Probiotics for pasture-raised chickens 2017 Research Project Livestock Feed
Description
White rock chickens are the industry standard but weight gain is usually lower on pasture than in conventional settings. Feeding them probiotics, therefore, might improve the health and weight gain of pasture-raised chickens. With several products on the market, Justin wanted to see if any would have a real effect on his chickens. Justin set out to compare three commercial poultry probiotics to see if they increased growth rates and survival of pasture-raised White Rock chickens.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Justin Hilborn
Does tarping between succession plantings reduce the amount of tillage and labour required for organic salad production? 2018 Research Project Soil Health
Description

With the goal of regenerative farming, Brent and Gillian want to minimize tillage for their organic salad greens production. To do this, they trialed tarps to kill residue between succession plantings and recorded the management needed to direct seed. They also tracked labour, including time moving and placing tarps and hand weeding.

Key Findings

  • Tarping soil, without tilling before tarping, reduced tillage by 82% and resulted in faster growing crops.
  • It also reduced total labour 60% for lettuce and spinach crops because of fewer weeds.
  • It increased total labour by 65% for mustard greens, which do not require weeding.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Brent Preston and Gillian Flies
Foliar sprays for cucurbits 2017 Research Project Disease & Pest Control
Description
Ecological vegetable growers often struggle with pests and disease pressure. There is anecdotal and observational information around the use of organic foliar sprays, but quantitative data is lacking. While nutrient foliar sprays can be expensive, the cost could be less than time and space cost associated with succession planting needed to manage disease pressure. With the goal of minimizing succession planting and field space while maximizing harvestable yield, Angie tested the efficacy of a nutrient foliar spray to maintain health of her cucurbits.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Angie Koch
Does ultra high density grazing as part of adaptive multi-paddock grazing have merit in Ontario? Research Project Pasture Regeneration
Description
Adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing uses short grazing intervals followed by long rest periods. By doing so, this system allows for plant recovery, promotes optimal plant communities, protects against erosion and leads to net carbon storage in the soil (Stanley et al 2018). To optimize his grazing, Tony assessed the benefits of ultra high density grazing as part of his AMP approach. Specifically, he tested whether a single pass of mob grazing would provide a “hit and boost” to his pastures. Key Findings:

  • The amount of forage consumed was the same, irrespective of standard or ultra high density grazing.
  • Tony found no difference in pasture recovery between standard and ultra high density grazing.
  • Tony will graze these areas in a similar way next year to see if a second year of a “hit and boost” has benefits.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Tony McQuail
Foliar sprays for cut flower production 2017 Research Project Disease & Pest Control
Description
Ecological cut flower growers are more limited in the their options for managing pests and disease pressure. There is anecdotal and observational information around the use of organic foliar sprays, but quantitative data is lacking. To generate robust data for herself and other growers, Jessica Gale tested the efficacy of a nutrient foliar spray and an anti-fungal spray on two flower varieties.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Jessica Gale
Is lettuce seed production in northern Ontario improved using a hoop house? 2018 Research Project Seed Production, Selection & Breeding
Description

Northern Ontario faces specific challenges compared to other parts of the province when it comes to seed production, including late springs and early frosts (as early as end of August), followed with a wet fall. The demand for lettuce and greens seed is high, but these growing conditions make producing lettuce seed outdoors very difficult. This means that northern seed producers cannot produce regionally adapted varieties. As a potential solution to lettuce seed production in northern Ontario, Peggy compared seed production in a hoop house and uncovered.

Key Findings

  • In the hoop house, Peggy grew sellable lettuce seed from 4 of 5 varieties, and sales of the seeds would recoup hoop house material costs in 2.21 years.
  • When grown uncovered, none of the 5 varieties produced viable seed.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Peggy Baillie
Pasture-raised chicken breed comparison 2016 Research Project Livestock Breed Selection
Description

Jason Hayes raised groups of Nova Free Ranger and White Rock chickens on pasture and measured feed intake, carcass yield, taste and nutritional quality.

Key Findings

  • From one successful replicate, the Nova Free Ranger group had a lower (better) average feed conversion ratio and greater return to labour ($5.30/kg vs. $5.05/kg).
  • Blind taste tests suggest the taste and texture of Nova Free Ranger meat is preferred by culinary professionals but that the average non-chef customer may prefer the smoother texture of White Rock meat.
  • Average OMEGA 6:3 ratio of one White Rock and one Nova Free Ranger was 9.5:1, higher (worse) than previously published results from pasture-raised chickens but lower (better) than previously published results from non-pasture-raised chickens. Vitamin content was higher than all previously published results.
  • Delayed arrival of Nova Free Ranger chicks allowed analysis of only one replicate in 2016, so additional replicates are needed to draw conclusions​.
  • Evaluating the nutritional quality and profitability of alternative breeds on pasture helps producers choose breeds that are better suited to integrated, pasture-based farming.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Jason Hayes
Does biochar improve tree growth in a newly established apple orchard? 2018 Research Project Soil Health
Description

Val and Brent were curious to know if biochar will help regenerate soil in their young apple orchard and help to set in motion biological activity and nutrient retention. Researchers have documented benefits from biochar in arid and tropical soils, which vary by soil fertility status and biochar quality. Much less is known about biochar’s effect in temperate regions, but there is anecdotal support for biochar use from some farmers in Ontario.

Key Findings

  • In the first year of application, Val and Brent detected no effect of the biochar amendment on soil microbial activity, as a proxy for soil health.
  • They also detected no changes in tree health in the first year of application.
  • Val and Brent will continue to monitor soil and tree health in future years.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Val Steinmann and Brent Klassen
What is the best variety of sweet pea to grow in southern Ontario? 2018 Research Project Seed Production, Selection & Breeding
Description

Much of the flower seed being produced and used by cut flower growers across Canada is grown internationally in the Netherlands, Israel, and various South American and African countries. This means that varieties are not adapted to the Canadian climate and flower growers can’t support local seed houses. Jessica wanted to assess different varieties from local seed houses to find the best one for her farm, and she enlisted the help of other flower growers.

Key Findings

  • There was not a detectable difference in plant quality among blush or white varieties.
  • While there was not enough data to analyze statistically, Jessica recorded differences in bloom period and vase life. In doing so, she gained insight into the importance of these factors – especially in hot southern Ontario – for future variety trials of Sweet Peas.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Jessica Gale
Putting soil health first 2016 Research Manuals & Guides Soil Health
Description
The Environment Commissioner of Ontario’s report on soil health.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Systems research for agriculture 2016 Research Manuals & Guides
Description
Web link to free PDF download of SARE’s Systems Research for Agriculture e-book. This handbook is essential reading for research coordinators and all other team members as they navigate the complexities of multifaceted systems projects.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Is Fusarium infection in garlic reduced with a copper spray or biostimulant? 2018 Research Project Disease & Pest Control
Description

Felicia grows nematode-free garlic, which she sells as clean seed. She’d like to prevent loss to Fusarium and tested a copper spray and biostimulant spray as potential ways to control the fungus.

Key Findings

  • The dry conditions and good seed garlic led to low Fusarium pressure this year.
  • Felicia found no difference in the proportion of garlic with visual signs of infection by weight of good garlic when she compared plots treated with copper spray, RhizoVital® spray and no spray.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Felicia Syer Nicol
Towards farmer-led research: A guidebook Research Manuals & Guides
Description
This guidebook aims to provide insights for working collaboratively with farmers in research. We identified and synthesized the literature on farmer-led research and farmer participatory research activities from around the world, with a focus on the North American context. Further, we shared our experiences and lessons learned from the first three years of Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario’s Farmer-led Research Program. This resource is meant to be used as a practical tool for researchers and practitioners looking to develop, implement, and evaluate farmer-led research programs.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
A practical guide to on-farm pasture research 2016 Research Manuals & Guides Pasture Regeneration
Description
An NE-SARE publication on on-farm research as it relates to pasture experiments.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Does planting timing of green mulches affect yield of garlic and labour? 2018 Research Project Cover Crops
Description

This project compared yield and labour for garlic planted into established oats, garlic and oats planted together, and garlic without a cover crop.

Key Findings

  • Garlic survival and proportion of medium garlic was highest when garlic was planted with oats or into bare soil (control); and lowest when garlic was planted into an established oat cover crop.
  • Garlic planted into an established cover crop required more planting labour and delayed emergence.
  • Delayed emergence, in turn, delayed weeding and allowed perennial species to establish.
  • Eric won’t use the oat treatments as tested again; but seeing the biomass of the early oat planting has motivated him to tweak the system to make it work.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Eric Barnhorst
Interplanting onions and brassicas 2017 Research Project Disease & Pest Control
Description
Interplanting is an agroecological approach that optimizes space, light capture, and water and nutrient use. Effective combinations vary by region and system, and Ryan wanted to test different intercropping distances using a paper pot transplanter. Ryan’s goals for interplanting were to optimize growing space and minimize pest pressure without impacting growth of onions or brassicas.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Ryan Thiessen
On-farm research guide 2016 Research Manuals & Guides
Description
On-farm research guide by Organic Farming Research Foundation.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Is it possible to breed a delicious winter hardy garden pea for most of Ontario and eastern Canada? 2018 Research Project Seed Production, Selection & Breeding
Description

Duane would like to breed a pea that can be planted in the fall and yield early peas, before the heat and drought set in. He’d like to see early production of high quality peas to supply market gardeners and backyard gardeners without the struggles of early spring planting.

 Progress to Date

  • This breeding project should take 3-5 years to get uniform lines with the combined traits of winter hardiness and quality, which are both complex traits.
  • Varieties derived from this project will be released publicly as per the Breeders Pledge (below).
  • If deemed commercially viable, the resulting varieties will also be licensed to small seed companies.

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Duane Falk
Spring planted white clover in garlic 2017 Research Project Weed Control
Description
Garlic on small organic farms is typically either dry mulched (e.g. straw) or grown in bare soil and cultivated for weed control. Farmers would like to see the soil covered to prevent erosion, increase water retention, and improve soil nutrition. However, water retention could increase nematode pressure and green mulches could compete with garlic. Heather wanted to see if there was a difference in yields of garlic when white

Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Heather Coffey
Cabbage seed production 2017 Research Project Seed Production, Selection & Breeding
Description
Rebecca and Nicola compared two methods of cabbage seed production:

  • The “Fruition” or “pyramid” method, learned from Petra and Matthew at Fruition Seeds, where the head is trimmed like a pyramid such that leaves are usable but not sellable and;
  • An alternative “Meadowlark” or “chop” method, learned from Beth and Nathan at Meadowlark Hearth Biodynamic Seeds, that removes the head in a way that it can be sold at winter or spring markets.

Publish Date
April 24, 2017
Farmer(s)
Nicola Inglefield and Rebecca Ivanoff