Title Year Article Type Research Priority
Organic no-till soybean production: Making it work in Ontario 2019 Research Project community, cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
Description
Growing cover crop-based organic no-till soybeans requires a different system approach than for standard organic production. Three years of extensive research trials in Ontario have guided the development of four key best practices for growing no-till organic soybeans following a cereal rye cover crop. This tip sheet is designed to provide practical advice for Ontario growers.
Publish Date
September 20, 2022
Farmer(s)
Jake Munroe
Tournesols sans labour dans le nord de l’Ontario 2021 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health
Description

L’objectif de Becky était de voir s’il était possible d’établir des lieux de cultivation sans labour qui remplacerait de pâturages permanents existants pour la production de fleurs coupées.

En Bref

  • Le paillis de résidus de cultures, du compost profond et le travail du sol (témoin) n’a donné aucun résultat appréciable par faute d’une mauvaise germination dans la répétition de son essai.
  • Becky a eu de la chance en cultivant des tournesols dans deux parcelles de démonstration qu’elle a bâchées pendant 12 mois et 2 mois, respectivement.
  • Becky recommande d’utiliser des bâches pendant de 2 à 12 mois avant de tenter la cultivation dans des pâturages permanents
Read report in english
Publish Date
September 1, 2022
Farmer(s)
Becky Porlier
Summer and fall head lettuce variety trials 2020 Research Project community, seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

The growers’ objective was to document the best summer and fall head lettuce across different farms throughout southern and eastern Ontario during the 2020 season.

In a Nutshell

  • Magenta, Muir, and Nevada were the top varieties with respect to overall vigor, flavour, and germination in the summer.
  • Green Star was the growers’ least favourite variety overall in the summer.
  • Magenta, Ruby Sky, and Red Mist (from Vitalis Organic Seed) were the top varieties with respect to overall vigor in the fall.
  • Encino was the growers’ least favourite variety overall in the fall.
  • Red Mist (from another seedhouse) had poor germination rates, demonstrating that seed source – and not just variety – matters.
Publish Date
November 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Angie Koch, Ann Slater, Lise-Anne Léveillé, Jon Gagnon, Laurie & Corey Ahrens, Martina Schaefer, Hilary Moore, Harold Saunders, and Sarah Judd
In search of short season northern sweet potatoes: Variety trials of new sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) crosses 2020 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

To identify the best performing crosses of sweet potato for organic farming systems in the Ottawa area, Kate, Erin and Lise-Anne compared nine new crosses of sweet potato and one check variety (Covington) in a replicated and randomized trial across three farms.

In a Nutshell

  • They identified three varieties that they think are definitely worth continuing to grow and observe, and another two “runner-up” crosses that are alsopromising.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Kate Garvie, Erin Richan, Lise-Anne Léveillé
Grafting for organic low-tech greenhouse tomatoes 2020 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

As a follow-up to their 2019 multi-farm trial, we compared 5 large tomato varieties and 4 cherry tomato varieties grown by grafting onto four different rootstocks and an ungrafted control.

In a Nutshell

  • The best choice of rootstock was specific to the scion, with some rootstocks producing no improvement or even reducing yield for some varieties of scion.
  • Compared to ungrafted plants, Caiman F1 large tomatoes had great yield and profitability when grafted DR0141TX rootstock.
  • Preliminary data suggest that only Sakura cherry tomato may benefit from grafting on Fortanimo or Estanimo, but more replicates are needed to be confident.
  • Preliminary data suggest that grafting “heirloom- like” hybrid varieties tested does not confer a yield advantage, but that open pollinated Striped German maybe benefit from being grafted onto Fortanimo.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
R. Victor & Nathan Klassen
Regeneration of fallow fields for vegetable production 2020 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health
Description

Eric compared five methods of preparing fallow land for vegetable production with respect to soil regeneration and cost to implement.

In a Nutshell

  • Cover crops with micronutrient amendments increased active carbon, a sensitive indicator of soil health and soil regeneration potential.
  • Micronutrient amendment alone did not increase active carbon; and Eric saw no added benefit with respect to soil health of adding chicken manure or woody compost with cover crops.
  • Balancing cost and soil health benefits, Eric will focus on micronutrient application and full season cover crops in areas that require regeneration.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Eric Barnhorst
Assessing methods for nutrient application to prevent chlorosis in chestnuts 2020 Research Project disease-pest-control, soil-health
Description

To prevent chlorosis in chestnuts, Derick compared broadcasting and localized application of nutrient amendments to no amendment controls. After a year of growth, he measured tree height and leaf nutrient status.

In a Nutshell

  • Derick detected no difference in plant health or leaf nutrient status between the two amendment methods. Given the extra labour involved with the localized treatment, he will not broadcast any amendments moving forward.
  • He detected higher leaf potassium levels in the amended trees, which is important for iron availability in the plant.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Derick Greenly
Direct seeding into compost mulch 2020 Research Project soil-health
Description

To reduce tillage for crops that are direct seeded, Jason tested different composts in a no-till deep bed system in one trial each of lettuce and carrots.

In a Nutshell

  • The substrates for deep compost mulch differed with respect to growing lettuce and carrots, but bare ground control produced the highest seedling count for lettuce and the greatest yield for carrots.
  • Optimizing the use of deep bed compost requires a systems approach since seeding depth and irrigation rate, etc. differ by substrate. It was not practical, however, for Jason to test each substrate in a systems- context which limits the applicability of these results.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Jason Hayes
No-till tomatoes 3-ways 2020 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
Description

To further explore no-till techniques, Matt compared no-till tomatoes three ways: compost + landscape fabric, compost + cover crop + landscape fabric, and compost + cardboard + landscape fabric.

In a Nutshell

  • He detected no difference in cumulative or monthly tomato yield among the three methods.
  • He also detected no difference in water infiltration, an indicator of soil health, among the three methods.
  • This data indicates that adding cardboard or cover crops to compost and landscape fabric does not improve yield for no-till tomatoes; and cardboard and cover crops may be a useful means of further building soil without negative effects on yield.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Matt Jones
Effects of liquid and biological amendments on emergence and yield of no-till planted spring cereals 2020 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health
Description

To try to hasten emergence and improve yield of no-till planted spring cereals, Ken compared liquid amendment, biological amendment, a combination of amendments and a no-amendment control.

In a Nutshell

  • There was no observable difference in emergence due to amendments.
  • There was no significant difference in yield among the different treatments.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ken Laing
No-till fall broccoli in northern Ontario 2020 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
Description

Ryan and Isabelle tested whether a crimped cover crop of rye and hairy vetch reduced tillage, cultivation and irrigation for their fall broccoli crop.

In a Nutshell

  • Compared to tillage, the cover crop residue provided sufficient mulch to significantly reduce weeding time and increase soil moisture throughout the growing season by 11%. There was adequate rainfall, so they didn’t need to use irrigation in the tillage plots.
  • Broccoli grown in crimped cover crop mulch had around half the marketable yield compared to the tilled plots.
  • The yield loss combined with no difference in total labour made this no-till system as tested unviable for broccoli production.
Lire le rapport en français
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ryan Spence & Isabelle Spence-Legault
Brocoli d’automne sans labour dans le nord de l’Ontario 2020 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
Description

Ryan et Isabelle ont testé si une culture de couverture sertie de seigle et de vesce velue réduirait le travail du sol, l’entretien de la culture et l’irrigation pour leur récolte de brocolis d’automne.

En Bref

  • Par rapport au travail du sol, les résidus de culture de couverture ont fourni suffisamment de paillis pour réduire consid rablement le temps de d sherbage et augmenter l’humidité du sol tout au long de la saison de croissance avec 11% plus d’humidité que la parcelle de contrôle. Les pluies étaient suffisantes, de sorte qu’ils n’avaient pas besoin d’irriguer les parcelles de labour.
  • Le brocoli cultivé dans le paillis créé par la culture de couverture serti avait environ la moitié du rendement commercialisable par rapport aux parcelles labourées.
  • La perte de rendement combinée à l’absence de différence dans la main-d’oeuvre totale a rendu ce systéme sans labour, tel que testé, non viable pour la production de brocoli.
Read report in english
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ryan Spence & Isabelle Spence-Legault
L’impact de l’utilisation des inoculants mycorhiziens pour sur les transplants de légumes 2020 Research Project disease-pest-control, soil-health
Description

Compte tenu de l’importance incroyable des champignons dans notre monde, Dianne était curieuse de savoir si les inoculants améliorent les rendements de la laitue et des oignons, ces deux espèces étant capable de grandir en relation avec les champignons mycorhiziens arbusculaires (AMF).

En Bref

  • En 2019, elle a utilisé pour la première fois des inoculants AMF et a observé des laitues et des oignons particuli rement gros et sains.
  • En 2020, elle a mené un essai randomisé et répété comparant deux inoculants à des témoins non inoculé s pour la laitue Ariana, Cantarix, Nevada et Skyphos et l’oignon Patterson. Bien qu’ils soient également grands et sains, Dianne n’a détecté aucun effet sur le rendement des inoculants.
  • Elle se demande si la conception de l’essai était viciée parce qu’elle a inoculé et / ou ressuscité sans méfiance la communauté mycorhizienne de tout son jardin en 2019.
Read report in english
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Dianne Kretschmar
Performance of Chantecler chickens on a reduced protein grower ration 2020 Research Project alternative-livestock-feed
Description

Heather compared a standard protein ration with 16% protein to a reduced protein ration with 13% protein to see how her heritage Chantecler chickens responded during the grow-out period.

In a Nutshell

  • In 2019, Heather tracked the weight of three cohorts of chickens, taking more than 1,000 weight measurements of individual chickens.
  • There were no consistent differences in the weight of chickens on the two protein rations throughout the grow-out period.
  • There was also no detectable effect of reduced protein on finished live weight or dressed weight.
  • In 2020, Heather continued to use the reduced protein ration and would like to continue the trial over several seasons for more confidence.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Heather Newman
Efficacy of mycorrhizal inoculants on vegetable transplants 2020 Research Project disease-pest-control, soil-health
Description

Given the incredible importance of fungi in our world, Dianne was curious if inoculants improved lettuce and onions yields, as these two species are known to grow in relationship with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).

In a Nutshell

  • In 2019, she used AMF inoculants for the first time and observed particularly large, healthy lettuce and onions.
  • In 2020, she set-up a randomized and replicated trial comparing two inoculants to uninoculated controls for Ariana, Cantarix, Nevada and Skyphos lettuce and Patterson onion. While they were also large and healthy, Dianne detected no effects of the inoculants yield.
  • She wonders if the design of the trial was flawed because she unsuspectingly inoculated and/or resuscitated the mycorrhizal community of her whole garden in 2019.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Dianne Kretschmar
Assessing chronology of soil nutrient status in pastures across a topographic gradient 2020 Research Project pasture-regeneration
Description

To help him optimize pasture growth, Andy assessed soil nutrient status from the top slope, side slope and bottom slope of a 50–year old pasture and a hay field that he will start grazing in 2021.

IN A NUTSHELL

  • Organic matter was higher in the older pasture but did not change significantly with topography.
  • Potassium, phosphorus and iron were also higher in the old pasture and potassium was higher on the top slope. Andy observed variations in manganese and copper for reasons that are unknown.
  • Andy’s observations of better soil health at the top of the hills weren’t supported by the basic assessment of soil nutrient status used in this study.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Andy Macdonald
In search of short season northern grain amaranth varieties: A screening trial of grain amaranth (Amaranthus spp) 2020 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

Amaranth is climate-resilient and nutrient-dense, and is an important Indigenous plant of the Americas. To learn which varieties of amaranth are best suited for their region of southern Ontario, Ronaldo and Myriam compared five varieties of amaranth in an unreplicated screening trial.

In a Nutshell

  • They observed differences among the varieties in germination, flowering times, flowering patters and yield and think that Grain Amaranth from Richters Herbs and Atitlan Dorado from IMAP Guatemala merit consideration for a replicated trial.
Publish Date
August 11, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ronaldo Eleazar Lec Ajcot and Myriam Legault
Southern Ontario participatory pepper breeding project 2020 Research Project community, seed-production-selection-breeding
Description
Key Findings

Continuing our work that began in 2016, members of the SeedWorks Plant Breeding Club worked together to breed and release an early, blocky sweet red pepper with good flavour that is adapted to ecological growing systems in southern Ontario. We continue to select for a yellow sweet bell pepper for release in fall 2021/winter 2022.


This trial was multi-year. Earlier reports and protocols can be found using the links below.
Earlier reports 2019 | 2018 | 2017
Earlier protocols 2019 | 2018 | 2017

Publish Date
July 14, 2021
Farmer(s)
Annie Richard, Kathy Rothermel, Greta Kryger, Rebecca Ivanoff, Kim Delaney and Arron Lyons
Quinoa screening trial 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

In 2021, Dean assessed 6 varieties of quinoa under organic management practices. The goal was to choose the best suited variety for future large-scale production and direct market sales to local consumers.

In a Nutshell

  • Quinoa is a slow growing, non-competitive plant that can be a finicky crop to produce!
  • It’s hard to differentiate between closely related weeds such as lamb’s quarters during the first 8 weeks of production.
  • In a direct seeded quinoa crop, traditional large scale organic weeding practices were challenging, and the use of a rotary hoe was deemed impractical.
  • Buffy and Brightest Brilliant Rainbow were the best performers in this trial under 2021 conditions.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Dean Orr
Does intercropping with onions improve overall yield for cauliflower? 2021 Research Project disease-pest-control, nutritional-quality-of-food, soil-health, weed-control
Description

Based on observations from the 2020 growing season, Kristine wanted to test the efficacy of intercropping cauliflower with onions in their market garden.

In a Nutshell

  • Kristine found that the green stem variety performed better than the white stem and Romanesco varieties.
  • Kristine found no significant difference in yields or plant health between cauliflower planted alone (control) and cauliflower intercropped with onions (treatment) in either the spring or fall plantings.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Kristine Hammel
Using biochar as an amendment for engineered green roof soil blend 2021 Research Project disease-pest-control, soil-health
Description

This study aimed to find out whether adding biochar to an engineered green roof soil blend would ameliorate the soil in order to successfully grow spray-free vegetables at similar yields to the Farm’s older plots with more productive soil.

In a Nutshell

  • Farmers found that vegetables grew well in both the control and biochar- amended plots when compared to crops that grew poorly in the originally installed engineered soil.
  • However, biochar amendment did not significantly improve crop quality, yield, or soil health during the first year of application.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ines Lacarne, Michelle Dang, and Sharene Shafie
Summer green head lettuce variety trial 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

The growers’ objective was to document the best green head lettuce for summer production across different farms throughout southern Ontario during the 2021 season.

In a Nutshell

  • Nevada was the top variety with respect to vigor, flavour, longest harvest, disease hardiness, and germination in this trial.
  • Muir was a runner-up to Nevada, but did have some germination issues and did not size up as well.
  • Concept and Encino were the growers’ least favorite varieties this year.
  • Overall, these results are consistent with the 2020 lettuce variety trial.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Angie Koch, Ann Slater, Hilary Moore, Martina Schaefer, Roger Thiessen and Romina Bortoluzzi, Roger Rivest, and Sarah Judd
In search of short season northern grain amaranth varieties: A variety trial of grain amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

The growers’ objective was to document the best short season northern grain amaranth variety for production across different farms throughout southern Ontario during the 2021 growing season.

In a Nutshell

  • Golden Giant, Opopeo, and Atitlan Dorado all performed well and were overall favourites among the growers.
  • The Grain Amaranth from Richters Herbs was the growers least preferred variety and didn’t perform as well as the other varieties but ranked top in flavour for growers.
  • Despite this, growers are interested in adapting this variety because of its good flavour, early flowering, and wide genetics which they hope means they can work with the population to create an ideal variety for their farm.
  • Growers’ enjoyed learning about grain amaranth production and its story but more work is needed to determine if production at the small and mid-sized scale is feasible with the harvesting and processing labour time.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ronaldo Eleazar Lec Ajcot and Myriam Legault, Kristine Hammel, Phil Mount, Rob Read, Tarrah Young, Janna Van Blyderveen
Shallow vs deep tillage in permanent beds for onions 2021 Research Project cover-crops, disease-pest-control, soil-health
Description

To test whether permanent beds can grow onions well with only shallow tillage (1.5 inches) as compared to deep and shallow tillage.

In a Nutshell

  • Jeff found no difference in onion yield (weight) between the tillage treatments.
  • Seeing no adverse effects from using only shallow tillage gives Jeff confidence to try more minimum tillage for bed preparation in the future.
  • Yankee variety outperformed Norstar by an average of 20% more by weight.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Jeff Boesch
Microclimates for summer lettuce 2021 Research Project disease-pest-control, weed-control
Description

To find a system for growing consistent lettuce in the heat of the summer in eastern Ontario, Luke and Dana compared different methods of altering the microclimate for lettuce including black landscape fabric (control); white landscape fabric, and white landscape fabric with shade cloth.

In a Nutshell

  • Luke and Dana did not have the statistical power to detect differences in lettuce yield among treatments.
  • From their observations, they will grow more mid-summer lettuce to help increase quantity available; and they will grow it on white landscape fabric to help with quality.
  • They will continue to use black fabric during the spring and fall.
  • They also plan to continue to experiment with shade cloth for 1-2 weeks post transplant during peak heat.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Luke Sheldrick and Dana Moores
Organic field corn screening trial 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

Michael wanted to narrow down varieties of organic field corn that are best suited for production on his farm.

In a Nutshell

  • He tested nine varieties, three of which were bred for organic management.
  • He grew unreplicated strips of six of the varieties and, with excess seed, two strips each of three varieties.
  • Michael observed relatively uniform growth and development among varieties, and yield was excellent in the trial and across the farm.
  • Pioneer 9998, 9608, and 0157 had the highest yields (two replicates each), but P0157 also had high harvest moisture.
  • Moving forward, Michael will continue to grow and compare Pioneer 9998 and 9608.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Michael Oeggerli
Oat variety trial 2021 Research Project cover-crops, seed-production-selection-breeding, soil-health
Description

Norm compared three varieties of oats under similar management strategies to see which variety worked best for his farm operation in eastern Ontario.

In a Nutshell

  • Orford yielded the highest among the three varieties in the trial.
  • Bullet had the highest test weight among the three varieties, although its yield was the most variable.
  • The addition of N in a side-by- side unreplicated trial showed a promising return on investment among all three varieties but more work and replication is needed to verify and reinforce these findings.
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Norm Lamothe
Spinach variety trial for northwestern Ontario seed production 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

Growers in northwestern Ontario wanted to identify which varieties of spinach are well-suited for seed production in their area.

In a Nutshell

  • Matador and Popeye were among the growers’ favourite varieties, ranking high in most categories.
  • Spinach planted in later fall (frost seeded) did not survive to produce seed in this trial.
  • From unreplicated data, early fall plantings overwintered successfully and show a trend towards higher seed production.
  • Giant Winter was the growers’ least favorite variety and was ranked lowest in almost every category.
Lire le rapport en français
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Evalisa McIllfaterick and Janna van Blyderveen & Jordan Lees
No-till broccoli with landscape fabric in northern Ontario 2021 Research Project soil-health, weed-control
Description

As a continuation of their no-till broccoli trial in 2020 using cover crops, Ryan and Isabelle tested no-till broccoli using landscape fabric in 2021.

In a Nutshell

  • Broccoli grown using the no-till treatment of landscape fabric had lower yield and required more labour.
  • Despite poor performance of no-till broccoli using mulches, Ryan and Isabelle still believe that fall broccoli in northeastern Ontario can be grown successfully in a no- till system, and will likely try no-till broccoli without a mulch system (cover crop or fabric) in 2022.
Lire le rapport en français
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ryan Spence and Isabelle Spence-Legault
Brocoli sans labour avec tissu couvre-sol dans le nord de l’Ontario 2021 Research Project soil-health
Description

Suite à leur essai de brocoli sans labour en 2020 avec des cultures de couverture, Ryan et Isabelle ont testé du brocoli sans labour avec du tissu couvre-sol en 2021.

En Bref

  • Le brocoli cultivé en utilisant le traitement sans labour du tissu couvre-sol avait un rendement inférieur et nécessitait plus de maind’œuvre.
  • Malgré la faible performance du brocoli sans labour utilisant des paillis, Ryan et Isabelle croient toujours que le brocoli d’automne dans le nord-est de l’Ontario peut être cultivé avec succès dans un système sans labour, et essaieront probablement le brocoli sans labour sans système de paillis (culture de couverture ou tissu) en 2022.
Read report in english
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Ryan Spence and Isabelle Spence-Legault
Essai de variétés d’épinards pour la production de semences dans le nord-ouest de l’Ontario 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

Les producteurs du nord-ouest de l’Ontario voulaient identifier les variétés d’épinards qui conviennent le mieux à la production de semences dans leur région.

En Bref

  • Matador et Popeye figuraient parmi les variétés préférées des producteurs, se classant en tête dans la plupart des catégories.
  • Giant Winter était la variété la moins appréciée des producteurs et était classée en dernière position dans presque toutes les catégories.
  • Les épinards plantés plus tard à l’automne (ensemencés sur sol gelé) n’ont pas survécu donc n’ont pas pu produire des graines au sein de cet essai.
  • D’après des données non répétées, les plantations du début de l’automne ont hiverné avec succès et montrent une tendance à une production de graines plus élevée.
Read report in english
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Evalisa McIllfaterick and Janna van Blyderveen & Jordan Lees
No-till sunflowers in northern Ontario 2021 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health
Description

Becky’s goal was to see if it was possible to establish land for cut flower production on existing perennial pastures using no-till methods.

In a Nutshell

  • Poor germination across her replicated trial comparing cover crop mulch, deep compost mulch and tillage (control) resulted in no appreciable results to note.
  • Becky had good luck growing sunflowers in two demonstration plots that she tarped for 12 months and 2 months.
  • Becky recommends using tarps for 2-12 months ahead of planting into perennial pasture.
Lire le rapport en français
Publish Date
April 1, 2021
Farmer(s)
Becky Porlier
Do soil covers differ in their efficacy for production of organic greens? 2019 Research Project community, soil-health, weed-control
Description

As a follow-up to Brent and Gillian’s tarp trial last year, these growers evaluated the difference among tarp, landscape fabric and clear plastic for greens production.


Key Findings

  • Occultation worked consistently for weed and residue management. Between tarp and landscape fabric, landscape fabric is much easier to manage.
  • Clear plastic was not effective during shoulder seasons, when temperatures aren’t warm enough.
  • The soil covers did not affect crop yield differently.
  • Soil moisture retention was better with occultation, and soil moisture was highest under landscape fabric.
  • Depending on farm and time of year, soil temperature peaked under all covers and uncovered soil, suggesting that occultation does not increase soil temperatures to a point that negatively affects soil biology.
Publish Date
February 5, 2020
Farmer(s)
Matt Jones, Chris Bocz, Jon Gagnon, Brent Preston and Gillian Flies
Management sensitivity, repeatability, and consistency of interpretation of soil health indicators on organic farms in southwestern Ontario 2019 Research Manuals & Guides soil-health
Description
Abstract

Assessment tools are needed to evaluate the effect of farming practices on soil health, as there is increas- ing interest from growers to improve the health of their soils. However, there is limited information on the effi- cacy of different soil health indicators on commercial farms and perhaps less so on organic farms. To assess efficacy, three organic growers in cooperation with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario’s Farmer-Led Research Program tested management sensitivity, measurement repeatability, and consistency of interpretation of different soil health indicators. On each farm, we compared permanganate-oxidizable carbon (active carbon), organic matter, wet aggregate stability, phospholipid fatty acid analysis, Haney soil health test, and Haney nutrient test on one field of grower-perceived high productivity, one field of grower-perceived low productivity, and one reference site (undisturbed, permanent cover). Our results were consistent with previous research that showed grower perception of productivity and soil health associated with management-sensitive soil health indicators. Of the indicators tested, active carbon was the only indicator that was sensitive, repeatable, and consis- tent across the three farms, and soil organic matter was highly repeatable and consistent to detect differences greater than 0.5% organic matter. This study highlights differences among soil health indicators on commercial farms, and it concludes that active carbon and organic matter were the most useful soil health indicators for these organic farms. Participating growers intend to use results to benchmark current soil status and to help guide land management decisions towards improved soil health.

Keywords
soil health, active carbon, organic matter, farmer-led research, organic farming.

Publish Date
February 5, 2020
Farmer(s)
Paul DeJong, Ken Laing, Tony McQuail
Does rock mineralizer increase yield of heritage wheat? 2019 Research Project soil-health
Description

Basalt rock dust is a remineralizer that is used in other parts of the world but there is limited information on its effectiveness to supply crops with nutrients in neutral and alkaline soils. To test the efficacy of basalt as a mineralizer for grain, Shelley and Tony grew Heritage Amber Spring Wheat in replicated plots with and without basalt amendments.


Key Findings

  • Basalt rock dust had no detectable effect on Heritage Amber Spring Wheat yield, and benefits may take years to detect.
  • There were also no other observable differences in growth, seed quality or disease resistance between treatment and control.
  • It was a bad year for wheat production but, overall, Heritage Amber Spring Wheat – a landrace variety – performed well against lodging and Fusarium.
Publish Date
February 4, 2020
Farmer(s)
Shelley Spruit
What are the best fall lettuce varieties for southern Ontario? 2019 Research Project community, seed-production-selection-breeding
Description
The fall slot for lettuce is challenging because lettuce has to handle both the heat and dryness of summer and the cold and wet of fall. To compare different varieties for fall growing, these farmers – in consultation with Johnny’s, High Mowing and Fedco seed companies – selected 11 lettuce varieties of interest. Each grower chose a subset and everyone committed to planting two replicates of each variety in their last two plantings of lettuce.
Key Findings
  • Magenta, a red/green batavian, and Ruby Star, a red leaf, were the top performers with respect to overall vigor, flavour and germination.
  • Adriana was the growers’ least favourite.
Publish Date
February 4, 2020
Farmer(s)
Angie Koch, Joanna Kowalczyk, Lise-Anne Léveillé, David Mazur-Goulet, Hilary Moore, Leslie Moskovits, Harold Saunders and Ann Slater
Does comfrey promote growth and fruit production of saskatoon berry and black currant? 2019 Research Project cover-crops, weed-control
Description

Perennial cover crops have many ecological benefits. However, they may compete with the crop or not provide sufficient weed control.


Key Findings

  • After 3 years at Pat’s and 2 years at Ivan’s, comfrey had no effect on fruit production or saskatoon and currant health.
  • Comfrey was a vigorous living mulch without causing detectable negative affects on fruit production.
This trial was multi-year. Earlier reports and protocols can be found using the links below.
Earlier reports 2018 | 2017
Earlier protocols 2018 | 2017
Publish Date
February 4, 2020
Farmer(s)
Pat Kozowyk, Ivan Chan, and Arthur Churchyard
Is no-till planting spring cereal grain into winter-killed cover crops worth it? 2019 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
Description

Spring cereals are integral to diverse rotations; however, it is often hard to get them planted early enough. One strategy to get into the field early is to no-till plant into cover crop residue, which provides soil cover in the winter and generally helps improve soil health. To investigate this approach, Ken no-till planted oats and barley into replicated plots of four different cover crops and plots that received fall tillage. 

Key Findings

  • Grain yield and relative net return were highest when no-till planted into daikon radish.
  • Weed control was best with daikon radish and the fall tillage control.
  • There was no soil erosion in the cover crop plots, and moderate rill erosion in the fall tillage plots.
Publish Date
January 7, 2020
Farmer(s)
Ken Laing
Do grafted tomatoes pay off in high tunnels in Ontario? 2019 Research Project community, seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

Grafting is a proven way to incorporate disease resistance into tomato transplants. However adoption of this practice to high tunnel production is relatively new, so these four growers were curious about the economic viability of grafting tomatoes for production in high tunnels in southern Ontario.

Key Findings

  • Grafted tomatoes had greater total marketable yield regardless of scion variety.
  • Grafted tomatoes had greater overall plant health.
  • Grafted tomatoes had higher net returns on average but the degree of economic benefit varied by farm.
  • Yield advantage for grafting likely depends on scion variety and scion and rootstock compatibility.
Publish Date
January 7, 2020
Farmer(s)
Eric Barnhorst, Jenny Cook, Sarah Judd and Nathan Klassen
Isolation distance for cut flower seed production 2021 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

From 2019 to 2021, Kim used white and pink Cosmos flowers to test isolation distances of 400 ft and 600 ft.

In a Nutshell

  • Kim observed off-type colours at 400 ft for Purity (white) and Rubenza (pink) Cosmos
  • Kim observed off-type colours at 600 ft for Purity (white) Cosmos
Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Kim Delaney
In search of short season northern sweet potato varieties: Selection and evaluation of new sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) crosses 2019 Research Project seed-production-selection-breeding
Description

As demand for sweet potatoes grows in Canada, breeders are working to create sweet potatoes that are adapted to eastern Ontario. In the first year of the project, Kate selected sweet potatoes that are best suited for low input, organic systems in eastern Ontario.

Progress to Date

  • Kate evaluated nearly 60 genetically unique and diverse sweet potato tubers.
  • After final evaluations of taste and storability, Kate will choose 15 varieties and trial them in 2020.
  • Kate collected seeds from the vines that produced seed, which is germplasm for future breeding.
Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Kate Garvie
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)
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
Does ultra high density grazing as part of adaptive multi-paddock grazing have merit in Ontario? 2018 Research Project pasture-regeneration, soil-health
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
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
Does tarping between succession plantings reduce the amount of tillage and labour required for organic salad production? 2018 Research Project soil-health, weed-control
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
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
Does planting timing of green mulches affect yield of garlic and labour? 2018 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
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
Is Fusarium infection in garlic reduced with a copper spray or biostimulant? 2018 Research Project disease-pest-control, seed-production-selection-breeding
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
Do organic sprays differ in their efficacy against disease in black walnut? 2018 Research Project disease-pest-control
Description

Joseph and Jazmin compared organic sprays for managing disease in their young orchard, with the goal of discovering the best organic approach to care for their black walnuts.

Key Findings

  • Disease and insect pressure was low on the young trees measured this year.
  • While there was no statistical difference between the two treatments (neem oil vs copper and biological insecticide). They will continue measurements for a second year.
  • The most significant indicator of fungal infection is early defoliation in the fall. Therefore, observations next year at the end of the season could strengthen their overall conclusions.
Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Joseph Imre and Jazmin Bansagi
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
Towards farmer-led research: A guidebook 2018 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)
Interplanting onions and brassicas 2017 Research Project disease-pest-control, pollinator-service, soil-health, weed-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
Spring planted white clover in garlic 2017 Research Project cover-crops, soil-health, 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
Amendments for pasture regeneration 2017 Research Project pasture-regeneration
Description
Productive pastures are paramount to organic grass-fed, grass-finished beef operations, especially when soil health and regeneration are also important farm goals. To try to further regenerate specific areas of his rotationally-grazed pastures, Tony tested whether addressing micronutrient deficiencies would help pasture growth.
Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Tony McQuail
Living and dry spring mulches in garlic 2017 Research Project cover-crops, 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. Ken set out to see if there was a difference in yield of marketable garlic between cultivation and spring mulches.
Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Ken Laing
Probiotics for pasture-raised chickens 2017 Research Project alternative-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
Foliar sprays for cucurbits 2017 Research Project disease-pest-control, nutritional-quality-of-food, soil-health
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
Foliar sprays for cut flower production 2017 Research Project disease-pest-control, soil-health
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
Pasture-raised chicken breed comparison 2016 Research Project livestock-breed-selection, nutritional-quality-of-food
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
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)
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)
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)
Quick turnaround cover crops before brassicas 2016 Research Project community, cover-crops, soil-health, weed-control
Description

Part of a multi-farm trial on five farms asking the research question: Do spring planted cover crops benefit the production of late season brassica cash crops?

Summary

  • Organic vegetable growers use cover crops to improve soil fertility and tilth and control weeds.
  • Five growers evaluated summer cover crops to determine benefits to N-demanding late season brassicas.
  • Specific cover crop comparisons included bell/fava bean (legume) vs. no cover crop control; cocktails containing a legume (bell/fava bean, peas, white clover) vs. buckwheat control.
Key Findings
  • Dry conditions in the spring impeded germination resulting in “lacklustre growth [that was] not nearly competitive enough to deter weeds” or mature enough to effectively mow, resulting in very little meaningful cover crop or brassicas yield data.
  •  Buckwheat came up better than other species, making it the most drought tolerant of the species grown; at Angie’s, buckwheat had 6+ times greater biomass than the oats/peas/fava cocktail (P<0.01).
Publish Date
February 6, 2018
Farmer(s)
Ryan Thiessen, Kevin Hamilton, Angie Koch, Ken Laing, Mike Reid
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