Rotary and FGV explore Best practise in Canada

Four local industry representatives recently toured the upper New York State and Southern Ontario fruit growing regions in north America, which is the second largest apple growing region in north America behind Washington State.  The three week tour was part of a Rotary International sponsored visit aimed at giving horticulturalists from our region the opportunity to further develop their expertise through exposure to practices in another part of the world.  Participants were Les Mitchell (Eurofins Agrosciences), Elizabeth Mace (GV Crop Protection and FGV), Jon Van Popering (Seeka) and Ross Abberfield (Regional Fruit Fly Co-ordinator).

Whilst there is little similarity in climate between our regions, production methods, labour problems and general market issues are similar.

Four local industry representatives recently toured the upper New York State and Southern Ontario fruit growing regions in north America, which is the second largest apple growing region in north America behind Washington State.  The three week tour was part of a Rotary International sponsored visit aimed at giving horticulturalists from our region the opportunity to further develop their expertise through exposure to practices in another part of the world.  Participants were Les Mitchell (Eurofins Agrosciences), Elizabeth Mace (GV Crop Protection and FGV), Jon Van Popering (Seeka) and Ross Abberfield (Regional Fruit Fly Co-ordinator).

Whilst there is little similarity in climate between our regions, production methods, labour problems and general market issues are similar.

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Visits were completed to a large number of orchards and packhouses, varying in size and approaches to production.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the orchard visits were developments in orchard planting systems and approaches to tree architecture.  The most interesting of these being on the orchard of Rod Farrow (USA orchardist of the year in 2017) whose latest plantings, based on a spindle system with planting configuration designed for maximum light interception at their latitudes, are ready for robotic operations which should be operating commercially within four years.

Labour is a major issue in New York and Ontario, but costs are still significantly lower than here.  Migrant workers are used almost exclusively but increasing regulation around accommodation and general worker management are making this more costly than the direct salary component would indicate.  A number of approaches towards improving worker team efficiency were seen and some of these ideas have been brought back by the team.

Canada is a world leader in glasshouse technology and visits to commercial farms and research facilities were made.  IPM is these situations is highly advanced and widely practiced with great success. 

Demand for organically produced fruit is much greater in both the USA and Canada and the selection and presentation in retail outlets is stunning.  This demand has stimulated a large research effort in both Canada and the USA with significant government spending being made in lower input production research.  A large organic apple production research orchard has been established at Cornell University and a wide range of research programs are underway at the Lakeland research station in Ontario.  This is a worldwide trend and an area where we may need to put more effort.

The connection between farmers, government and universities is very strong and healthy and much stronger than here.  This gives farmers a great advantage in keeping abreast of new innovations and techniques. 

The visit has been considered by Rotary International to have been a great success through the personal linkages which have been developed and has already resulted in some immediate changes being looked at in some orchards. 

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