Researchers say they've been able to find individual plants infected with potato virus Y, commonly called PVY, with 90 per cent accuracy using cameras mounted on drones. READ MORE
U.S. Trade representative Michael Froman wrote in a recent news release the regulations breach Canada's WTO commitments by giving local B.C. wine an unfair advantage. READ MORE
November 1, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of two types of potatoes that are genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that causes late blight.
Washington, DC, April 21, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture will buy up to 30 million pounds of wild blueberries to help with flagging prices and over-supply.
Members of Maine's congressional delegation said the agency will pay up to $13 million for the blueberries. READ MORE
April 12, 2016, Edmonton, Alta – Edmonton’s Little Potato Company is eyeing a major expansion with its first plant in the United States.
The homegrown success story is building a processing, packing and storage facility that will also serve as its U.S. headquarters in DeForest, Wis., about 25 kilometres north of the capital in Madison. READ MORE
April 11, 2016 – Apple farmers in the East worry the late-season Arctic blast could take a big bite from their budding crops.
"It definitely was cold enough so that there could be some catastrophic damage to the majority of the apple crop," said Jake Samascott, whose family grows about 100 acres of apples on their farm south of Albany. READ MORE
January 25, 2016, Huron, OH – There's a small corner of the restaurant world where food is art and the plate is just as exquisite as the mouthful.
In this world, chefs are constantly looking for new creative materials for the next stunning presentation.
The tiny community of farmers who grow vegetables for the elite chefs prize creativity, too, not just in what they grow but in how they grow it. They're seeking perfection, in vegetable form and flavour. READ MORE
January 19, 2015, Summerland, BC – Arctic Fuji is poised to follow in the footsteps of Okanagan Specialty Fruits' first distinctly non-browning apple varieties, Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny, which were approved for commercial sale in February 2015.
Developed using the same innovative techniques as other Arctic apple varieties, Arctic Fuji apples have been grown and tested in field trial orchards for more than a decade. The petition being reviewed by the USDA contains substantial data collected over many years that demonstrates the safety and healthfulness of Arctic Fujis. OSF is confident they will be granted approval in a timely manner.
Considering regulatory agencies are now familiar with the science behind Arctic apple varieties (namely, the company’s method of silencing polyphenol oxidase, the enzyme that initiates browning), OSF anticipates the review of Arctic Fuji will progress more quickly than for Arctic Golden and Arctic Granny varieties.
July 10, 2015, Gainesville, FL – When it comes to organic broccoli, it would appear U.S. consumers have strong opinions about where it’s sourced.
According to research from the University of Florida, Americans are willing to pay $1 more per pound for U.S. organic broccoli than that from China and Mexico and up to 32 cents more per pound than that grown in Canada.
UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers conducted a national online survey in 2010 in which they posed questions about organic broccoli to 348 participants. They wanted to know the impact of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) on the price people were willing to pay for organic broccoli.
Foods sold in grocery stores come in packages labeled organic, if it applies. The packages also tell the buyer the country where the food was grown. But some consumers remain confused about whether the broccoli they’re buying meets U.S. government standards for organic products, said Zhifeng Gao, a UF associate professor of food and resource economics.
“This information is important because consumers, in theory, can get both organic and country-of-origin information in the same supermarket,” Gao said.
It’s also key for organic producers.
“This is important for the U.S. organic industry to decide appropriate strategies to compete with foreign organic industries.”
For example, knowing this new data, the U.S. organic industry could put more emphasis on the products’ country of origin, he said. Consumers would then, at least theoretically, pay more attention to that information, he said.
As part of the survey, researchers added twists, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture organic labeling information. One group received information about organic food vs. conventional food. Another group received no information about U.S. organic labeling requirements.
Participants who received the organic labeling information read this statement: “The USDA requirements for organic certification are extensive. The term ‘organic’ can only be used to describe an agricultural product sold in the United States if it meets all of these requirements. No matter where a product is produced, the same rules and procedures apply.”
Gao and his colleagues chose broccoli because it’s very popular and is produced in the U.S. and abroad in fairly equal amounts. In fact, organic farming in general is one of the fastest-growing segments of global agriculture during the past decade. In the U.S., organic product sales went up 9.5 per cent from 2010 to 2011, reaching $31.5 billion in America. Imported fresh broccoli has increased dramatically since 2000. In 2010, the U.S. imported about 25 million pounds of fresh broccoli from Mexico.
Survey results were published online June 29 in the journal Agricultural Economics.
April 15, 2015, Tampa, FL – Harvest CROO Robotics is developing and beginning to test the latest technology for agricultural robotics – an automated strawberry picker.
The farming industry, nationwide, has felt the pain and unreliability of human labor. More than $750 million per year is spent in the U.S. picking strawberries alone.
Gary Wishnatzki, co-founder of Harvest CROO and owner of Wish Farms, sees first hand, as a member of the agricultural industry, the imminent need for an automated system for harvesting strawberries.
“I charged our engineers with the task of creating a ‘picker’ that does not require a grower to radically change the way they currently grow," he said. “That is the major reason other robotic harvesters have not yet been commercialized.”
Harvest CROO machines will pick on traditional strawberry beds. Chief technical officer and co-founder, Bob Pitzer, took to the fields to study and observe the way human pickers harvest strawberries. With that information, he began outlining and conceptualizing the first prototype, which mimics the ways humans currently pick.
“With robotic manipulation, our biggest challenge is minimizing time,” he said. “Based on our observations, our goal was to develop robots to pick as many berries as possible while utilizing conservation of motion.”
In Phase I, $1 million was raised through qualified investors, including seven from the strawberry industry. In Phase II, Harvest CROO is seeking to raise $1.5 million to build the next version, the Alpha unit, which will be the predecessor to a production model. The Alpha will not only pick, but also place the berries into consumer packs.
Harvest CROO has a utility and a provisional patent filed.
March 2, 2015, Germantown, MD and Summerland, BC – Intrexon Corporation, a company involved in synthetic biology, recently announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the agricultural company behind the Arctic apple.
Through the acquisition, Intrexon expands its food programs to include trees yielding fruit that is more appetizing and convenient for consumers while providing economic benefit throughout the tree fruit supply chain.
“We are committed to bringing better versions of consumers’ favourite fruits to their grocery stores and kitchens, while addressing additional novel traits in tree fruits that reduce waste and address supply chain challenges,” said Neal Carter, founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits. “Joining forces with Intrexon and applying our combined technical know-how is an important step to introducing beneficial products for consumers and growers.”
One of the fastest-growing categories of the fruit and vegetable industry is the fresh-cut segment, bolstered by the convenience factor and upward trend in consumption of healthier foods. Marrying the art of fruit breeding with cutting-edge science results in exciting new products that can benefit consumers and producers alike. For example, the Arctic apple provides consumers with an answer to a pesky but common food issue without any flavour-altering, anti-browning additives. It is an alternative to current approaches to browning control, which are more costly and require the application of chemical solutions or antioxidants. Additionally, apples will be increasingly accessible to food service outlets, where consumers spend roughly 50 per cent of their food dollars, because Arctic apples solve both cost per serving and quality concerns associated with pre-cut apples.
“Okanagan is a world leader in the development of fruit-bearing plants to express enhanced, advantageous traits with tremendous potential to revolutionize the tree fruit industry,” said Thomas R. Kasser, senior vice president and head of Intrexon’s food sector. “Through this acquisition, we can deliver more accessible and affordable choices of high-quality foods for an ever-growing population. We are extremely pleased that Neal Carter will remain with the company providing both the creative spirit and deep understanding of the tree fruit business that will assure continued future success in this expanding business opportunity.”
Pursuant to the definitive agreement, Okanagan’s stockholders will receive $31 million in Intrexon common stock and $10 million in upfront cash. Consummation of the transaction, anticipated in the first half of 2015, is subject to customary closing conditions.
February 2, 2015, Kearneysville, WV – A new pear cultivar, Gem, was recently released jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Oregon State University, Michigan State University and Clemson University.
Gem is ideal for the fresh market, combining high yields with excellent appearance, fruit quality and long storage potential. The new cultivar is resistant to fire blight and isn't prone to superficial scald that affects some pear varieties.
Horticulturist Richard Bell, at the Agricultural Research Service's (ARS) Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, and his colleagues describe Gem in the March 2014 issue of HortScience.
Gem requires at least three weeks of cold storage before normal fruit softening, but it will last for at least 28 weeks in cold storage without core breakdown or superficial scald. The fruit can also be eaten immediately after harvest without softening, as it has a crisp, juicy texture. Its flavour is sweet and mildly aromatic. When compared to Bartlett, sensory panelists rated Gem similar in appearance, flavour and purchase intent.
The original seedling tree of Gem was from a cross of Sheldon and US62563-004 made in 1970. Bell selected Gem in 1981 from the seedling orchard at the ARS Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.
The source of Gem's fire blight resistance comes from the cultivar Barseck. Subsequently, Gem was evaluated for fruit quality, fire blight resistance and productivity in replicated trials at the Kearneysville location and at research centers at Washington State University, Oregon State University, Michigan State University, Cornell University and Clemson University.
Gem is recommended as a fresh-market pear for both commercial and home orchards. While budwood of Gem is limited, genetic material of this release will be deposited in the National Plant Germplasm System, where it will be available for research purposes, including development and commercialization of the new cultivar.
January 12, 2015, Rochester, NY – The New York Apple Growers (NYAG) has launched a second new apple variety called RubyFrost, which will be available at participating retailers in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.
RubyFrost is known for its beautiful rich colour, definitive crisp texture and a delicate balance of sweet and tart flavours.
Developed by Cornell University, RubyFrost, as well as SnapDragon which launched this past November, is licensed for a managed release with the New York Apple Growers (NYAG). Both varieties have been a decade in the making with the first trees planted in farmers’ orchards in 2011. Now the still-young trees have produced a limited crop this year with plans for a much larger roll out with increased retail participation in 2016 as the trees continue to mature and produce more fruit.
RubyFrost is being marketed as a seasonal wintertime apple that’s available for a limited time only. Marketing efforts include in-store demonstrations, point of sale materials with high graphic bins, online coupon, food blogger outreach, public relations and social media activities.
“We tested this apple this past January in select New York stores and the results were very positive,” stated Jeff Crist, vice chairman of the board of directors of NYAG. “In-store surveys revealed that consumers really liked the sweet and tart flavour and crisp texture of this apple.”
A website was developed to provide consumers with nutritional information, recipes and pairing ideas at www.RubyFrostApple.com. The site also includes a Meet the Growers section that profiles a grower of the month and provides the full list of growers in New York State.
Formed in 2010, the New York Apple Growers (NYAG) is a grower-owned organization united with the mission of introducing exclusive, premium flavour apple varieties to the marketplace. NYAG is comprised of 145 grower members in the state of New York, representing about 60 per cent of the state’s apple production. For more information, visit www.NewYorkAppleGrowers.com.
January 12, 2015, Vienna, VA – About 113.5 million bushels of U.S.-grown fresh-market apples had yet to ship as of Jan. 1, 16 per cent more than last year at the same time.
September 9, 2014, East Lansing, MI – While consumer demand for healthy foods seems to be expanding, fruit and vegetable sales in the U.S. grew just 14 per cent from 2008-13 and much of that growth was the result of higher prices rather than increased consumption.
In the past few years, healthy organic food has certainly become a popular alternative to traditional eating habits. People seem to be spending more money on fruits and vegetables. So why hasn’t the food industry seen a substantial increase in consumption?
One reason for this might be convenience. Consumers are increasingly interested in finding convenient shortcuts in preparing their fruit and vegetable dishes. Nearly four in ten (38 per cent) consumers buy pre-packaged salad mixes and more than a quarter (26 per cent) of consumers buy pre-cut, pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. There has been a significant drop in fruit and vegetable use during family dinners. To increase the usage of fruit and vegetables, producers may want to incorporate recipes in their packaging. This marketing tactic would show consumers how they could easily implement fruits and vegetables into their daily diet. The recipes could be distributed as fact sheets or as QR codes at supermarkets, farmers markets or other marketing channels.
Some good news for producers is that two small segments of this industry – frozen fruit and dried beans – have experienced exceptional growth from 2011-13. While the processed fruit market was relatively stagnant, frozen fruit grew 34.6 per cent netting $911 million in sales for 2013. Similarly, while dried beans represent a small percentage of the overall vegetable market, sales have grown by 21.7 per cent netting an impressive $597 million in 2013. Both of these trends present exciting opportunities for producers.
Looking to the future, expansion in fruit and vegetable sales will depend heavily on market players’ abilities to appeal to consumer demand.
August 26, 2014, Gainesville, FL — Taste trumps health benefits for blueberry buyers, sending a strong message that fruit consumers value flavour most, new University of Florida research shows.
About 61 per cent of blueberry consumers buy the fruit for its flavour, while 39 per cent do so for psychological reasons, according to two national online surveys. By “psychological,” researchers mean those consumers may buy blueberries because they believe the fruit, which contains antioxidants, provides health benefits.
UF horticultural sciences assistant professor Jim Olmstead will use the data as he breeds new types of blueberries. Olmstead uses traditional breeding methods to create blueberry cultivars that have traits consumers want.
“What we’re trying to determine is: What is the consumer’s perception of the ideal blueberry? What should it look, taste and feel like?” said Olmstead, a faculty member with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
A company called Panel Direct Online recruited survey takers, using an online questionnaire to ensure participants bought blueberries in the 12 months before the survey and that they were evenly split between men and women.
Three hundred and six people answered the first survey, conducted in 2011. In 2013, the researchers surveyed another 300 blueberry buyers. Respondents in both surveys answered the same questions about six blueberry traits: firmness, texture, size, colour, flavour and human nutrition. Researchers then divided traits into six more categories, so respondents revealed their preferences about 36 different blueberry traits.
Consumers valued such factors as “so sweet…no sugar added” and “bold and intense blueberry flavour” the highest. Also high on their list were “full of juice” and “full of antioxidants.”
Olmstead said his ongoing research includes improving blueberry texture, but survey respondents did not rate texture high on their list of preferred traits.
Using a nine-point scale, respondents were asked to rate their blueberry experiences, both good and bad. Respondents were tested on what scientists call psychophysics, or how your brain reacts to stimuli such as taste, smell and texture.
The survey used metrics designed by Howard Moskowitz, a psychophysicist who has helped companies, including Ragu, enhance flavours to meet consumer demand.
Recent surveys by online grocer FreshDirect showed only 48 per cent of U.S. consumers bought blueberries in the past year, compared with 88 per cent who bought the top-selling fruit, bananas.
Historically, many blueberry traits have been selected with producers in mind, including climate adaptation, yield, harvest potential and disease resistance, said Thomas Colquhoun, an environmental horticulture assistant professor and study co-author.
Developing a new blueberry variety can take more than 10 years, so before investing that time, scientists and growers need to know what consumers want, he said.
“There’s not just one type of customer,” Colquhoun said. “You have purchasers that work with the sensory side of the brain, and then you have purchasers that work with the psychological side.”
The paper appeared online in the July edition of the journal HortScience.
In addition to the traditional russet potato, the Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program led by Dr. Creighton Miller is producing a variety of colored gourmet potatoes. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Kay Ledbetter)
July 29, 2014, Springlake, TX – A decline in overall potato consumption has Texas A&M AgriLife Research breeders working on “designer” spuds that meet the time constraints and unique tastes of a younger generation.
Dr. Creighton Miller, AgriLife Research potato breeder from College Station, recently conducted the Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program field day at the farm of cooperator Bruce Barrett south of Springlake.
“Potatoes are an important delivery system for nutrients to humans,” Miller said. “The average consumption in the U.S. is 113 pounds per year per person. But overall potato consumption in the U.S. has generally declined somewhat.
“So what we are doing now is developing unique varieties that have a tendency to appeal to the younger set with high income who are willing to try something different,” he said. “This has contributed to an increase in consumption of these types over the russets, which are still the standard.”
Miller said the objective of the Texas A&M potato breeding program is to develop improved varieties adapted specifically to Texas environmental conditions.
“However, some of our varieties are widely adapted across the U.S.,” he said. “Three of them collectively represent the fifth-largest number of acres certified for seed production in the U.S., so we’ve released some successful varieties, and we are developing more all the time.”
The Texas Potato Variety Development Program currently has 412 entries at the Springlake trials and 927 entries at the Dalhart trials. Additionally, the 2014 seedling selection trials at both Springlake and Dalhart include 115,408 seedlings from 634 families or crosses.
One selected Best of Trial at Springlake this year is BTX2332-IR, which is a round red potato. And, he said, the traditional russet potatoes will always be a mainstay, as they are used primarily for baking and French fries. Also in the trial is the standard white skinned variety with white flesh used for chipping purposes.
“We are always interested in new and improved red varieties and russet varieties, but there are some other types that have become more interesting lately,” Miller said.
One type is a small potato, he said, adding that within the trials he is looking for varieties with a heavy set of small potatoes.
“One of the reasons for the popularity of the smaller potato is with both spouses working, the amount of time required to prepare potatoes becomes an issue with some people,” Miller said. “With the small potatoes, they can be microwaved very fast and be on the table in a hurry.”
Other varieties catching more attention are red potatoes with yellow and white flesh and the purple skinned potatoes with yellow flesh, he said.
The tubers with yellow flesh contain compounds that are antioxidants, and that appeals to the health-conscious consumer, Miller said.
“So in addition to having the unique appearance, they are healthier potatoes to eat,” he said.
And this year, Miller also has specialty potatoes with splashes of red and yellow on the skin that have a yellow flesh.
“These are referred to as gourmet potatoes and that niche is receiving more emphasis lately,” he said. “These are generally boiled and add unique colour to the plate when served.”
But Miller was quick to say the russet potato is still the primary emphasis of the program, and a new russet being grown by the Barrett’s will soon be released for commercial production.
“It promises to be very successful,” he said.
July 22, 2014 – In traditional apple orchards, effective management practices rely on two interrelated components: finding ways to manage competitive vegetation under the trees, and supplying important supplemental nutrition to trees.
These factors are further complicated in organic management systems where limited tools are available, and producers need to meet the stringent soil fertility and crop nutrient management standards of the National Organic Program. University of Arkansas scientists published a study that includes recommendations for the use of various groundcover management systems for apple orchard floors. They say that selected management systems can improve soil quality in organically managed apple orchards.
Curt Rom, corresponding author of the study (published in HortScience), explained that orchards established on the weathered, acidic mineral soils in the Ozark Highlands must be strategically managed in order to meet the trees' nutritional requirements.
"A common characteristic of Ozark Highland soils is a relatively low soil organic matter concentration, a condition that can have detrimental effects on orchard productivity," Rom said.
A cross-disciplinary research team studied the impacts of groundcover management systems and nutrient source on soil characteristics, tree health and productivity, and insect, disease, and weed management. The experiments were performed in an organically managed apple orchard that was established in 2006 and continues today at the University of Arkansas' Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Fayetteville.
The researchers evaluated several under tree, in-row groundcover management systems, including shredded paper, wood chips, municipal green compost, and mow-blow. They also tested various nutrient sources (non-fertilized control, composted poultry litter, and pelletized organic commercial fertilizer). The groundcover systems and nutrients were analyzed for their respective effects on soil organic matter, carbon, and nitrogen concentration, and soil carbon and nitrogen sequestration.
The results showed that the use of various groundcover management systems as an orchard floor management tool can increase soil organic matter, total soil, and total nitrogen mineral soils, thereby improving soil quality. The greatest increases in these factors were associated with applications of green compost, which the authors say was a result of accelerated formation of carbon- and nitrogen-rich soil organic matter.
"Compared with conventional apple orchards managed with herbicides and fertilizers, green compost, wood chip, and shredded paper treatment may result in improved soil quality," the authors concluded. "However, care should be taken in organic apple production to ensure nutrients are not over applied, thereby protecting soil and water resources and maintaining the health of the orchard ecosystem."
According to Rom, the study has implications for sustainably and conventionally managed orchards as well as organic orchards, and demonstrates the sustainability of organically managed systems.
July 16, 2014 – Bagged fresh potatoes under four pounds are seeing sales up 17.8 per cent from a year ago. In the past 10 years, sales have gone up 112 per cent, according to data from AC Nielson Fresh Facts.
Growth of smaller bagged potatoes stems from two factors, said John Pope of Houston-based MountainKing Potatoes, in a press release. First, family sizes are continuing to shrink. Second, online recipe availability has led shoppers to plan a meal at a time, instead of purchasing for several meals. Consumers average 2.2 shopping trips per week, which is the most in 10 years. READ MORE
May 30, 2014 – With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida (UF) researcher says.
Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut Extension economist and the study’s lead author.
Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 per cent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.
“If consumers can distinguish between local and organic, then by buying organic, they will be able to reduce their exposure to synthetic pesticides,” said Khachatryan, with the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “However, there is no guarantee that organic is grown locally. Before reaching the consumer, organic produce may travel long distances, which involves some level of environmental footprint.”
By the same token, he noted that locally produced food may not be the most sustainable choice, if same or better quality produce can be grown and transported less expensively from elsewhere.
Another finding showed 22 per cent incorrectly thought “local” means non-genetically modified. Now that several states have, or are now debating GMO regulations, it’s essential that consumers know that a locally labeled product does not imply non-GMO, Campbell said.
“We are not saying GMO is bad or good, but rather that local does not imply GMO-free,” he said.Local and organic products have seen increasing consumer demand over the last decade, with sales of organic products reaching $26.7 billion in the U.S. and $2.6 billion in Canada in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association, a group that promotes organic food producers and related industries.
Exact figures for locally grown food are tougher to come by, but recent estimates indicate sales of local products were $4.8 billion in the U.S. in 2008, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study.
One factor clouding consumers’ understanding is that Canada is changing its definition of “local” food, and the definition of “local” food varies by jurisdiction in the U.S.
U.S. and Canadian governments both mandate organic production to mean grown without synthetic pesticides, among other things. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge and genetically modified organisms were not used.
The study is in the May edition of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Review.
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