Category Archives: greenhouse vegetables

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

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

In pursuit of perfect peppers

Ontario farm uses crop selection, branding to gain big markets

By Lisa McLean

Leamington – How does a first-generation family-run greenhouse land its branded products in grocery stores across Canada and much of the U.S.? By perfecting its growing process, and adding a little Zing!.

Jordan Kniaziew, vice-president of sales and marketing at Leamington-based Orangeline Farms says since his family entered farming in 2000, they’ve focused on finding the best varieties and seed selections for peppers and other crops.

Since 2013, the family has been growing, packing and shipping its own products — including award-winning peppers and greenhouse strawberries – under the Zing! Healthy Foods brand.

“We’re always looking at growing products that fit the taste profiles we’re after,” says Kniaziew. “In peppers, our core product, we’ve seen there’s room for growth in the category overall by growing peppers for every meal – in fajitas or stir-fry, scrambled eggs and as snacks.” Continue reading

From waste to wealth: transforming greenhouse waste into energy

Animesh Dutta

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – When Animesh Dutta ponders the problems of the world, he lands on energy security, food security and climate change. The University of Guelph researcher’s latest project holds promise for addressing all three.

As professor and director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab in the School of Engineering, Dutta focuses on taking waste from farms or food processors and finding the best solution to convert it into renewable energy that will maximize the economics.

When he started working on bioenergy, Dutta saw the benefits of creating a renewable source of energy that didn’t interfere with food production.

“The economics don’t seem to be there for using feedstock for bioenergy,” he says. “You have to purchase the raw product and farmers want a price for their biomass crop that is higher than the value of the bioenergy it makes.” 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