Fruit & Vegetable

Fruit & Vegetable
Improving retail aspects for producers

Improving retail aspects for producers

Farm Credit Canada's latest FCC Ag Knowledge Exchange event is "Optimizing Your Selling Strategy into Retail Markets," which will take place on January 21, 2014.

Electronic tongues measure grape ripeness

Electronic tongues measure grape ripeness

Electronic tongues can become an ally of grape growers as they offer detailed information on the degree of grape maturity and this could improve competitiveness.

Creating bigger yields in flowering food plans

Creating bigger yields in flowering food plans

Researchers have found a way for tomato plant to produce more fruit without sacrificing that unique and necessary bushy plant shape.

Tomato variety, weather play role in salmonella

Tomato variety, weather play role in salmonella

University of Florida researchers have gained new insight into produce-associated salmonella that they hope will eventually reduce outbreaks.

SWD targeted by genomic research

SWD targeted by genomic research

The spotted wing drosophila, a major pest that targets berries and cherries and other fruits is being targeted through genome sequencing.

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North American Manure Expo comes to Canada...
For the first time ever, the North American Manure Expo is being hosted within a Canadian province. The annual show is being held August 20 and 21, 2013, at the University of Guelph’s Arkell Research Station, located near Guelph, Ontario. So, what's a Manure Expo and why should you attend? This video will provide all the dirt.
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Expert Dr. Susan Watkins discusses Water Sanitatio...
Expert Dr. Susan Watkins discusses Water Sanitation
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The population explosion...
With the world's population increasing exponentially and farmland staying the same, BASF took to the streets to ask consumers if this trend is sustainable.
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Lily Tamburic...
Lily Tamburic

Chemicals

Female (left) and male (right) spotted wing drosophila on a raspberry. B.C. berry growers share lessons from worst SWD year ever

Spotted Winged Drosophila (SWD) has been present in British Columbia fields and orchards since 2010. Despite a joint effort from government and industry researchers in B.C. and throughout the Pacific Northwest, the 2013 growing season was the worst year for SWD infestation on record. At the Horticulture Short Course, held during the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C., a grower, packer and crop consultant came together to share what they learned about managing this persistent pest and protecting B.C. berry crops and markets. “Spotted Winged Drosophila is a very fancy name for a nasty insect that has become a palpable thorn in our back,” says grower, Sukh Kahlon. “It has complicated the harvesting process which was complex to begin with. [2013] was a difficult year, but was that the worst, or is it going to get worse? The best thing we can do is manage SWD to mitigate it rather than eradicate it.” Building from his own experience, Kahlon encourages other growers to keep informed, have a control program in place that includes a spraying schedule and cultural practices, and to have the resources in place to execute your program. “One of the things we should look at is regional information and know what’s happening in the Pacific Northwest,” says Kahlon. “The fact that Oregon is a week to 10 days ahead gives us an insight into the future. Last year we got the news that Oregon was finding larva in their earliest raspberry harvest. That was a red flag for us and I think we should use that to our advantage.” A number of different reports are available for growers online, making it easier to know what is happening with SWD in specific areas. The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture provides weekly reports on their website, and many growers subscribe to the Peerbolt report. As in years past, maintaining regular spray intervals, and rotating chemicals used in pest control are important factors in keeping SWD numbers down while managing for pesticide resistance. Current field trials have demonstrated that growers should spray every seven to eight days. “Work with your neighbours,” says Kalon. “There’s a lot you can learn and you can coordinate your program. With all of the chemicals that we are using, we risk overusing them. It will be to our advantage to rotate through the chemicals and use different chemistry as much as we can.” According to Chuck Mouritzen with Southwest Consulting, infield monitoring on your farm with traps is not an effective way to coordinate spray schedule. He recommends growers take their lead from regional trapping program results. “You’ll get an idea of trend results with the populations so you’ll have a good idea what you are going to face and can get the control measures in place,” he says. Once fruit starts to mature, Mouritzen recommends growers do salt extraction testing to get an accurate measure of larval infestations, and to help make sure the spray program is working. If levels are high, it’s important to adjust the program. Growers also need to be prepared to start picking as soon as fruit starts ripening. “Last season we got early heat and the early fruit wasn’t treated because it wasn’t being picked so we really missed it,” Mouritzen explains. “Prepare yourself for early pick season, or at least for early ripening before you start picking.”Effective pruning is another tool to help growers reduce infestations. The goal is to concentrate the ripening period and eliminate canes that are not going to produce marketable fruit. “Pruning is a simple way to reduce the pressure and concentrate the quality fruit,” says Mouritzen. “It is more of a problem with the newer growers. There are a lot of newer people in the business, and to get them pruning properly is really important.” Ultimately, the take-home message from the 2013 season is simple – everyone has to work together to control this pest or the entire sector is under threat. “By not having control of this pest you are really risking your own fruit as well as your neighbours fruit. The key for packers and growers is understanding the threat posed to our industry from this pest,” says Mouritzen. Steve Phillips of Berry Hill Foods in Abbotsford, B.C., agrees. He points to close communication between growers and packers as one of the keys to success identified by, particularly when it comes to managing pesticide sprays and residues. “We have to spray so much more now, and pesticide residue testing is really accurate,” says Phillips. “If the pesticide residue is too high in a load, it’s a total recall. It’s also important to work with packers to make sure that pesticides used in fields are registered in the countries that they are selling to.” Picking times are as important as spray intervals when managing SWD. The days of letting ripe fruit hang and gain weight is over, says Phillips. Despite the high SWD in 2013, he came out of the experience confident that growers have the tools and motivation to keep the pest under control.   “With proper use of pesticides, communications and relationships with packers, SWD is very manageable,” he says. “If you have SWD, you are going to get downgraded and that’s less money in your pocket.”  

Equipment

The idea for the subsurface irrigation concept started with the installation of a simple lawn watering system at the home farm. Robert Judge and Todd Boughner planned a field irrigation pattern, sourced components, and began designing and building the equipment. J&S Judge Farms

The weather has traditionally always been a troublesome and challenging aspect in farming. It was a couple of years ago that the particular weather challenges – the heat and drought of 2012 – became a turning point at J&S Judge Farms in Norfolk County, Ont. It was at that point they decided to go ahead with removing much of the influence of weather over the harvest on their farm. Field corn crop failure was a sad and stressful reality that year and owner Robert Judge and farm manager Todd Boughner didn’t want to see it happening again – ever. That year, they installed their farm-created subsurface drip irrigation system on 75 acres of their LaSalette farm (a purchased farm near their home farm). It’s a state-of-the-art wireless system that is now in the early stages of commercialization – and an economically-feasible approach worth looking at for field crop, tobacco, orchard and vegetable operations in Ontario and beyond. The creation of the system has also gained Judge Farms a Premier’s Award in agricultural innovation. What happened in 2012 was a tipping point of sorts, a culmination that built on research and development that had already been going on for two years – spurred on by the sandy soil type of the farm, concern over future weather patterns and a desire for better and more stable economic returns. “We are on what is called the Sand Plain of Norfolk County,” explains Boughner. “Normal yield per acre for corn is around 150 bushels, but on this land, we’ve been settling for 100 bushels per acre. That is not economically sustainable.” Their quest to do better started four years ago with testing drought-resistant corn varieties, and a variety of projects completed alone and in partnership with various companies, researchers and suppliers. Over time, the focus came to rest on creating a system that optimizes water resources, economics and labour. In addition to growing field crops (soybean and corn are the focus), Judge Farms also produce pork and poultry. J&S Judge Farms also has eight year-round and two seasonal employees on the home farm, who are all highly valued for their expertise and experience. The subsurface irrigation concept all started with the installation of a simple lawn watering system at the home farm. “It made us think about the possibilities,” says Boughner. “We started having discussions with local irrigation suppliers about subsurface systems for crops, but there was no data or experience with these types of systems anywhere near Canada – just in the southern U.S. where the heat is so strong. The only thing here was surface drip irrigation.” Robert and Todd realized that if they wanted to proceed, they would have to blaze the trail. They planned a field irrigation pattern, sourced components, and began designing and building the equipment. “It took time to determine an optimum irrigation schedule, and to create a wireless monitoring system to regulate water flow,” Boughner says. “We had input from local suppliers and Netafilm of Florida. Blake Farm Equipment in Simcoe who had previous interest and experience helped in applicator design and system developments.” They would also require a farm pond, which they created but then needed a permit to draw from. “The small water usage requirements with sub-surface irrigation made it easier to obtain the water-taking permit in comparison to conventional technologies,” Boughner explains. “It’s about half the water usage. A pond that supplies at least 100 acres of overhead watering can supply 200 to 250 acres of sub-surface drip. The whole farm can receive 0.24 inches of water in 18 hours with no labour involved. It’s all automatic.” While the capital cost is about $1,500 per acre, Boughner says the system will reach cost return in a few years. They can reasonably forecast an increase in corn yields by 100 bushels per acre, and at $7 per bushel, that brings quick returns. Boughner notes that the farm business income will increase dramatically, and the ongoing workload and operational cost is minimal. Only one person is needed to monitor the system, and it will be 15 to 20 years before major replacement work will be needed. This farmer-developed and proven technology is attracting a great deal of farmer interest. “Alleviating moisture stress not only helps ensure a good harvest, but also enhances overall plant health, so they are better able to withstand disease and insects,” Boughner says. “Tobacco farmers are interested, and orchard farmers want to install it in new plantings to optimize success and protect drip tape from rodent damage. Vegetable farmers are interested too. It’s all about minimizing labour while maximizing yields and so who would not be interested? Farmers are willing to invest in improvement to their land more rapidly than we thought would happen.” Supplier companies are also interested, but Boughner says they are moving forward at a sensible prudent pace. He says suppliers need to develop application equipment of sub-surface drip tape that is wear-resistant and adaptable to different width rows, depth of tape, soil conditions and so on. “We foresee that farmers will install the system either by renting the equipment and doing it themselves or getting a company to custom-install,” Boughner notes. “Having this system fully commercialized will tie in existing irrigation suppliers that have a knowledge base and inventory, but they must be ready to service, design, and install the system. We feel that landscape and drainage companies might also be beneficial partners in the future to build the market for the technology.” Farm equipment suppliers might also be involved, as well as researchers, seed stock companies and chemical companies. The drip tape and supplies used in the Judge Farms installation was sourced from a local supplier, but Boughner notes that local manufacture could create jobs as well.   “Farmers have a challenging time these days, and if they can maximize underutilized owned or rented land in close proximity to the home farm, that is very beneficial to the bottom line,” he says. “Land values are escalating at a rapid pace making maximum utilization of every acre important.” He explains that the Sand Plains on which Judge Farm sits extend from Ayr (by Kitchener) to Simcoe up to Aylmer and along the north shore of Lake Erie. “Many thousands of acres are grown on coarse-textured sand plains in Ontario and in the U.S., and drip irrigation is a viable option,” Boughner notes. “Maximizing the utilization of [this area] is not just a local issue. We hope that this technology will provide a better future for farmers, and off-farm jobs as well.”