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Vegetable research in New Brunswick Shifts to sustainable cropping systems

shifts to sustainable cropping systems


March 26, 2008
By Dan Woolley

Topics

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s
research networks have been required to realign their research
priorities, including the Atlantic Food
and Horticulture Research Centre in Bouctouche, New Brunswick.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research networks have been required to realign their research priorities, including the Atlantic Food
and Horticulture Research Centre in Bouctouche, New Brunswick.

Vegetable research for Atlantic Canada has always been the Bouctouche stations’s mandate. But with AAFC’s program restructuring over the past several years, Buctouche’s vegetable research biologist, Josee Owen, now has her research team placed under a new bureaucratic category labeled – Sustainable Cropping Systems.

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When the public thinks of sustainability, says Owen, “they immediately think of environmental cropping systems.”

So, her research team is now examining ways to reduce pesticide use while eradicating pests plus investigating different fertilization methods in a bid to improve crop yields and reducing pollution.

The team is also examining another aspect of sustainability they are examining – “economic sustainability for the farmer,” says Owen, adding “we are looking at sweet potato production for the Maritimes. It could fill a niche market.”

The team is examining the production of different cultivars of sweet potatoes with different colours, including white, purple, tan skins and white, cream and orange flesh. These varied colours could be beneficial for consumer health because of their anthocyanin, carotinoid and vitamin contents, says Owen.

Sweet potato production is currently under field trial in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and P.E.I., even though the crop usually requires hotter and longer growing seasons than are usually found in those Maritime provinces, says Owen. To help add to the project, a P.E.I. researcher has supplied sweet potato material from the mountains of South America that may be adaptable to the Maritime climate.

The Bouctouche research team is also examining the practice of over-wintering leeks in order to capture early spring markets.

Owen and her team are testing the leeks in research beds utilizing both floating row covers and bare ground. The leek variety they are growing produces slender, high quality product and “appears quite promising in New Brunswick as a baby vegetable,” says Owen.

It’s hoped that through her research into over-wintering techniques, new vegetable varieties could be introduced to the Maritime market.

Both the sweet potato and leek projects are funded through the Matching Investment Initiative, which involves the federal government matching, one-for-one, research contributions from a range of industrial and farmer co-operators.

Another project being tackled by Owen is research work examining organic vegetable production. “We are working on rotations… to try to discover how nutrients become available over time from amendments such as compost, crop residues and green manure,” she says.

The Bouctouche program is also involved in testing for the Minor Use Pesticides Program, which examines plant production products for possible registration. The program’s goals include:
• Testing “greener” products to replace older chemicals and current organic pesticides.
• Finding new products that may be organic.
• Finding new products that will giver farmers more pest control options in minor crops.

The team is also doing research examining the different rates of greenhouse gas emissions from compost and other nutrient sources. This work is being done in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada.