Greening up Ontario highways

September 14, 2009
Sept. 15, 2009, Vineland, Ont. — Ontario highways will soon look greener thanks to research conducted at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC) in partnership with Landscape Ontario, local nurseries and horticultural suppliers.

High plant mortalities and locally available tree stock have always been a challenge for highway tree plantings. Working with industry stakeholders and the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the VRIC is optimizing the planting process for improved local production and long-term greening success.

Dr. Hannah Mathers, Senior Research Fellow at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre and Associate Professor, Ohio State University, is currently developing appropriate species selection and growing conditions that will encourage tree survivability in high stress environments. “With the use of retractable roof greenhouse technology, Ontario can capture a portion of the multimillion dollar small-tree market, which traditionally we have imported. This will foster a stronger presence of local production and drastically reduce the carbon footprint produced by the shipping process,” said Dr. Mathers.

Highway greening is an important factor in reducing carbon dioxide – a byproduct of vehicle emissions and a catalyst of climate change.

“Finding ways to increase tree survival along our highways will greatly improve air quality and decrease pollution levels by trapping carbon dioxide,” said Landscape Ontario executive director Tony DiGiovanni. “It is particularly difficult to sustain any long-term greening program along Ontario highways due to extreme climate conditions necessitating frequent salt use during winters and frequent dry spells throughout summer.”

This project is an excellent example of Vineland’s partnership approach to research and innovation, said VRIC executive director Dr. Jim Brandle. “Working with our industry partners, Vineland looks for solutions to horticultural challenges, in this case within the Ontario nursery sector.”

At Vineland, Dr. Mathers and her team currently have more than eight species of trees in the retractable roof greenhouses and will have their first crop planted along Ontario highways by the spring of 2010.



Established in 1973, Landscape Ontario has become an invaluable association within the Ontario horticulture industry. Comprising over 2,000 members of horticulture professionals, Landscape Ontario both encourages and supports projects and education initiatives. Through sector groups, Landscape Ontario facilitates a network of support addressing industry needs for its members and communities.



Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is an independent, not-for-profit organization established as a world-class centre for horticultural science and innovation. In its capacity to enable and foster relationships with industry, academia and government, Vineland works to deliver premium horticultural products and production innovations. Vineland brings a global perspective to the horticulture industry and offers a broad range of lasting benefits both locally and internationally. Vineland’s research priorities align with industry needs and its outcomes focus on the growth of the entire horticulture industry.

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