By Janice LeBoeuf ,Sean Westerveld, Evan Elford, Melanie Filotas and Jim Todd, OMAF and MRA
Growers in Ontario have a new resource to help them choose and grow a wide range of specialty crops. The resource, called “SPECIALTY CROPportunities”, has just been launched on the OMAF website.
There are literally hundreds of specialty crops that can be grown in Ontario including culinary and medicinal herbs, specialty/ethnic vegetables, specialty fruits and nuts, specialty grains and oilseeds, and industrial crops.
Due to limited research and experience with many of these crops, there has been very little written information available to Ontario growers looking for a new crop to grow. The research that has been conducted on these crops in Ontario has
often been forgotten over time without a permanent database to provide those results to the public – until now. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs staff along with University of Guelph colleagues, assembled a team of researchers from
the University of Guelph, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Erie Innovation and commercialization, and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre to pull together all of the available research on specialty crops and provide a single resource for growers.
Initially the resource includes specific information on 100 specialty crops, which will be expanded over the next few years. The resource also includes a wealth of general information on specialty crops including crop fertility, pest management, on-farm research, business planning and marketing, food safety, and an introduction to organic crop production.
A particular challenge for specialty crop growers is a lack of fertility recommendations. The resource provides suggested approaches for fertilizing crops when there are no recommendations.
Another challenge is pest management,since it is often unknown what will attack the crop and how to control those pests. The resource discusses integrated pest management, provides information
on the major types of insects and diseases, provides alternative management approaches, and discusses how to determine which products are registered for use on the crop.
The resource can be found on the OMAF Crops page at www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/ , in the “Specialty Crops” section.