U of T hosts research greenhouse curators

July 24, 2012
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July 24, 2012, Toronto — Want to get more out of your chemical controls? Start by taking more time reviewing the label.

Dr. Raymond Cloyd, of Kansas State University, said pesticide labels contain a wealth of information. It's especially important when tank mixing.

"Always read the label of all pesticides to be mixed together," Cloyd told delegates attending this year's conference of the Association of Education and Research Greenhouse Curators, being held at the University of Toronto.

That label review will let you know what chemicals can – and can't – be mixed together.

Test things out on a small sample of plants, added Cloyd, and keep a record of those mixtures that are – and are not – harmful to plants.

There are many benefits to tank mixing, including labour savings, a reduced number of applications, and improved pest control.

The best result is "synergism," when two pesticides, mixed together, perform better (based on percent mortality of target pests) than when applied separately.

Mixing incompatible controls, however, can lead to "antagonism," where the overall effectiveness of one or all of the pesticides is reduced.

Some 120 delegates registered for the conference this year. About 40 are from Canadian facilities or companies, there is a single registrant from Germany, and the remainder are from the U.S.

The conference was last held in Canada in Saskatoon several years ago.

Olga Piedrahita, an instructor with Niagara College, outlined the school's Greenhouse Technician program, including its research component.

"We're well known for our applied research," she said. Students have worked with many leading industry suppliers in trialling new products and processes.

An advisory committee plays a key role in ensuring the program meets the needs of the industry and remains  relevant. It's also fosters close links with area greenhouses and suppliers.

The school benefits from being located within one of the largest greenhouse regions in North America.

Among other opening day speakers was Kurt Lynn, vice-president and co-founder of Lufa Farms, the world’s first commercial-scale rooftop greenhouse.

The 31,000-square-foot greenhouse sits atop a commercial building in Montreal. It grows a complete basket of vegetables, supplemented by locally grown organic vegetables.

The concept was launched about four years, with construction finally getting underway in September 2010. The first vegetables were harvested in April 2011.

(Click here to view our November 2011 cover story on Lufa Farms.)

Milestones after one year include:

• Produced more than 250,000 pounds of vegetables.

• About 1,000 year-round subscribers. (Weekly basket prices begin at $22.)

• Fifty distribution drop points throughout Montreal.

Two more potential projects are being studied – one of 44,000 square feet, and the other of 120,000 square feet.

In addition to providing new revenue sources arising from building roofs, the concept also offers a clear "green/sustainability" option for cities. "New levels of sustainability can be achieved on a larger scale," said Lynn.

The conference heads out of the city Wednesday for a day of touring in the Niagara region, including stops at Priva Computers, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, Brock University, Niagara College and St. David's Hydroponics.

The conference concludes Thursday with more seminars and workshops at the U of T.

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