Category Archives: environment

Biodegradable clips curb greenhouse plastic use

By Lisa McLean

Guelph – Ontario’s greenhouse sector has made significant advances in water, nutrient and energy technology to manage the year-round, high-efficiency production of crops like tomatoes, peppers, herbs, berries and a wide variety of green vegetables.

Yet, despite its positive environmental track record, the sector remains a high user of plastic, especially in the form of small clips that support tomato plants in the greenhouse. Those clips are an integral part of greenhouse tomato production, but often end up in landfill because they can contain tomato vine residues.

Now, new research at the University of Guelph aims to substitute plastic clips with bio-based biodegradable ones – enabling easier composting of tomato vines and other crops at the end of their life span, reducing land filling and lowering the greenhouse sector’s carbon footprint.

“Currently, polypropylene is the main plastic used to produce these support structures, but this is a petroleum-derived plastic that is non-renewable and non-biodegradable,” says Prof. Manjusri Misra of the University of Guelph’s biological engineering and plant agriculture departments.   Continue reading

Ontario research leads to more sustainable lawns

By Tiffany Mayer

Michael Brownbridge has great respect for the lowly lawn.

For starters, grass has remarkable survival skills. During droughts, those brown blades that look dead have simply gone dormant until the next generous rainfall returns them to resplendent green.

Lawns kick out moisture on hot days which cools urban environments. They also act like sponges that hold moisture after heavy rains and release it slowly to benefit trees and other plants growing nearby.

Then there are all the pollutants grass traps.

“It’s one of the most phenomenal plants on the planet,” Brownbridge said. Continue reading

Sterile insect technique promising in fight against greenhouse pepper pest

photo by Lilian Schaer, AgInnovation Ontario

By Jane Robinson

Ontario’s greenhouse pepper growers are struggling to control a very problematic invasive insect, but have very few effective options. Pepper weevils are threatening the province’s $420 million greenhouse pepper industry – a high value crop that covers about 520 hectares (1,285 acres) in Ontario.

University of Guelph researcher Dr. Cynthia Scott-Dupree is testing a genetic control strategy that could bring much-needed hope to growers.

“Pepper weevils began causing substantial economic losses in Ontario in 2015,” says Scott-Dupree, a professor in the School of Environmental Sciences and Bayer Chair in Sustainable Pest Management.  “There really aren’t any effective insecticides that control the adult, and the direct damage caused to the pepper is invisible until you cut it open.”

Adult female pepper weevils lay a single egg in a puncture wound on the surface of the pepper. When the egg hatches, the larvae chew into the pepper to feed. The adult emerges inside the fruit, feeds on the pepper a little longer, mates and then exits the fruit. And the cycle starts all over.

Scott-Dupree started working on sterile insect technique (SIT) about five years ago to control a leafminer in Ontario-grown chrysanthemums. She was then approached by Bruce Power about the potential to use gamma radiation to mitigate insect pest problems in Ontario agriculture.

“I steered them to the pepper weevil issue as I knew that growers were stuck for solutions,” she says. Continue reading

Water on app New app to reduce water use for Canada’s ornamental plant sector

Jared Stoochnoff

By Lisa McLean

Guelph – It takes a lot of work – and a lot of water — to grow healthy trees and shrubs for Canada’s ornamental plant sector. The industry, which boasts approximately 3,500 nurseries across Canada, uses an estimated 190 million cubic metres of water every year.

But new research suggests this is two to three times more water than healthy trees need. And soon a new tool will be available to help nursery managers determine when to turn on –and turn off – the hose.

Jared Stoochnoff, a University of Guelph graduate student in the School of Environmental Sciences Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, is pioneering a new irrigation management strategy designed to reduce water consumption and mitigate the environmental impact of ornamental nursery operations.

“Because many nursery irrigation managers lack reliable ways to quantitatively predict a plant’s actual water requirements, they tend to err on the side of caution and overwater,” Stoochnoff says. “This results in unnecessarily high water and fertilizer run-off that negatively impacts local watersheds.” Continue reading

Sky high scouting zeros in on crop stressors

Using drones, farmers can save money and increase their crop yields by mapping their fields to identify areas of stress.

By Jane Robinson

Peterborough ON – What started as a move back to the Ontario family farm for Norm Lamothe turned into a big move forward in crop scouting technology for Canadian farmers.

Lamothe left a 10-year career in the aviation industry to return to be the sixth generation on the family farm near Peterborough. At the encouragement of a neighbouring farmer, Lamothe bought his first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone in 2015. He had a small group of area farmers already signed up to have a block of acres viewed by the new technology and help share the investment risk.

“We quickly identified the opportunity for farmers to save money and increase their crop yields by mapping their fields to identify areas of stress,” says Lamothe. Continue reading