It can be hard to envision the realities of farming while sitting in an office. That’s why the Fruit & Vegetable Growers of Canada (FVGC) hosted another crop protection field tour for government staff in August 2023. Joined by officials from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Pest Management Centre, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the tour showcased the unique considerations of horticultural crop production, and the daily crop protection challenges facing growers.
After gathering in Ottawa, the tour crossed the bridge into Gatineau and departed for farm stops in southern Québec, a region with very diverse horticulture. The first stop of the day was to Verger Trottier, an apple orchard located in the hills of St. Joseph-du-Lac, just west of Montreal. Alexandre Simard began by giving us an overview of the history of his orchard and the ongoing process of replacing some of the older trees with newer plantings.
We were also joined by advisors from Agropomme, an agronomic consulting services group that was working with many of the orchards in the area. They provided an excellent overview of how they use trapping, models, and mating disruption to deliver integrated pest management techniques for the local orchards. Their demonstration of the placement of mating disruption ties in the trees for codling moth was the first time many had observed this strategy of pest management.
After a short drive to the north side of Laval, we made our second stop at Les Productions Margaric Inc. Owned by current FVGC board member Jocelyn Gibouleau, the farm is a large producer of field vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupe, cucumbers, peppers, celery and lettuce. The company now farms more than 700 acres. To meet the needs of its expanding customers, Margaric also began growing in southern Ontario near Chatham and in 2015 established a farm in Florida to provide out-of-season harvests to Canada.
Southern Québec experienced exceptional volumes of rainfall during the 2023 growing season and this was reflected in high disease pressure. We stopped at a bell pepper field with the lower areas of the field yellowing and dying. Jocelyn Gibouleau explained how quickly the soil-borne Phytophthora blight can take down pepper plants and that much of the field would be gone without fungicide protection. He also explained how they would benefit from injecting a fungicide product into the drip line – allowed in the United States but not on the Canadian label of this product. We also observed two cucumber fields, one of which had finished harvest and was no longer being treated for downy mildew -- it was nearly defoliated showing how rapidly this disease progresses.
Another discussion topic at Margaric was the importance of having a harmonized maximum residue limit (MRL) with our trading partners such as the United States. Jocelyn Gibouleau explained how one product registered in Canada had a lower MRL in the United States and they were not sure if they could use the product as the vegetables were planned for export. Our stop at Margaric concluded with a wonderful lunch, including fresh produce from the farm, allowing us to enjoy vegetables and fruits from the fields we had seen earlier in the day. It was the best cantaloupe most of us have ever had!
The final stop of the day was Les Fermes Petite Nation Inc., a 1,000- acre farm in Montebello. The owners Daniel and Charles Bock have a strong emphasis on soil health and grow a two- to three-year rotation of forage and legume cover crops before planting potatoes again. They discussed how an agronomic consultant provides them advice on crop protection. Daniel Bock noted how 2023 was the worst season for late blight they had experienced in years due to the wet conditions. There were also a few Colorado potato beetles munching on the leaves in the field we stopped at, allowing attendees to get a glimpse of these colourful and destructive pests up close.
Consistent across all stops were the growers highlighting the critical need to continue to have access to effective crop protection tools, especially as older products are removed from the market. There was lots of engagement between the grower hosts, industry representatives and government participants throughout the tour, making this event a great success. We believe events like this help to promote greater knowledge-sharing between growers and government and improved understanding of both practical and policy needs.