Sustainability
Cavendish Farms recently announced that they will be focusing on the frozen potato processing business on Prince Edward Island due to the limited availability of raw product.

The decision will result in the closure of their fresh produce packaging facility in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island at the end of the year. The closure will affect 40 employees.

“Cavendish Farms has had to make this difficult business decision based on ongoing demand, and limited availability of potatoes on the Island,” said Ron Clow, general manager, Cavendish Farms. “The supply of raw product is critical to our business. Cavendish Farms had to make up for a shortage of 150 Million lbs. of potatoes in 2017. As a result, we needed to find other sources on the Island as well as import potatoes from New Brunswick, Manitoba, Alberta and Maine. Plans are already in place to import 65M lbs. this year. This practice is not sustainable. There simply aren’t enough potatoes on PEI for both our lines of business.”

“Our human resources team will be providing support to all impacted employees by helping with new assignments, assistance to find other positions across J.D. Irving or with post-employment support once operations cease. We are making every effort to assist impacted employees,” added Clow. “This is an unfortunate consequence of low yields and lack of raw potatoes on PEI.”

“Our contracted potatoes will be used to supply our frozen potato processing plants in New Annan,” said Clow. “We will continue to use the O’Leary facility for raw potato storage and, as such, it will continue to provide some seasonal employment.”

If farmers are not able to grow more potatoes (by increasing yields, not acres) then the Prince Edward Island industry may not be sustainable as competition in the frozen potato export market intensifies. The PEI industry will require supplemental irrigation as part of the solution. The Island cannot afford to have its largest export product entirely dependent on rainfall.
Published in Vegetables
Canada's AgGrowth coalition and our members believe it is critical to continue the Business Risk Management (BRM) review with a comprehensive mandate, and encourage the Federal Provincial Territorial (FPT) Agriculture Ministers to extend the review process without delay.

In summer of 2017, the FPT Agriculture Ministers initiated a review of the BRM programming in response to concerns that BRM programming did not meet farmer's needs. The review is not complete, and more work needs to be done to achieve a complete picture of gaps in the BRM suite and identify solutions.

"We urge Canada's Agriculture Ministers to extend the BRM review process under the guidance of a new steering committee, including more participation from our farming organizations." said Mark Brock, chair, AgGrowth Coalition. "This will help ensure that BRM programing is more effective at managing risk for producers on the farm."

The External Advisory Panel, established to advise on the BRM review, will be submitting recommendations to the FPT Ministers this July in Vancouver. AgGrowth encourages the FPT Ministers to support their work to find solutions for farmers. The AgGrowth Coalition supports the work of the External Advisory Panel (EAP).

"The Canadian agri-food sector has great potential - it is a strategic national asset," said Jeff Nielson, vice chair, AgGrowth Coalition. "There are many opportunities for growth, but they come at a time with increased volatility and risk. Canadian farmers need a suite of BRM programs that they can use to effectively manage risk so they seize these opportunities."

AgGrowth Coalition was established by farmers to advocate for a comprehensive reform of risk management programming. The agriculture sector wants to continue to work in partnership with governments across the country to establish the right policies and programs to better reflect modern farming needs in Canada.
Published in Federal
Ontario’s horticultural industry has launched a digital campaign to demonstrate public support for a long-running program that allows growers affected by a chronic labour shortage to hire workers from Mexico and the Caribbean on a seasonal basis.

The Fairness for Growers campaign uses a web portal to provide information about the benefits of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and to help consumers to directly email their Members of Parliament, voicing support for the program and the importance of continued access to fresh, local food.

The campaign was initiated in May. As of June, 1,400 Canadians had used the portal to send letters of support for SAWP to their MPs.

The labour program was established in 1966 to respond to a severe shortage of domestic agricultural workers. It continues to serve the same role 52 years later, enabling Ontario farmers to stay in business.

This year, more than 18,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean are expected to fill vacancies on a seasonal basis — up to a maximum of eight months — at approximately 1,450 Ontario farms.

But the federal government may change that. Federal regulators who oversee the program are implementing more and more regulations, and some growers are concerned about the program’s future.

These changes could threaten the livelihoods of thousands of farmers, making it harder for local growers to get the workers they need and operate effectively.

They could also significantly reduce access to local fruits and vegetables on store shelves, put Canadian jobs at risk and hurt thousands of seasonal workers who want these jobs to provide a better standard of living for the families.

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is a “Canadians first” program, which means supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if farmers cannot find Canadians willing to take the same jobs.

It’s estimated that at least two jobs for Canadians are created in the agri-food industry for every seasonal worker employed through SAWP at Ontario farms.

Without the program most Ontario farmers simply couldn’t continue to grow fruits and vegetables. Some would move into less labour-intensive crops, while others would abandon agriculture altogether.

Recent labour market research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council cited the program as a key reason Ontario’s horticulture industry is able to generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.

A severe shortage of domestic workers is costing Canadian farms approximately $1.5 billion per year and hurting Canada’s overall economic competitiveness, according to research by the Conference Board of Canada.

For more information, visit www.fairnessforgrowers.ca

Published in Provinces
Perennia in association with Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has been monitoring for leek moth across Nova Scotia since early May this year.

Leek moth is an invasive insect pest from Europe that feeds on Allium species (onions, garlic, leeks,etc), and can cause significant damage to these crops.

Previous to 2018, leek moth had been identified in Kings County twice, once in 2016 and again in 2017. In response to this a provincial leek moth monitoring project was established, to determine how widespread the pest is in Nova Scotia.

As of July 3, 2018, leek moth has been confirmed in both Kings and Annapolis County. Currently the pest has not been found in large scale commercial fields, and all the leek moth samples have been from garlic. Leek moth favours garlic and leeks primarily; researchers are currently unsure of its effects in onion production.

Leek moth can be monitored using commercially available pheromone traps, which attract adult males. The adult leek moth is a small (five to seven mm in length) brown moth with a distinctive white triangle in the middle of its wings when they are folded at rest.

Additionally allium crops can be scouted for feeding damage from leek moth larvae. On alliums with flat leaves (garlics, leeks) the larvae feeds on the tops and inside of the leaves, as well as bores into the center of the plant leaving noticeable frass. In alliums with hollow leaves (onions, chives) the larvae will feed internally producing translucent areas on the leaf known as "windowing". The larvae will also occasionally bore into bulbs.

There are several chemical controls registered for leek moth in garlic, leeks, and onions that can be found in the Perennia's Garlic Management Schedule, Leek Management Schedule, and Onion Management Schedule.

These pesticides are most effective when eggs are present and leek moth larvae are small, so monitoring is crucial to ensure proper timing of applications. Row cover is also an effective means of protecting allium crops against leek moth, without using chemical controls.

For additional information on leek moth identification and management please consult AAFC's An Integrated Approach to Management of Leek Moth. If you think you have leek moth please contact Matt Peill, horticultural specialist with Perennia (email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , cellphone: 902-300-4710).

RELATED: Monitoring for Leek Moth
Published in Vegetables
It is well known that vegetables are good for people but they could also be the key to making stronger and greener buildings.

Engineers at Lancaster University are working with industrial partners at Cellucomp Ltd. UK to research how concrete mixtures can be strengthened and made more environmentally friendly by adding ‘nano platelets’ extracted from the fibres of root vegetables.

The work, which is being supported with £195,000 by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 funding, will build on findings from early tests that have demonstrated that concrete mixtures including nano platelets from sugar beet or carrot significantly improve the mechanical properties of concrete.

These vegetable-composite concretes were also found to out-perform all commercially available cement additives, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes and at a much lower cost.

The root vegetable nano platelets work both to increase the amount of calcium silicate hydrate – the main substance that controls the performance of concrete, and stop any cracks that appear in the concrete.

By increasing the performance of concrete, smaller quantities are needed in construction.

The construction industry is urgently seeking ways in which to curb its carbon emissions. The production of ordinary Portland cement, one of the main ingredients for concrete, is very carbon intensive – its production accounts for eight per cent of total global CO2 emissions. This is forecast to double in the next 30 years due to rising demand.

The proof-of-concept studies showed that adding the root vegetable nano platelets resulted in a saving of 40kg of ordinary Portland cement per cubic metre of concrete – which gives a saving of 40kg of CO2 for the same volume. This is because the greater strength of the root vegetable mixture means smaller sections of concrete are required in buildings.

Professor Mohamed Saafi from Lancaster University’s Engineering Department and lead researcher, believes root vegetable concrete vegetables could go a long way to reducing construction carbon emissions.

He said: “These novel cement nanocomposites are made by combining ordinary Portland cement with nano platelets extracted from waste root vegetables taken from the food industry.

“The composites are not only superior to current cement products in terms of mechanical and microstructure properties, but also use smaller amounts of cement. This significantly reduces both the energy consumption and CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacturing.”

The vegetable-based cementitious composites were also found to have a denser microstructure, which is important to prevent corrosion and increasing the lifespan of the materials.

The research project is also looking at adding very thin sheets made from vegetable nano platelets to existing concrete structures to reinforce their strength. The researchers believe that the vegetable nanofibre-based sheets will out-perform existing alternatives, such as carbon fibre. This is partly because concrete beams reinforced with the sheets will be able to bend more, which would help deflect potentially damaging forces.

The two-year research project will investigate the science behind the results of the proof-of-concept studies to gain a fuller understanding of how the vegetable nano platelet fibres enhance the concrete mix. The researchers will also seek to optimise the concrete performance to help produce a mixture that can be used in the construction industry.

Cellucomp Ltd already uses fibres from root vegetables to manufacture more durable paints.

Dr Eric Whale from Cellucomp Ltd said: “We are excited to be continuing our collaboration with Professor Saafi and developing new applications for our materials, where we can bring environmental and performance benefits.”
Published in Vegetables
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
Second Harvest is working with Value Chain Management International (VCMI) on a ground-breaking food loss and waste (FLW) project, funded by the Walmart Foundation.

A world first, the project is researching FLW from a whole Canadian chain perspective – from primary production to consumer.

The project encompasses Canada’s food and beverage industry (including fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, grains and oilseeds, sugars and syrups, beverages and seafood). The purpose of the study is to establish a framework and metrics that businesses operating in the farming, processing, retail and foodservice sectors can use to 1) understand where losses are likely to occur and 2) identify ways to improve their performance and profitability by reducing losses and waste.

The team will achieve this by collecting data that will allow an accurate estimate of FLW occurring at discrete points along the value chain and evaluating the comparative impact of root causes. The project will also estimate losses that occur during the redistribution of rescued and donated food, for example in foodbanks.

Key outcomes of the project:
  • It will calculate the total amount of food available for human consumption in Canada.
  • Through conducting pioneering primary research, it will identify where, how and why waste occurs along the chain.
  • It will identify potential root-cause solutions to reduce the percentage of Canadian food sent to landfill – by proposing improved redistribution, reuse and recycling practices.
  • It will identify greater opportunities for food to be recovered and distributed to people who are food insecure.
  • It will culminate in the production and dissemination of a manual of scalable and sustainable solutions for addressing and preventing food waste.
800 to 1,000 survey respondents to be targeted across the entire value chain – Canada wide.

Second Harvest and VCMI are targeting 800 to 1,000 respondents from across the entire value chain to gain insights from farmers, food and beverage processors, retailers, foodservice operators, institutions and food redistributors across Canada (regardless of their size).

If you fall in this category of participants, and would like to take part in the short, completely confidential survey, please access the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2018FLWSurvey

The project will be completed by the end of 2018.

“We are thrilled to be working with Second Harvest on this revolutionary food loss and waste project,” said Martin Gooch, CEO of VCMI. “Prior studies relied on existing data, largely not gathered for calculating food loss and waste; we are collecting and analyzing data that will achieve this. The project outcomes will have important implications for businesses, industry, researchers and government.”
Published in Research
The Okanagan's Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is celebrating its commitment to renewable energy by declaring Tuesday, May 15, 2018 "Solar Day" at the winery.

The winery will be hosting local media and guests, with a glass of Burrowing Owl's first wine release of 2018, the 2017 Pinot Gris. Follow the story at #SolarDay.

Burrowing Owl has long been dedicated to sustainable winemaking, and it's leading the way once again with the installation of five large solar systems on its estate properties.

The winery's investments into alternative energy over the past dozen years include the following:
  • In 2006, the winery installed its first solar panels, producing the equivalent of 53,000 kWh annually in the form of hot water
  • In 2016, the winery's staff house in Osoyoos became a "NET ZERO" building with addition of 116 solar panels
  • A cellar expansion completed in 2017 with a roof blanketed by 70 solar panels. The electricity provided by the panels will offset approximately 12.9 tons of CO2 emissions per year
  • A 2017 visitor parking structure designed to provide shade and rain protection, topped by 106 solar panels that will offset 27 tons of CO2 every year.
  • 2017 - Our 45,000 sq. ft Oliver warehouse with a south-facing roof covered by 160 panels to capture solar energy, offsetting 30 tons of carbon annually and producing 60,000 kWh annually.
That's enough energy to provide heat and air conditioning for this large building, giving it a carbon footprint of "NET ZERO".

In addition, the winery has also installed eight new electric vehicle charging stations, which visitors and staff may use at no cost. For more information, visit: https://www.burrowingowlwine.ca/
Published in Profiles
Apple, cherry and other tree fruit growers throughout British Columbia will be able to update aging equipment and infrastructure while increasing their marketing and research efforts thanks to a new $5-million Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund announced recently.
Published in Provinces
Ottawa, Ont. – The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has commenced a new project to enhance and update CAHRC’s agricultural supply/demand forecasting system.

The new information will provide updated national, provincial and commodity-specific labour market information that will clarify the state of the Canadian agricultural labour market and ways to minimize labour shortages in the future.

The two-year project will augment CAHRC’s previously released Labour Market Information (LMI) research that determined annual farm cash receipt losses to Canadian producers due to job vacancies at $1.5 B or three per cent of the industry’s total value in sales.

Based on 2014 figures, the LMI research estimated the current gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce as 59,000 jobs. That means primary agriculture had the highest industry job vacancy rate of all sectors at seven per cent.

Projections indicated that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. The new research will update the forecast through to 2029.

“Understanding the evolving needs of agricultural labour challenges across the country and across commodities will facilitate the development of informed and relevant initiatives by industry stakeholders to ensure the future viability and growth of Canadian farms,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC.

CAHRC’s research will examine the specific labour needs of all aspects of on-farm production including: apiculture; aquaculture; beef; dairy; field fruit and vegetables; greenhouse, nursery and floriculture; grains and oilseeds; poultry and eggs; sheep and goats; swine; and the tree fruit and vine industries.

The new research will update the demand and supply model of the agricultural workforce with information about projected employment growth, seasonality of labour demand, and labour supply inflows and outflows including immigration, inter-sector mobility, and retirements, as well as temporary foreign workers. It will also conduct secondary investigations and analyses focused on the participation of women and indigenous people in the agricultural workforce.

“The labour gap needs to be filled,” says Debra Hauer, manager of CAHRC’s AgriLMI Program. “To achieve this, we will examine groups that are currently under-represented in the agricultural workforce, particularly women and indigenous people, as well as continue to encourage new Canadians to make a career in agriculture. Removing barriers will improve access to job opportunities and help address labour shortages by increasing the agricultural labour pool.”

The new research findings will be unveiled at a national AgriWorkforce Summit for employers, employment serving agencies, government, education, and industry associations. Additionally, a series of presentations will be delivered to industry associations detailing national, provincial or commodity-specific labour market information.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, the Council is collaborating with federal and provincial government departments, leading agriculture organizations and agricultural colleges and training providers to ensure that the needs of this industry research are fully understood and addressed.
Published in Research
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Dr. Qiang Liu is developing a new plant protein-based bioplastic that will keep meat, dairy, and other food products fresher longer.

The bioplastic is made from the by-products created by industrial processing of certain plants. Not only will this bioplastic protect perishable food better than regular plastic packaging, it is also more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.

Dr. Liu has been working to advance the science around bioplastics for over 15 years. He is a "green" chemist - someone who specializing in making plastics and other goods from agricultural plants.

"I, along with industry, saw great opportunity to create something useful out of the leftover by-product from industrial canola oil processing, which is why this project was funded under the Growing Forward 2 Canola Cluster. We can extract all sorts of things like starches, proteins, and oils from plant materials to make plastics, but I am particularly interested in proteins from canola meal in this research project," says Dr. Liu.

Plant protein-based bioplastic has been shown to have similar attributes to other plant-based bio-products; it can stretch, it doesn’t deform in certain temperatures, and in some cases, it biodegrades. That being said, building the polymers (long chains of repeating molecules) that are the basis of biofilms and plastics can be tricky and finding just the right technique and formula is challenging.

One challenge with some protein polymers is that they are can be sensitive to a lot of moisture - not a good trait if you want to use them to protect food with a natural moisture content. Dr. Liu and his team recently discovered a formula and technique to make soy and canola protein polymers water-resistant by "wrapping" them in another polymer.

The team was also able to add an anti-microbial compound to the mix, which not only made the resulting bioplastic able to prevent nasty bacteria like E. coli from growing - but, depending on how much was added, also could change the porosity of the film.

The porosity of bioplastic (essentially how many holes are in it) is very important in food packaging since different foods need different amounts of moisture to stay fresh. Having a way to adjust porosity (either having more or less small holes in it) is a great feature in a potential plastic because it can either let more or less water go into or out of the area where the food is.

Even though it is in the early stages of development, Dr. Liu believes there is great future for bringing this technology into the marketplace.

"The use of plant-based plastics as a renewable resource for packaging and consumer goods is becoming increasingly attractive due to environmental concerns and the availability of raw materials. My hope is that someday this research will lead to all plastics being made from renewable sources. It would be a win for the agriculture sector to have another source of income from waste and a win for our environment," explains Dr. Liu.

Should this potential biofilm prove viable, it would be a win for the agriculture sector and the environment, as it would provide added revenue by creating a renewable plastic alternative.
Published in Federal
For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 per cent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, as reported in Nature Communications.

The international team increased the levels of a photosynthetic protein (PsbS) to conserve water by tricking plants into partially closing their stomata, the microscopic pores in the leaf that allow water to escape. Stomata are the gatekeepers to plants: When open, carbon dioxide enters the plant to fuel photosynthesis, but water is allowed to escape through the process of transpiration. | READ MORE
Published in Research
On the heels of Alberta's boycott of B.C. wines, the B.C. government is ramping up its support for the industry by proclaiming April as B.C. Wine Month, including a special month-long promotion at all public liquor stores.

"We are grateful for the loyalty and support we have received from the consumers across B.C. and Canada in response to Alberta's announcement to boycott B.C. wine," said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of the BC Wine Institute. "We appreciate the province's quick response in support of B.C.'s wineries, and we remain resolute in our mission to secure sales opportunities here in B.C. for the many B.C. grape wineries across the province, most of which are small, family-owned-and-operated businesses, and will continue to promote our local world-class products at home and abroad."

Along with the proclamation of B.C. Wine Month in April, other government initiatives in support of B.C.'s wine industry include:
  • Increased opportunities to have B.C. wines in local BC Liquor Stores, including local wines from small and medium producers that are not typically available outside of the wineries.
  • Promotion throughout the month with storefront displays.
  • A greater variety of in-store tastings of B.C. wines.
  • Funding for an expansion of the Buy BC: Eat Drink Local campaign, to further develop partnerships between the BC Wine Institute and the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Services Association.
  • Funding to support the marketing of BC VQA wines to new international markets.
While the Province has worked to develop this support, the Ministry of Agriculture has been involved in ongoing engagement with wine producers throughout the province.
Published in Provinces
Join us Tue, Apr 24, 2018 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT for an interactive webinar on Climate Change - Impact on Fruit and Vegetable Crops.
Published in Webinars
March 5, 2018, Ithaca, NY – Stressed-out yeast is a big problem, at least for winemakers.

The single-celled organism responsible for turning sugars into alcohol experiences stress, which changes its performance during fermentation. For vintners, stressed yeast introduces difficult production dilemmas that can change the efficiency and even flavour during winemaking.

Patrick Gibney, assistant professor in the department of food science at Cornell University, is on a mission to help New York state wineries. Gibney is working out how metabolic pathways within a yeast cell determine those changes, with implications for how wine is produced.

“Yeast has many significant, perhaps underappreciated, impacts on the public,” said Gibney. “It is critical for producing beer, wine and cider. Yeast is also a common food ingredient additive and is used to produce vaccines and other compounds in the biotech industry. This tiny organism has an enormous impact on human life.”

Yeast has a long history as a model to understand the inner workings of eukaryote cell biology. Gibney, who has been researching yeast for the last 15 years, is interested in factors that affect whether cells become more resistant to stress.

“In other industries, product uniformity is prized, but for winemakers, the year-to-year variations are often more valuable,” Gibney said. “There are dozens of fungi and bacteria that could all make the process go very wrong – or they might add combinations of flavors or odors that are really good. It’s very complex.”

Gibney is collaborating with E&J Gallo Winery scientists and research teams as he applies his expertise in yeast biology to improve production across the wine industry.

In the summer of 2017, the company invited Gibney to meet people involved with wine production from different perspectives: microbiology, quality control, systems biology, and chemistry. Those conversations are already reaping benefits, as Gibney has outlined several major projects for which he and Gallo scientists are crafting research plans.

One project would tackle sluggish fermentations. “Sometimes you’re fermenting and it slows or stops completely. It’s often a microbiology problem,” Gibney said. He plans to gather samples from New York state wineries that have had this issue and inspect them at their most basic levels.

For Gibney, the research is an opportunity to benefit the wine industry in New York and beyond.

“It’s exciting to contribute to the scientific research already coming from CALS and help make advances that will help winemakers innovate with their products,” he said.
Published in Research
March 5, 2018, Adelaide, Australia – University of Adelaide researchers have discovered how grapes “breathe”, and that shortage of oxygen leads to cell death in the grape.

The discovery raises many questions about the potentially significant impacts on grape and wine quality and flavour and vine management, and may lead to new ways of selecting varieties for warming climates.

“In 2008 we discovered the phenomenon of cell death in grapes, which can be implicated where there are problems with ripening. We’ve since been trying to establish what causes cell death,” says Professor Steve Tyerman, chair of viticulture at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

“Although there were hints that oxygen was involved, until now we’ve not known of the role of oxygen and how it enters the berry.”

Professor Tyerman and PhD student Zeyu Xiao from the university’s Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production have identified that during ripening, grapes suffer internal oxygen shortage.

The research was in collaboration with Dr Victor Sadras, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), and Dr Suzy Rogiers, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga. Published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the researchers describe how grape berries suffer internal oxygen shortage during ripening. With the use of a miniature oxygen measuring probe – the first time this has been done in grapes – they compared oxygen profiles across the flesh inside grapes of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Ruby Seedless table grape.

They found that the level of oxygen shortage closely correlated with cell death within the grapes. Respiration measurements indicated that this would be made worse by high temperatures during ripening – expected to happen more frequently with global warming.

"By manipulating oxygen supply we discovered that small pores on the surface of the berry stem were vital for oxygen supply, and if they were blocked this caused increased cell death within the berry of Chardonnay, essentially suffocating the berry. We also used micro X-ray computed tomography (CT) to show that air canals connect the inside of the berry with the small pores on the berry stem,” says Mr Xiao.

"Shiraz has a much smaller area of these oxygen pores on the berry stem which probably accounts for its greater sensitivity to temperature and higher degree of cell death within the berry.” 

Professor Vladimir Jiranek, director of the University of Adelaide’s ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, says: “This breakthrough on how grapes breathe will provide the basis for further research into berry quality and cultivar selection for adapting viticulture to a warming climate.”

The study was supported by the Australian Industrial Transformation Research Program with support from Wine Australia and industry partners.
Published in Research
February 20, 2018, Kelowna, BC – It’s not something politicians like to talk about but Okanagan fruit growers say it’s something that needs to be addressed.

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association says it’s time governments begin talking about the possibility of a deer cull because the deer are destroying their orchards. READ MORE
Published in Associations
February 20, 2018, Victoria, BC – Apple, cherry and other tree fruit growers throughout the province will be able to update aging equipment and infrastructure while increasing their marketing and research efforts thanks to a new $5-million Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund announced recently at the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association annual general meeting.

The fund will be open to tree fruit growers, producers, and processors to support three key areas of priority:
  • Research: cultivar, disease and pest research.
  • Marketing: export market opportunities and market development research.
  • Infrastructure: sector-based infrastructure modernization such as new equipment.
“This funding is so important to the future of our industry,” said Fred Steele, outgoing president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. “We need help controlling new invasive pests like the brown marmorated stinkbug, and marketing is an area where we need to invest in new varieties.”

“This funding will also help with our very successful replant program. This investment, at a time when we are challenged in the marketplace, will ensure that we continue to make progress that leads to a bright future for the tree fruit sector.”

Portions of the fund can also be used to address any oversubscription of the B.C. government’s Tree Fruit Replant Program over the next four years. This year, the province provided an additional $300,000 in funding for the replant program, to meet the demand from tree fruit growers.

“This fund will help family-run orchards and the sector as a whole with advancements that make B.C. tree fruit more competitive in the marketplace,” said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. “The $5-million investment reflects this government’s commitment to partner with B.C. growers to help modernize their practices, and help them share their great-tasting apples, cherries and other fruits, with more customers here at home and around the world.”

The B.C. government will be engaging with the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association and other partners to set up the fund and establish the process for awarding funding. It is anticipated the fund will be active for the next three to four years.
Published in Provinces
February 1, 2018, Madison, WI – The Colorado potato beetle is notorious for its role in starting the pesticide industry – and for its ability to resist the insecticides developed to stop it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schoville and Chen are now sequencing another 100 genomes of the Colorado potato beetle and its close relatives to continue investigating the hardiness and adaptability that have captured so many people’s attention for the past 150 years.
Published in Insects
January 11, 2018 - The growing popularity of robotic weeders for vegetable crops has grown partly out of necessity, says Steven Fennimore, an extension specialist at the University of California, Davis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Spraying
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