GPS and a camera to conduct routine tasks such as mowing, spraying, tree training and bin moving, plus a disease identification and prediction system equipped with micro-sensors for the orchard, he said.

European technology
“There are a lot things we can learn from Europe,” said Peters. “They have much higher costs than us, so they have thought through this shift.”

European scissor jack platforms such as Blosi or Orsi are self-leveling for up to a 20 degree slope and sensors will also keep them driving straight when in orchard rows, he said.

Additionally, they offer a 46 per cent saving in thinning costs, a 25 per cent saving in pruning costs and a 18 per cent saving in harvesting costs.

Peters stated the orchard platform will pay for itself within three years on lower labour costs.

Mechanical pruners mounted on the platform are being used with great success in Belgium, Germany and France, he said, observing that N.M. Bartlett is importing a German design to be built in Canada featuring a double knife blade mounted on a swing away arm with hydraulic controls to alter the angle of cut.

Peters said a mechanized blossom thinner can also be added to a platform.

N.M. Bartlett will also be introducing the Bin Dog, an autonomous vehicle that pushes up bins from the orchard to an unloading dock.

U.S. technology
Phil Brown Welding, based in Michigan, has designed and built for orchards, vineyards, greenhouses and nurseries. Phil Brown designed his machines in partnership with Pennsylvania State and Washington State Universities.

Brown has developed a three-wheeled tree trimmer/pruner and fruit harvester (the Brownie One), a self loading and unloading box handler that works with the harvester, a box shuttle, a blossom thinner, brush sweepers and pushers.

He has also mounted his harvester on a scissors platform where two pickers on the platform can work in rows 12 to 18 feet wide as the platform can be extended or retracted.

“We have had less bruising than with a picking bag and ladders,” claimed Brown.

The two pickers feed the apples into a vacuum hose on the platform which feed into a bin which can be filled in six to eight minutes, he said.

His orchard platform has auto-steering and auto-shift and it can be used for thinning and pruning by dismounting its vacuum picking system, said Brown. His latest platform costs about $80,000 and, to date, he has built 50 of them.

U.K. technology
Tim Biddlecombe of Fast Ltd., U.K.-based orchard consultants, added a lot of U.K. growers in the past five years have adopted the Dutch picking train system in which a tractor tows five to six coupled, wheeled bins down the rows to where they are to be filled.

He said it offers constant supervision, less bruising and bin bumping, less picker fatigue, less row rutting, less mud splashing, and reduces phytophthera; but it can be difficult to handle on steep slopes or side banks. It also requires more tractors and a large enough central collection point for unloading and there is more apple puncture in the bins, he observed.

Biddlecombe, however, noted one U.K. fruit farm estimated it saved 45,241 pounds in its first year on the bin train system in tractor fuel and a reduction in picking time from 26 to 16 days.

Smart sprayer
Andrew Bishop of Noggins Corner Farm in Greenwich, NS., is very pleased with his latest machinery purchase for his orchard.

In 2012, he began using a John Bean Smart Sprayer he bought from a supplier in Ontario. Since then, “it has been on the go constantly,” he said. “I quite like it. It makes the job much easier.”

With a tracking hitch between the tractor and the sprayer and crab steering on the tractor, Bishop said it is quite easy to handle in the orchard. As well, its ultra-sonic sensor system with five sensors mounted on either side of his tractor can tell the computer controller for the sprayer in the tractor cab the distance to the trees and their height.

Bishop said the sensors activate the nozzles on the sprayer’s boom arms through the on-board computer and he never has to stop and shut off the sprayer.

“It is a very sensitive system that gives very good coverage,” he said, noting that if he drove the tractor over 5.5 mph, the sprayer will shut off and he could also reduce drift by adjusting the fan speed on the spryer.

“It is fantastic for the environment and the cost saving,” said Bishop.

The Smart Sprayer has a 400 gallon capacity tank and a very low maintenance cost, he said.

Bill Craig, a tree fruit extension specialist with Perrenia – the provincial consulting agency – added Bishop’s Smart Sprayer is the first sensor-equipped sprayer in the
Annapolis Valley. ❦
Published in Harvesting

December 19, 2012 – Diseases such as purple spot can have major economic impacts for asparagus growers, and the best line of defence is spraying.

The good news is that asparagus growers know this and take steps to protect against it. The bad news is that there are few things harder to spray than asparagus in fern. READ MORE

Published in Spraying
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