Organic strawberries are a small but fast-growing sector of U.S. agriculture, with numbers of growers and acres steadily increasing year over year. But while financial returns can be impressive, growing organic strawberries is not for the faint of heart. Initial investment is high, management is complex, and even a flawless crop can fall victim to worker shortages, especially at harvest.
A report just released by the University of California Cooperative Extension, "Sample Costs to Produce Organic Strawberries, 2014," breaks down the financial risks and rewards of growing organic berries on California's Central Coast, the predominant strawberry-growing region in the U.S. But amid the rows of figures, the report also gives an insider's look at the elaborate measures required to bring organic berries to market, from hand-culling and weeding to sucking up insects with a tractor-sized vacuum cleaner.
Maple Leafcutter - Have you seen this insect?
A few years ago, Dr. Greg Pohl of the Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service identified an insect Maple leafcutter – Paraclemensia acerifoliella) that had made a jump from its normal Maple hosts over to Saskatoon berries. I haven't heard all that much more about it in recent years, but one of our entomologists was wondering if anyone was seeing any damage in their area. Different types and levels of damage should be observed from mid-June, increasing through to mid-August.
Late blight is one of the most serious diseases of potatoes and tomatoes worldwide, resulting in significant yield and quality losses annually. In general, in Alberta, Late blight occurs infrequently, but can have devastating impacts in the years when it reaches epidemic levels.
From the May 11, 2015 issue of Agri-News
Over the last several years, there has been a great deal of concern in Alberta surrounding a disease called Late blight that affects mainly potatoes and tomatoes. Repeated outbreaks have been reported throughout parts of Alberta.
Recently a specific strain of Late blight, which is particularly virulent on tomatoes, has become more prevalent, increasing the risk for greenhouse tomato growers. In 2013, Late blight advanced across southern Alberta, coming close to greenhouse tomato areas. For 2015, this disease continues to be a risk for all Solanaceous crops (potato/tomato family) grown in Alberta.
From the May 11, 2015 issue of Agri-News
“Once you have decided what tree and shrub species you would like to plant and have done proper planning, design and site preparation, it is time to start planting,” says Toso Bozic, bioenergy/agroforestry specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Edmonton. “The best time to plant trees or shrubs is early morning, late afternoon or during a cloudy day. Don’t plant trees during the hot noon or afternoon as they will dry up very quickly.”
There are two common methods of planting - manual and mechanical. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages.
Reprinted from the Alberta Arborists website
Growing fruit and nut trees is like creating a produce department in your own backyard. Following these simple guidelines will make it easy to choose, plant and maintain a backyard orchard you can be proud of.
From the May 11, 2015 issue of Agri-News
The simple act of planting trees is an act of nearly immeasurable value. Trees bring natural beauty, cool shade and life-giving oxygen, and can be enjoyed for generations. However, a tree needs a healthy head start with proper pre-planting that begins with selecting the right seedlings.
In this webinar, Jan-Hendrik Cropp will describe how to create organic cropping systems using diverse living and/or dead mulches, along with rotational conservation tillage to increase soil health. While the webinar will focus on one production system from an organic farm in Germany, the principles can be applied to a wide variety of agricultural operations. The presenter recently returned to Germany from a 3-month research trip across the US and Canada, where he met many innovators in organic no-till and reduced tillage. He will refer to regional examples and experiences from his travels in the webinar.
Cyclamen mites (Phytonemus pallidus) thrive in humid locations and are a common greenhouse pest. They are also serious pests of both conventional and organic strawberries, especially in perennial matted row systems. This fact sheet from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs outlines some strategies for managing these pests.
Healthy Soil - This is where is all begins. This article reminds us of the importance of soil and how to take good care of it!
Why is Soil So Important? - Another great article describing the many virtues of soil.
Harvesting Rainwater - Permaculture Designer and rainwater harvesting specialist, Brad Lancaster, can show you the ins and outs of creating a rainwater harvesting system. This is a great place to start for all rainwater harvesting information!
Why Do Plants Need Water? - A quick summary of the role that water plays throughout the life of a plant.
Growing Your Own Food
Starting a Garden – This article walks through how to Grow an Organic Garden in 10 Steps.
10 steps to a successful first garden - Vegetables are easy to grow, especially if you follow the 10 steps for first-timers in this article.
Complete Vegetable Planting Guide - an alphabetical guide to growing a ton of vegetables!
A DIY Guide to Wicking Beds - Wicking beds are a unique and increasingly popular way to grow vegetables. They are self-contained raised beds with built-in reservoirs that supply water from the bottom up - this article includes ideas and instructions for creating your own.
SPIN Farming - SPIN stands for Small Plot Intensive. It is a small-scale (usually urban) farming system that addresses some of the major barriers people face when trying to become farmers.
Video: Composting - For the visual learners out there, here is a video from the City of Calgary that summarizes composting.
Composting for Gardening - This document by the Canadian Organic Growers thoroughly explains composting and various techniques to achieve success.
Composting at Home - A short article on the process for backyard composting.
Composting Council of Canada - A national non-profit organization with a charter to advocate and advance organics residuals recycling (composting). Their website has plenty of resources on how to compost, how to use compost and many other FAQ's.
Alberta Environment: Vermicomposting - Also known as worm composting, this is a simple way of turning organic household waste into a useful soil conditioner and fertilizer for houseplants, gardens and lawns. Learn how to use worms to turn your garbage into black gold for the garden.
Everything You Need to Know About Composting With Worms - The title speaks for itself!
Basics of Organic Seed Saving - An online tutorial on the basics of vegetable seed production.
Pest & Weed Management
Organic Garden Pest Control - Organic garden pest control aims for a balanced garden ecosystem that naturally keeps harmful pests away while facilitating rigorous, unimpeded plant growth and long-term soil health…
Insect and Disease Management in the Vegetable Garden - This document covers companion planting, beneficial insects, insect identification, organic insecticides as well as disease management.
Ecological Weed Management - This document covers many techniques for dealing with problem weeds.
Natural and Organic Pest Control in the Home and Garden - There are many different types of pest that can invade your home and make life uncomfortable or even dangerous. From contaminating food to causing structural damage, even tiny pests can do a large amount of harm. They can also carry disease, and make you feel afraid in your own home.
The Return on Investment of Landscaping (Infographic) and The Dangers of Not Properly Pruning Your Trees are just a sample of the informative and interesting articles on the Alberta Arborists website.
Beginner's Guide to Growing Flowers Organically - Organic gardening is used by many gardeners who want to have a more natural garden without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. There are also links to many other resources on this page.
Non Toxic Lawn Management - Learn how to organically manage your lawn.
Lawn Care Made Easier - By recycling your grass clippings (or “grasscycling”) and keeping them in your own yard, you are recycling in the truest sense, returning nutrients to your soil.
Organic Landscape Alliance (OLA) - a non-profit trade association committed to organic horticulture, lawn care and landscaping.
The Society of Organic Urban Land Care Professionals - SOUL supports ecologically responsible urban land care practices. You can also download 3 free e-books on their website.
Buildium’s Sustainable Landscaping Guide - Learn some of the best practices for green landscaping, including tips for specific situations such as living in an urban area
Education & Advocacy Resources
Organic Production - Organic production site, providing links to statistics, news releases, the regulation and standard.
EarthSave Canada - A non-profit, educational organization promoting awareness of the health, environmental and ethical consequences of our food choices.
Rare Breeds Canada - A charitable organization dedicated to conserving, evaluating, and promoting rare and endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.
Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals - CCFA represents more than 100,000 Canadians concerned about the treatment of animals raised for food.
Canadians Against Pesticides – An activist organization dedicated to banning all pesticides known or suspected of having deleterious effects on humans (especially children) and wildlife.
For more educational opportunities visit our Education Opportunities page.
For more information on gardening check out the Canadian Organic Growers website.
COG Library - The COG lending library contains over 1500 titles on organic agriculture and related topics, in books, video and audio tapes, DVDs, articles and periodicals. The resources of the lending library are available to the Canadian public.. Books may be borrowed by mail free of charge.
Organopedia - ACORN commissioned this database to facilitate growth in the organic industry. In it you will find information on the availability of allowable inputs and resources, as well as identification, prevention and treatment options for pests and weeds.