From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
Niche market development for Canadian horticultural crops -– and opportunities for farmers — has taken another step forward.
Earlier this week, scientists at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre received more than $2.5 million in federal support to address changing markets and develop new ones.
The support underscores Canada’s diversity in horticulture and nursery plants. Commodities receiving support are sweet potatoes, roses and so-called “world crops” such as okra.
“This support will enhance our hardy Canadian rose, sweet potato and world crop programs, and give farmers new opportunities and markets,” says Jim Brandle, CEO of the centre. “It will drive results for the industry through research and commercialization.”
Included in the announcement was $1.4 million to modernize the centre’s rose breeding program with DNA fingerprinting technology, to develop cold hardy, black spot-resistant rose varieties. These new varieties will prevent potential losses due to cold and diseases, giving Canadian growers a competitive edge.
As well, researchers will receive over $1.1 million to help producers tap into the growing market for world crops. Earlier studies at the University of Guelph pegged the value of this market at $60-million a month, in the Greater Toronto area alone.
But field and greenhouse production knowledge has yet to catch up to product demand for commodities such as oriental long eggplants and okra.
Researchers will also be working to adapt sweet potato varieties to Canadian conditions. Centre sources say with an evolving consumer base in Canada and the U.S., this project will boost domestic production of exotic vegetables, leading to new opportunities for the horticultural sector.
The Vineland centre is a not-for-profit organization in Ontario’s Niagara Region, created to advance horticultural research and innovation of healthy foods in an environmentally sustainable way.