Sadly, with the potential of government cutbacks in funding to the science sector, we may soon find out. In 2009, when the U.S. was announcing a $10-billion increase in basic research funding, Ottawa was proposing a cut of $148 million over three years to Canadian research budgets. And that was a minority government.
The federal deficit needs to be trimmed, of that we’re certain. No society can survive for long by continually borrowing from its grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, our fear is that science and research will take a proportionally bigger hit than other expenditures.
But let’s take a closer look at greenhouse research and innovation in Canada, and use
examples listed in our June 2011 edition that summarized our tour of the Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre in Harrow, Ontario.
Projects highlighted within that issue included:
- Leading edge research on bee vectoring of biological crop protection agents. (Bumblebees have long been busy pollinating vegetable crops; they’re just as adept at this new role.)
- A water stress study to determine its effect on fruit quality, part of a larger study being led by AgCanada colleagues at Agassiz, British Columbia.
- Research on optimal lighting strategies involving LEDs.
- A new disease prevention process that detects problems before the plants arrive for transplanting.
- Searching for new biocontrol solutions to suppress European corn borer.
- Temperature integration strategies for cucumbers, similar to earlier work with tomatoes, to change the growth balance and shift plants into production earlier when prices are higher.
- Improved energy efficiency for production of poinsettias and
chrysanthemums, two major potted crops, either with temperature
integration or improved rootzone heating strategies.
Again, we ask the question: where would the industry be without the work of greenhouse research specialists at the federal, provincial or post-secondary levels?
Here’s a great example. Research at Harrow in the 1980s demonstrated that tomato and cucumber yields can be equally good under double-inflated polyethylene as under glass, and with a 30 per cent energy savings over glass. As a result of those findings, a large percentage of greenhouses constructed in Leamington are double poly, resulting in construction savings of almost a billion dollars and significantly reduced energy bills.
Let’s voice our support for research funding, and let politicians know its value to the continued success of the industry. Our silence will have serious consequences.