Category Archives: environment

Fine wine grapes take time

Wine grape trials show promising early results

By Lisa McLean  

Vineland, Ontario – When Dr. Helen K. Fisher retired as viticulture research scientist at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland), there were a few loose ends to tie up.

Namely, what to do with her research on advanced wine grape selections for cold climate wine growing regions.

“Breeding work for wine grapes is a very slow process,” says Fisher. “Not only are you trying to find a plant that fits a climate, but it also needs to fit into a wine profile wineries are looking for.” Continue reading

A new solution to cleaning wastewater on shrimp farms

By Jeanine Moyer

Guelph – Ontario shrimp farmers could soon be going green – with algae. New research is using algae to naturally clean recirculating saltwater on shrimp farms. Still in the early development stages, the new, highly efficient process of removing nutrients and carbon dioxide from recirculating saltwater is being tested at the University of Guelph.

“It’s not a new idea,” admits Andreas Heyland, lead project researcher and integrative biology professor at the University of Guelph. “But we’ve been able to select highly efficient algae strains, which can be grown on the recirculating water.”

In-land shrimp farming has grown in Ontario in recent years with the demand for local shrimp in closer proximity to the marketplace. As a result, farmers are looking for new ways to manage nutrient build-up in the production system; conventional methods don’t produce much revenue and saltwater can’t be easily disposed in the environment. Continue reading

Finding the right light to grow better plants – on Earth and in space

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – It’s an unremarkable building from the outside, tucked away on a side street on the University of Guelph campus. What’s inside, though, is most remarkable – and may well be lighting the way for future human life in space, as well as better life here on earth.

Not only are researchers in the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility working on how to best grow food away from Earth, they’re also experimenting with using light to improve the production of medical marijuana and cancer-fighting tobacco plants, helping nurseries reduce water and fertilizer use on their trees and shrubs, and finding low cost solutions to growing more compact bedding plants.

PhD candidate Dave Hawley is using basil and strawberry plants in experiments designed to find the best LED light combination for use in small, low atmosphere growth chambers that will not only simulate but actually improve upon real sunlight – and resulting in better flavour and ultimately helping feed people on long space journeys. Continue reading

Innovative farmer wins award for soil conservation practices

Eric KaiserBy Lilian Schaer

Napanee – Eric Kaiser has spent a lifetime transforming 14 former Loyalist settlement properties into a large, productive egg and field crop farm business – and always with a singular focus on the environment and innovative, sustainable soil conservation practices.

His efforts have earned him the 2017 Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) Soil Champion Award, which is handed out annually to recognize leaders in sustainable soil management.

“There is no one practice that defines conservation farming, it’s a management system and every component has a part to play,” says Kaiser, who has a civil engineering degree from the Royal Military College. “Sustainability has many components, but the preservation of top soil must be the final result.” Continue reading

Local technology could make no-till planting easier for farmers

By Lilian Schaer

Stoney Creek – A local company focused on robotic cutting solutions is experimenting with an ultra-high pressure no-till system. A-Cubed (Advanced Agriculture Applications) is using fluid jets in place of coulters on standard, commercially available seeding equipment they’ve modified.

The goal, according to Agricultural Business Development Manager Jeff Martel, is for farmers using no-till (planting without tilling the soil) to cut cleanly through heavy residues and cover crops using water – either on its own or potentially supplemented with inputs like lime or fertilizer, for example.

Leading development of the technology has been the South Australia No-Till Farmers Association (SANTFA) – and a connection between SANTFA and Martel brought the idea to Canada, where Martel’s employer I-Cubed Industry Innovators is now launching A-Cubed to move the technology forward.

Initial plot trials by the company last year produced intriguing results. Fluid jet-planted corn had a 20 per cent higher yield by weight than the same corn planted conventionally in the next rows. And each fluid jet-planted soybean plant held more pods than the conventionally planted soybeans and had significantly bigger and longer root systems. Germination time was a day sooner on average for the fluid jet-planted plants too. Continue reading