By Dave Harrison
Revitalizing Vineland Station good news for all regions
In mid-February of 1996, about a week or so after I began working here, I travelled from the world headquarters of Greenhouse Canada – then situated on a quiet residential/industrial side street in the bustling town of Delhi – to the Vineland Research Station – located within a stone’s throw (I haven’t yet tested this theory) from the bustling Queen Elizabeth Highway – just west of St. Catharines.
I then spent the day introducing myself to the AgCanada scientists and OMAFRA researchers at work there, seven specialists in total.
With respect to the OMAFRA program, the March cover photo that year showed Bill Straver checking some of his cucumber trials. Bill has since retired from OMAFRA, but remains active in the industry as a consultant. Dr. Theo Blom, who discussed his studies into the effect of twilight on plant height, was invited to transfer his research program to the University of Guelph a few years ago. Remaining at the centre to maintain their programs are extension specialists Graeme Murphy and Wayne Brown.
I also profiled the work of the three AgCanada scientists on-site – Drs. Bruce Broadbent, Andres Reyes and Wayne Allen. Andres was retiring that month, and Bruce was soon to transfer to the Southern Crop Protection and Food Research Centre in London, Ontario, where he would no longer focus only on ornamentals.
That left Dr. Allen, who retired in the spring of 2002. His departure pretty much ended the federal floriculture research program at the centre. During a retirement interview (Greenhouse Canada, March 2002, pgs. 31-33), Wayne lamented that his greatest disappointment was the failure to establish a centre for floriculture research and technology transfer at the Vineland Station. He said many people had worked towards this goal for the past 15 years or so, and things had looked promising with the hiring of contract scientists to round out the program. “It now appears this dream will not be fulfilled unless a turnaround occurs in the agenda of various agencies, and financial support by our industries becomes adequate.”
That dream, however, may soon become reality. Early last month, the federal government announced it was committing $15.5 million over the next five years to the revitalization of the centre. At the same ceremony, the Ontario government pledged $12.5 million.
Vineland is not all about flowers and plants. The centre also works with tender fruits and grapes. The investment, while shared, remains quite substantial.
“Research and innovation are crucial to the future success of Ontario’s agri-food sector,” said Ontario ag minister Leona Dombrowsky. “By making this investment, we are signalling a new day and innovative approaches to capturing new opportunities.”
Dombrowsky deserves most of the credit for getting the ball rolling on this project. Last summer, during centennial celebrations for the centre, she established the Vineland Renaissance Advisory Panel. This group returned in December with its report and 10-year business plan. The vision statement called for Vineland to become “a world-class research institution and international hub for horticulture and floriculture research, innovation and commercial activity with a focus on grapes, tender fruit, greenhouse floriculture and ornamentals.”
The advisory panel recommended participation by growers in the centre’s revitalization. Flowers Canada (Ontario) was among the first groups to climb on board.
The growth of the floriculture industry in the Niagara region – home to one of the largest concentrations of greenhouse production in North America – has no doubt been influenced by having the Vineland Research Station in its backyard. That’s the power of research and extension services.
A revitalized and expanded Vineland Research Station will enhance the potential for growers in the region, throughout the province, and across Canada to improve efficiencies and tap new markets. It will attract commercial investment and generate new opportunities.