United States
David Pratt, formerly of Michigan Sugar Company and Michigan State University recently joined Vive Crop Protection as a technical sales associate.

In the technical sales associate role, Pratt will work with cutting-edge crop protection products in sugar beets and potatoes, managing field trials and presenting information to farmers to help increase profitability on their farms.

Pratt holds a Masters in Science, Agronomy from Michigan State University and his focus will be on AZteroid FC fungicide and Bifender FC insecticide, as well as demonstrating three new products launching in 2019 for potato and sugar beet growers.

AZteroid FC provides excellent disease control and plant health benefits while Bifender FC controls important below-ground insects including rootworm and wireworm. Both products can be mixed in the tank with starter fertilizer, saving farmers money, time and hassle.

Dr. Darren Anderson, President of Vive Crop Protection says, “David’s background in both university and private industry research will help potato and sugarbeet growers to get the best from our products, and will also help us develop new solutions for those customers.”
Published in Companies
Almost everyone agrees: The Red Delicious is a crime against the apple. The fruit makes for a joyless snack, despite the false promise of its name, with a bitter skin that gives way to crumbling, mealy flesh. Maybe that’s why the New York Apple Association suggests people use their Red Delicious in holiday wreaths and centerpieces.

Though it’s no longer the most popular apple in America—since its heyday in the 1980s, it’s been overtaken by newer, tastier varieties—the Delicious remains the most heavily produced apple in the United States. Which means that, even though we’ve long since caught on, you can still find the red scourge everywhere.

This raises some important questions. Why do we keep growing 2.7 billion pounds of Red Delicious apples every year? And are growers still excited by the Delicious or are they stuck between a declining market and an orchard they can’t afford to tear up? For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in Fruit
Champaign, Ill. — A new lightweight, low-cost agricultural robot could transform data collection and field scouting for agronomists, seed companies and farmers.

The TerraSentia crop phenotyping robot, developed by a team of scientists at the University of Illinois, was featured at the 2018 Energy Innovation Summit Technology Showcase in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 14.

Traveling autonomously between crop rows, the robot measures the traits of individual plants using a variety of sensors, including cameras, transmitting the data in real time to the operator’s phone or laptop computer. A custom app and tablet computer that come with the robot enable the operator to steer the robot using virtual reality and GPS. For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Spraying
BASF is in exclusive talks to acquire Bayer’s entire vegetable seeds business, operating under the global trademark Nunhems.

Bayer intends to divest this business in the context of its planned acquisition of Monsanto. Definitive agreements have not been concluded. With this transaction, BASF targets to enhance its future seed platform and the market position of its Agricultural Solutions business.

On October 13, 2017, BASF signed an agreement to acquire significant parts of Bayer’s seed and non-selective herbicide businesses.

The all-cash purchase price is €5.9 billion, subject to certain adjustments at closing. The assets to be acquired include Bayer’s global glufosinate-ammonium non-selective herbicide business as well as its seed businesses for key row crops in select markets: canola hybrids in North America under the InVigor brand using the LibertyLink trait technology, oilseed rape mainly in European markets, cotton in the Americas and Europe as well as soybean in the Americas. The transaction also includes Bayer’s trait research and breeding capabilities for these crops and the LibertyLink trait and trademark.

This acquisition complements BASF’s crop protection business and marks its entry into the seed business with proprietary assets in key agricultural markets.
Published in Companies
A University of Maryland researcher has traced the origin of pest populations of the Colorado potato beetle back to the Plains states, dispelling theories that the beetle came from Mexican or other divergent populations.

Little was previously known about the beetle's origin as a pest, particularly how it developed the ability to consume potatoes and decimate entire fields so quickly. With its unique ability to adapt to pesticides almost faster than the industry can keep up, this beetle is consistently an issue for potato farmers. Using investigative evolutionary biology to determine the origins of this beetle and understand the pest's genetic makeup better, industry can better target pest management strategies to combat pesticide resistance and ultimately improve the potato industry.

The United States is the fourth largest producer of potatoes worldwide, producing over 20 million tons of potatoes each year. By comparing the genetics of pre-agriculture potato beetles, before the pest began to consume potatoes, to post-agriculture potato beetles, Dr. David Hawthorne of the Entomology Department and his team hope to understand why and how the beetle is developing resistance so quickly, and what can be done to slow resistance.

"The Colorado potato beetle is almost always one of the first insects to develop resistance to any pesticide. In fact, many contribute the entire pesticide arms race and development of pesticides to this particular beetle, which can destroy entire fields very easily," says Hawthorne.

"With this study," explains Hawthorne, "we were trying to gain insight into two major questions: Where did the potato beetle come from? And why do they evolve resistance so quickly? This would have major implications in controlling the pest, since the more growers have to spray, the greater their costs and risk to the surrounding environment. We need a strategy to weigh our options and determine the best way to control these pests without overspraying or even torching entire fields overrun with beetles, which has happened in the past when there has been no effective pesticide options."

Hawthorne and his team found that populations of beetles eating potatoes are most closely related to nightshade eaters in the Plains states. Beetles from Mexico, a possible source of the pest populations, were far too distantly related to have been the source of this beetles.

"Before they became pests, the plains beetles first evolved a taste for potatoes," says Hawthorne. "Some non-pest populations still don't eat them and will prefer the weeds surrounding the potatoes, but not the potatoes themselves. This is just one way that populations may differ."

By understanding the distinctions between these populations and which beetles are the source of current pest populations, more targeted pest management strategies can be developed based on the specific genetic makeup of the beetles, leading to more effective and less spraying.

Hawthorne describes this work as almost forensic biology, tracking the evolution and movement of this beetle across time and geography.

"I like that this work is very interdisciplinary," says Dr. Hawthorne. "It is about taking all the puzzle pieces and trying to put the whole story together to have the biggest impact on the field. Ultimately, this work is a major step towards understanding one of the most harmful pests, and has significant implications in controlling the population, keeping the potato industry stable, and fighting pesticide resistance and overspraying."

Dr. Hawthorne's study was published in The Journal of Economic Entomology.
Published in Vegetables
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
February 22, 2018, Niagara Falls, Ont – The Canadian Government recently announced an investment of more than $175,000 to the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) in providing services to Canadian buyers and sellers of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The announcement was made during the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Niagara Falls.

The DRC, which acts as a third party financial dispute resolution body for fruit and vegetable growers, received an investment of $118,795 to deliver an outreach and education initiative on the impending Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA) and regulations. An additional $58,807 was provided under the same program to support the industry to initiate work toward updating the Canadian grade standards for fresh fruits and vegetables in order to reflect current market and consumer preferences.

"We are very pleased the Government of Canada has provided support to the fruit and vegetable sector for the DRC’s role in the trade and commerce portion of the SFCA as well as modernization of the Grade Standards Compendium for fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Fred Webber, president and CEO of the DRC. “The playing field will be truly leveled when everyone knows the rights and responsibilities associated with the proposed regulatory requirement for a DRC membership. Furthermore, the grade standards play an essential role in evaluating and resolving grade and condition disputes fairly and efficiently.”

"This investment will help provide clarity and confidence to farmers across Canada and ensure Canada continues to produce the same high quality fruit and vegetables to Canadians and the world," added Rebecca Lee, executive director of the Canadian Horticultural Council.
Published in Federal
December 12, 2017, Toronto, Ont – Vive Crop Protection and United Potato Growers of America (UPGA) are pleased to announce that Vive Crop Protection is now a United Potato Partner.

“We create new possibilities for potato growers that increase yield, quality, and productivity on their farms,” stated Darren Anderson, Vive’s president. “We’re committed to the growth and success of potato growers and are excited to be a United Potato Partner. If you’re a potato grower, we want to meet you and understand how we can help with your operation.”

“UPGA is happy to welcome Vive Crop Protection as a potato partner,” said Mark Klompien, president and CEO of United Potato Growers of America. “UPGA’s Potato Partner Program supports offerings of innovative and productivity-enhancing products to our potato grower members, and we look forward to working with Vive toward that end.”

Darren Anderson will be introduced at the 2018 Potato Business Summit in Orlando, Florida and Vive staff will be on-hand at the UPGA booth to meet with growers.
Published in Companies
December 8, 2017, Ithaca, NY – The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets recently confirmed that the spotted lanternfly – an invasive insect originating in East Asia – has been found in New York state.

This invasive pest has also been discovered in Pennsylvania and other states, and is a potential threat to important agricultural crops, including grapes, apples, hops and forest products.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the pest is not known to occur in Canada and is not yet on Canada's list of regulated pests. However, it may appear in Canada. Any producers who believe they have found suspect specimens are urged to please contact the CFIA.

Tim Weigle, statewide grape and hops integrated pest management specialist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, works with grape and hop growers in implementing research-based IPM practices in environmentally and economically sustainable ways. He says the spotted lanternfly could rapidly expand its range by laying eggs on motor vehicles.

“The name spotted lanternfly is a bit misleading as this plant hopper grows to one-inch in size as an adult,” he said. “Large groups of both the immature and adult stages of laternfly feed on plant stems and leaves from early spring to September, weakening and possibly killing the plant. They also excrete a sugary, sticky substance similar to honeydew, which leads to the growth of sooty mold on grapes, apples and hops making them unmarketable.

“I would be concerned about any shipments that people are getting that originated in the Pennsylvania counties that are currently under quarantine. While this pest seems to prefer tree of heaven, it appears to be able to lay its eggs on any smooth surface like cars, trucks, tractors or stone. Therefore, the major traffic corridors coming up into the Hudson Valley and Finger Lakes area will probably have a greater potential for spotted lanternfly eggs being transported in due to vehicle traffic.”

Elizabeth Lamb, coordinator for the ornamental integrated pest management team for the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program says that grape, hop and ornamental growers, along with tree-fruit producers, are most likely to be impacted by this invasive pest.

“The industries most likely to be affected by spotted lanternfly in New York state are grapes and hops, tree-fruit production, and ornamentals,” she said. “Once you consider the ornamental hosts, it becomes an issue for homeowners and landscapers, too. So the first and most important piece in controlling spotted lantern fly is observation and monitoring – by growers and the public.

“A small bright spot: the biology of the insect provides several avenues for using different methods of control. Egg masses can be scraped off the smooth surfaces where they are laid and then destroyed. Nymphs crawl up and down tree trunks to feed so they can be caught on sticky traps at the right time. Adults have a preference or requirement for feeding on Ailanthus trees (Tree of Heaven), so the Ailanthus can be used as ‘trap’ trees where pesticides are applied very specifically to control the insect without widespread use.”
Published in Insects
November 17, 2017, Charleston, SC – Broccoli is becoming more popular with consumers, providing plenty of nutrients in the diet. But it isn’t easy getting this cool-weather vegetable to kitchen tables. Broccoli producers face many factors that impede getting their crop to market – including unexpected temperature fluctuations and excessive heat. Heat stress while broccoli’s florets are developing can reduce crop yield and quality.

Broccoli has been grown in Europe for centuries, but it has only been grown in North America since the late 1800s, when it was probably introduced by Italian immigrants. Although California is the major producing state, broccoli is grown in nearly every other state, especially along the eastern seaboard.

The likelihood of high-temperature stress occurring in a given location or season is the main factor limiting where and when the crop can be grown. Breeding heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars could extend the growing season, expand production areas, and increase resilience to fluctuating temperatures, but efforts to do this have been limited by a lack of knowledge about the genetics of heat tolerance.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant geneticist Mark Farnham and his team at the U.S. Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, are filling in those knowledge gaps. They have developed and characterized genetic sources of heat tolerance in broccoli. These results were published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics in March 2017.

The team evaluated a group of broccoli plants that Farnham developed for the ability to tolerate high-temperature stress during summer.

“We identified genetic markers associated with resistance to heat damage in these plants,” says Farnham. “An important finding of this work is that the resistance trait is a complex trait controlled by many genes, which makes it a bit harder to work with. However, these markers are of great interest to public and private broccoli breeders, who can use some additional tools in their work to accelerate the development of heat-tolerant broccoli cultivars.”

To determine how well Farnham’s heat-tolerant broccoli will do in different stress environments, he is working with scientists at land-grant universities on the eastern seaboard that are growing his broccoli in warm-temperature field trials. Once they verify that his broccoli will do well under adverse conditions in different locations, it will be made available for research purposes or for use by commercial seed companies and breeders.

The heat-tolerant broccoli could help expand future growing possibilities significantly, helping to meet the demand for the nutritious vegetable.
Published in Research
October 10, 2017, Toronto, Ont – Vive Crop Protection recently announced that company CEO, Keith Thomas, has been elected to CropLife America’s board of directors for a three-year term.

“I am excited to contribute to CropLife America’s mission supporting modern agriculture,” said Thomas. “We are relatively new to the U.S. crop protection industry, but we’ve had a big impact. Our election to the CropLife America board recognizes our commitment to the industry. We plan to be here for the long-term.”

“We look forward to the business experience and academic perspective Keith brings to the CLA board,” said Jay Vroom, CropLife America’s CEO. “These qualities, combined with his interest in the role the industry plays in sustainability aligned with our technology innovation, makes him a great addition to the main governance body of CropLife.”

“Innovation is incredibly important to farmers today,” he added. “Using new technologies we can improve sustainability, productivity, and crop quality. As an innovative, technology-based company, we are proud to be part of this industry.”

Thomas is also a governor of the University of Toronto and is the chair of its Business Board.
Published in Companies
October 4, 2017, Vancouver, BC – As dairy products, Bombardier aircraft and softwood lumber continue to bedevil trade relations between Canada and the U.S., negotiators will have to add wine to their list of issues to resolve.

The U.S. has filed a second complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO) over what it perceives as B.C.’s unfair rules regarding wine sales in the province’s grocery stores, according to a release from the WTO. READ MORE
Published in Federal
September 15, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center are pleased to co-publish a short piece on approaches to food safety cooperation in Canada and the United States.

With NAFTA renegotiation talks in full swing, it is a critical time for a conversation on protecting and improving our shared food supply chain. As think tanks and think networks, CAPI and the Wilson Center know the importance of good debate and a robust marketplace for ideas. This short piece, written by Rory McAlpine and Mike Robach, encourages just such debate.

"The contents of the piece represent an opportunity for our two organizations to present to our respective stakeholders on the frontlines of Canada-US economic policy some new thinking on important food safety issues", said Don Buckingham, president and CEO of CAPI. "Food safety is not just about consumer protection, it's about enhancing the competitiveness of the Canada-U.S. agri-food supply chain around the world. A well-functioning food safety regime helps to increase global demand for safe and wholesome North American food products."

"During a period of trade upheaval and fractured supply chains, it is particularly important to bring practical suggestions to the table that will build trade, increase competitiveness and safeguard the protection of consumers," added Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute of the Wilson Center.

The short piece is available here.
Published in Federal
September 11, 2017, Geneva, NY – Breeding the next great grape is getting a boost thanks to new funding for a Cornell University-led project that uses genomic technology to create varieties that are more flavourful and sustainable.

The project – VitisGen2 – is a collaboration of 25 scientists from 11 institutions who are working in multidisciplinary teams to accelerate development of the next generation of grapes. Launched in 2011, the project was recently renewed with a $6.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

The work has the potential to save millions of dollars annually for the U.S. grape industry – in excess of $100 million in California alone, according to Bruce Reisch, professor of grapevine breeding and genetics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), who co-leads the project with Lance Cadle-Davidson, plant pathologist with the USDA-ARS Grape Genetics Research Unit, both located at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

VitisGen2’s multipronged model addresses the grape production continuum. An economics team examines the benefits of improving grape varieties. Geneticists identify molecular markers for important traits in grapes, from resistance to diseases like powdery mildew to boosting low-temperature tolerance and fruit quality. Grape-breeding scientists develop new grape varieties that incorporate these traits, and teams of outreach specialists help growers and consumers understand the advantages of newly introduced grape varieties.

The result is a new generation of high-quality grapes that can be grown at lower cost and adapt easily to a range of geographic regions and climates, all with less environmental impact.

“We all stand to benefit in areas ranging from the environment to economic sustainability to improving the profit and quality possibilities for the industry,” Reisch said.

Among the achievements in the project’s first five-year phase:
  • Deploying DNA sequencing technology to map the grape genome, a project led by Cadle-Davidson and Qi Sun of the Cornell Bioinformatics Facility.
  • Identifying 75 genetic markers associated with a range of important traits.
  • Pinpointing a gene that controls acidity in grapes. The discovery by the winemaking fruit quality team, led by Gavin Sacks, associate professor of food science in CALS, will help winemakers moderate excessive acid levels typically found in wild grape species, which are often used in crossbreeding for their resistance to disease.
  • Developing a process called Amplicon Sequencing, or AmpSeq, that allows researchers to rapidly analyze genetic variation in multiple genomic regions – anywhere from 2 to 500 DNA sequence markers – simultaneously.
The project has already shared its disease-resistant germplasm with breeding programs throughout the U.S., speeding the development of grape varieties with more flavour and that are more environmentally sustainable.

Looking to the future, Reisch and the VitisGen2 teams are aiming to expand the use of high-throughput DNA and plant evaluation technology to improve the quality of wine, raisin and table grapes, as well as rootstocks. VitisGen2 is using genome sequencing to identify markers within numerous genes of interest to better understand which genes are controlling priority traits.

The team is also looking at ways to use its collective knowledge of genetics to help growers manage vineyards. For example, AmpSeq technology can track the powdery mildew pathogen population, allowing researchers to determine which pesticides are most effective at specific times of the season, thereby reducing pesticide spraying and increasing its efficacy.

Ultimately, VitisGen2 will bring greater efficiency to grape growing, which is an intensive, comprehensive and costly process, said Reisch.

“It takes 15-plus years to get a new variety to the market,” Reisch said. “We’re probably shrinking the timeline down by two or three years.”
Published in Research
August 30, 2017, Washington, D.C. - With the produce department facing its second consecutive quarter of decreased sales, understanding consumer exposure to new products and how they engage with food will help retailers meet changing needs as the produce department, according to the United Fresh Produce Association’s Q2 2017 edition of the FreshFacts® on Retail report.

This quarter’s report features seasonal category deep dives on apples, potatoes and lettuce with a close look at important Q4 2016 vs. Q4 2015 results to help companies plan for a successful Q4 2017. A spotlight on organic produce, which represents 10 per cent of all produce sales, showcases purchasing trends and commodities that still have room for growth in the organic sector. The report also looks at value-added fruits and vegetables, including a continued feature on the packaged salad category.

Building on Q1 2017’s report on fresh produce at convenience stores, the Q2 2017 report explores produce’s role in healthy snacking more broadly.

“Consumers are seeking healthy options, and produce departments are seeing competition for dollar share as healthy snack options are featured in all corners of the retail store,” says Jeff Oberman, United Fresh Vice President of Trade Relations and United Fresh’s Retail-Foodservice Board liaison. “However, there is great potential for produce companies to find success in cross-merchandising and partnerships with other food companies to maintain a presence with the consumer across the store, which will help retailers continue to fresh produce sales success.”

The FreshFacts® on Retail report, produced in partnership with Nielsen Fresh and input and direction from the United Fresh Retail-Foodservice Board of Directors, measures retail price and sales trends for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities as well as other value-added produce categories. The report is sponsored by Del Monte Fresh Produce.

For more information, visit www.unitedfresh.org
Published in Associations
August 30, 2017, California - The Public Strawberry Breeding Program at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues in California and Florida have received a $4.5 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the disease resistance and sustainable production of strawberries throughout the nation.

The collaborative grant is good news for strawberry farmers and consumers everywhere, according to Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission. To signal its own support, the strawberry commission pledged an additional $1.8 million to the UC Davis program.

“An investment in the UC Davis strawberry breeding program is an investment in the future of strawberries,” Tomlinson said. “Thanks to their groundbreaking research and strong partnerships, Director Steve Knapp and his colleagues are developing improved strawberry varieties publicly available to farmers.”

Improving genetic resistance to disease

Strawberries constitute a $4.4 billion-dollar industry in the United States, and 94 percent of the nation’s strawberry fruit and nursery plants are grown in California and Florida.

Strawberries are especially vulnerable to soil-borne pathogens, which destroy plants and greatly reduce yield. Since the 1960s, strawberry growers have depended on fumigants like methyl bromide to treat soils before planting berries in an effort to control disease. But methyl bromide has been phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency and will no longer be available after 2017.

“Following the elimination of methyl bromide fumigation, strawberry growers are under greater economic pressures, and there is an urgent need for improved, disease-resistant strawberry varieties that will thrive without fumigation,” Knapp said.

Knapp will head a team of scientists from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and the University of Florida.

Together, researchers will identify and manage pathogen threats, mine elite and wild genetic resources to find natural sources of resistance to pathogens, and accelerate the development of public varieties resistant to a broad spectrum of disease and other pests.

“Strawberry growers are faced with the need to deliver high-quality fruit to consumers year-round, while protecting the environment, fostering economic growth in their communities and coping with profound changes in production practices,” Knapp said. “We look forward to collaborating with our industry partners through research, agricultural extension and education to help them reach those goals.”

UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program

During six decades, the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program has developed more than 30 patented varieties, made strawberries a year-round crop in California and boosted strawberry yield from just 6 tons per acre in the 1950s to 30 tons per acre today.

Knapp took over directorship of the program in 2015. He and his team are working to develop short-day and day-neutral strawberry varieties; studying the genetics of disease-resistance, fruit quality and photoperiod response; and applying genomic techniques to make traditional strawberry breeding more efficient. They have 10 public varieties in the pipeline and plan to release one or two new strawberry varieties later this year.

Initiative collaborators

The grant is funded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Collaborators from UC Davis include agricultural economist Rachael Goodhue, plant pathologist Thomas Gordon, and plant scientists Julia Harshman and Thomas Poorten.

Other key collaborators are Oleg Daugovish with UC Agricultural and Natural Resources; Alexander Putman at UC Riverside; Julie Guthman at UC Santa Cruz; Gerald Holmes and Kelly Ivors, both at Cal Poly; and Seonghee Lee, Natália Peres and Vance Whitaker, all of the University of Florida.
Published in Research
August 28, 2017, Washington - In today’s modern, high-density orchards, growers are constantly seeking new ways to match the biology of their trees with emerging technologies in mechanization. The goal: improve both yields and efficiency.

"It’s true that some technologies don’t exist yet, but the compact, planar architectures with precision canopy management are most suitable for future mechanization and even for robotics," said Matthew Whiting, Washington State University research horticulturist. “So it is kind of an exciting time for what will be a new era of tree fruit production, as more and more technologies become available."

Research labs and research orchards are driving new developments, but in many cases, they’re happening with innovative growers and private companies, he said.

“Growers are innovating with orchard systems and varieties and architectures, and that’s fueling university research in many cases, and conversely, universities are driving new genotypes and how to manage and grow them best,” Whiting said. “It’s all coming together as it has never before, and it is an exciting time.”

At the same time, employing the mechanization tools that already exist can take a variety of forms, across all four seasons.

Those platforms you’re using for harvest? You can use them for pruning, green thinning and training, too.

Two growers whose companies have been pushing forward with platforms, hedgers and other tools shared their insights for automating tasks in winter, spring, summer and fall with Good Fruit Grower.

For Rod Farrow, who farms 520 acres of apples at Lamont Fruit Farm in Waterport, New York, the emphasis has been to increase income with high-value varieties and to reach maximum potential income on his standard varieties, Honeycrisp, Fuji and Gala.

Almost everything is planted on Budagovsky 9 rootstock in 11-foot by 2-foot spacing, and he’s been planting and pruning to a fruiting wall for almost 18 years.

“It’s less about employing mechanization by season than about deciding the orchard system — as much as anything, making sure the system that you plant now is suitable for robot use,” he said. “If it’s not, you’re going to be in trouble in terms of how you can adapt that new technology, which is coming really fast.”

In the past two years, Farrow also has elected to install 3-foot taller posts in new plantings, allowing for a 2-foot taller system intended to increase production from 60 to 70 bins per acre to a more predictable 80-bin range. READ MORE 
Published in Equipment
August 14, 2017, Morgan Hill, Cali. – We are pleased to announce the promotion of John Nelson as Vice President of Sakata America Holding Company and its primary operating subsidiary of Sakata Seed America, effective September 1st. John is currently the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at Sakata Seed America, a position he’s held since 2004.

“I am truly looking forward to the next phase of my career. This industry has a lot to offer globally and Sakata will continue to be a major contributor to the well-being of our distributors, growers and consumers.” says Nelson.

John is a long-standing industry vet, beginning his career in 1985 at Northrup King in Gilroy, California, where he spent nearly five years in the marketing department.

In November 1990, John joined Sakata Seed America to manage advertising for vegetables and ornamentals. Over the years, as John’s involvement grew into the sales arena, his focus shifted to vegetables. In 2004, John took on the responsibility of director of sales and marketing for Sakata.

“John’s experience will help strengthen the Sakata team and add value to Sakata’s affiliates all over the world”, says Dave Armstrong, President-CEO of Sakata Seed America. “John brings a deep understanding of Sakata’s culture and expansive product line to his new executive position, ensuring he will be a crucial asset to our company’s strategy.”

Sakata is actively recruiting to fill the position of senior sales-marketing manager, vegetables.

Sakata Seed America, which celebrates its 40th year of business in NAFTA and Central America this year, is focused on expansion of personnel and infrastructure to continue successful growth.
Published in Companies
August 4, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) recently held an AgriWorkforce Roundtable to discuss challenges and possible solutions to address the critical agricultural labour shortage in Canada.

Participants included primary producers, processors, retailers, policy makers and academics – all putting their heads together to come up with new solutions to what is becoming a persistent problem; how do you attract and retain farm workers?

Marc Smith, retired assistant director of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY, and senior Extension associate, opened the discussion with an international perspective on shared agricultural labour challenges among the United States and Canada.

Smith started off by identifying several trends in the U.S. agricultural labour climate:
  • Regardless of government policy, people seeking employment in agriculture will be scarce.
  • Economic and other motivations to develop and adopt labour-saving technologies are growing.
  • Political and economic pressures will force minimal wages higher in many states.
  • Perception of agriculture as an unattractive field for careers is a perennial challenge.
The consequences of these U.S. agricultural labour trends has resulted in a 20 per cent decline in available agricultural workers between 2002-14; an annual loss of $3.1B [US] to fruit and vegetable production due to labour shortages; and a declining U.S.-born population willing to work on farms.

In Canada, the gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. This was a key finding of Labour Market Information (LMI) research by CAHRC entitled Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future. The LMI research also revealed that Canadian primary agriculture had the highest industry job vacancy rate at seven per cent – higher than any other industry in Canada. This resulted in $1.5-billion in lost sales.

Poor worker compensation is often cited as the primary reason for low interest in working on farms. However, Smith notes that agricultural wages in the U.S. have gone up faster than any other sector in the past 10 years with the median wage being $13.23/hr ($17.76 CDN) as of April 2017. In Canada, farm hourly rates averaged $17.50/hr in 2016.

Smith advocates that wages alone are not the issue but rather what is needed is a coordinated effort to improve labour policy, on-farm workforce needs, and farm practices.

Smith suggests that farmers need to develop realistic policies that attract and retain workers. Investment in leadership and management capacity within the agricultural industry is also needed to encourage innovation, research and development for long-term solutions to the already critical agricultural workforce.

It is not enough to simply pay required wages and comply with regulations. Employee compensation should also include how workers are treated and have their needs accommodated such as providing housing, access to the internet, transportation, communications in their own language, offering English as a second language training, job training, flexible hours, and creating a sense of community. It is important to make workers feel welcomed, valued and confident.

Finally, modifying farm practices to reduce the need for labour is another way to reduce on-farm workforce pressures. This may include adopting new technology that negates the need for human workers, changing crop mixes to less labour intensive commodities, or moving production operations to streamline efficiency.

To help attract and retain a motivated workforce, CAHRC has developed several tools to help farm managers including: AgriSkills – customizable and commodity specific on-farm training programs; Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business; and Agri Pathways – promoting careers in agriculture. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.

In the meantime, Smith says producers should champion farmers that are doing a great job with their workers and get the word out that agriculture is a rewarding and fulfilling career with a strong future.
Published in Federal

July 28, 2017, North Carolina - Laura Lengnick is a big thinker on agriculture and the environment. She has been guided in her work by the understanding that the problems generated by the U.S. industrial food system have been as significant as its ability to produce vast quantities of food. As she sees it, it’s not enough to produce food if there’s not a reckoning of costs and benefits from an unbalanced system.

This comprehensive outlook is a hallmark of Lengnick’s work, as is her positive vision for a more equitable and sustainable future. When it comes to her career, the question is not what work Lengnick has done to explore resilient, sustainable agriculture, but what hasn’t she done. Soil scientist, policymaker as a Senate staffer, USDA researcher, professor, sustainability consultant, advocate—Lengnick has done it all.

With her home nestled in a sunny cove in the North Carolina mountains, she bio-intensively tends to her 3,000-square-foot micro-farm. (She grows everything from greens and radishes to figs and sweet potatoes.) Based on her rich experience and deep expertise, Lengnick now views herself as a science interpreter in her interactions with farmers, public officials and the public at large. (She calls it “science-in-place").

Lengnick is the author of many articles and papers for scholars, practitioners and the general public, including the useful and engaging book Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate. She was also selected as a contributor to the Third National Climate Assessment, the authoritative U.S. climate report.

Over the years she’s traveled throughout the United States to meet with farmers to investigate the challenges and successes in the field and present her findings to many different audiences. Most recently, Lengnick has been invited to collaborate with the world-renowned Stockholm Resilience Centre, which will bring her views to an even larger audience. In a series of conversations, Lengnick and I spoke about her background, career, and philosophy to better explain where she is today. READ MORE 

Published in Profiles
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