Category Archives: new crops

Growing Canada’s emerging sweet potato industry

By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Vineland – Canada’s first sweet potato variety is expected for release next year. And now work is underway to ensure Canadian farmers can also access sweet potato cuttings – called slips – right here at home.

To help meet booming Canadian demand for sweet potatoes, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) is developing new varieties that grow well in Canada’s cooler climate and shorter growing season.

About 1,700 acres of the healthy tuber are currently grown in Canada – mostly in southern Ontario’s Norfolk County – but they’re all longer season varieties from the southern United States.

That’s also where Canada’s growers are getting their sweet potato slips every spring to plant their crops, but they can be in short supply and quality could be compromised.

“Canadian sweet potato growers use U.S. propagators and breeding programs because we don’t have the infrastructure and varieties here,” said research scientist Viliam Zvalo of Vineland. “Also, slip propagation has to be started in March when the ground could still be frozen in Canada. Our challenge is to figure out how we can produce them here so we can supply Canadian growers with quality slips at a reasonable price.” Continue reading

Canada’s changing face presents opportunity for Ontario flower growers

By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Vineland – Immigrants coming to Canada bring with them not only their own culture and food, but also distinct floral preferences. As Canada’s demographic makeup changes, this means new opportunity for flower growers in this country.

Researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) in collaboration with Ontario grocery chain Longo’s have identified a particular opportunity for jasmine – Jasminum sambac specifically – and  are now working with flower grower Westbrook Floral to bring the first Ontario-grown jasmine plants to market this spring.

“There is a very different flower culture in Asia compared to the Western tradition, especially with Hindu and Buddhist religions,” said Dr. Alexandra Grygorczyk, a consumer insights researcher at Vineland. “Flowers have very specific meanings and new Canadians are very specific about what they want.” Continue reading

The search for new fresh grape varieties for Ontario


By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Vineland – The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland), driven by demand from nurseries and grape growers, is leading the charge to find new table grape varieties for the Ontario market.

To date, Ontario’s main homegrown fresh table grape is Sovereign Coronation, a semi-seedless blue grape that’s ready for market over a six to eight week period in late summer and early fall.

“It’s challenging to have such a short season with only one variety. That’s what led growers and nurseries to ask if there is anything else out there that could extend their season and provide retailers with different grapes,” explains Michael Kauzlaric, Technology Scout and Grower Outreach at Vineland.

That demand by Ontario grape growers prompted Vineland to begin scouting for varieties that could grow well in Ontario’s climate as well as meet taste, quality and appearance needs. Continue reading

A genetic library for beer

Researchers work to fine-tune hop cultivar cloning and preservation

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From left to right, Max Jones, Praveen Saxena, Elena Popov, Mukund Shukla and Sherif Sherif, Gosling Institute, University of Guelph

By Matt McIntosh for AgInnovation Ontario

Guelph – The University of Guelph may soon house a vast new library. Not one of literature and large dusty tomes, though, but one focused on hops – a mainstay of beer making.

Spurred by the explosion of Canada’s craft beer industry, the University’s Department of Plant Agriculture has started a project to compile, save, and efficiently propagate important Canadian hop varieties.

According to Dr. Praveen Saxena, plant science professor and one of several researchers involved in the initiative, the purpose of the project is two-fold.

“There are many very unique and sometimes very rare hops that people have developed over a very long time, and they must be saved in order for people to access them,” says Saxena. Continue reading

Ontario company takes world’s first plant-based carbon black substitute to market

atul-bali-holding-carbon-black-filler-web By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Leamington – Using specially grown crops and agricultural plant wastes, a local company has commercialized the world’s first plant-based substitute for carbon black.

Black plastic gets its colour from carbon black, a co-product of oil refining that is both non-renewable and deemed a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency on Research on Cancer.

There has been no alternative until now, with Competitive Green Technologies’ development of BIOBLAKR®, a bio-carbon using patent-pending technology invented at the University of Guelph’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre. Continue reading