From the Editor: March/April 2018
On the shoulders of giants
I’ll admit it. More than half the features in this issue were commissioned by my predecessor, Dave Harrison, who still carves out time to respond to my daily emails. Like most industry greats, I sense retirement for Dave isn’t really “goodbye” – though he may like to think otherwise.
My graduate research on apple stress was built on the works of scientists before me, and this new role is no different. Thanks to the passion and persistence of researchers and industry experts, Canada’s greenhouse sector finds itself among the top. I’m honoured to help narrate the story.
I’ll also admit that my knowledge of the greenhouse industry isn’t extensive – but it’s growing. Like Jannen Belbeck (interim editor of the February issue and another recipient of my spontaneous emails), I too found some common ground.
Take the disease triangle (pg. 16). You need a susceptible host, a virulent pathogen and an ideal environment for disease to take hold – familiar fundamentals that apply to any crop in or out of the greenhouse. In my last role as an agricultural technical writer, I saw how field crops were often at the mercy of Mother Nature. Long periods of rain? Hello disease. Sudden hail? Goodbye yield.
Unlike the field, crops in the greenhouse can be sheltered from the outdoors. What’s more, greenhouses can be made self-sufficient and environmentally friendly. As you’ll see later on, water can be filtered for pathogens and nutrients, then reused or safely put back into the environment (pg. 20).
Even greenhouse waste can be transformed into reusable energy. A Guelph researcher is looking to convert greenhouse waste into different forms of fuel (pg. 9), then using it to heat the same greenhouse. Now that’s a closed-loop system.
In a country where natural light is at a premium during the winter months, we need more than sunlight alone. But researchers are taking it several steps further. There are ongoing experiments to test different LED light combinations and timing of lighting with the goal of increasing yield, enhancing flavour and minimizing operational costs (pg 10).
The customization doesn’t stop there. Where field crop operations are often concerned with soil types and levels of organic matter, greenhouse operations can choose their ideal soilless mix – as long as they know what they’re looking for (pg.24).
One of the best parts is seeing the results of a season’s work, much like these gorgeous perennial combinations on pg. 12. As an avid amateur cook, I am very excited for ornamental edibles and perennial herbs. You can’t get more local than your own front porch.
During my undergrad, I grew (and un-grew) a number of Arabidopsis in the university greenhouse and growth chambers. As time went on, my plants become yellow, stunted and gnarly. I had thrips, and I wish I had known about biological controls then (pg. 30).
So have a look through this issue. Tell me what you love, what you like, and what you could do without. Because like any growing crop, I could use your input.