March 2024 Newsletter

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Upcoming Events

Below is a summary of some of the industry events that are coming up in the next few weeks! The events listed below are primarily hosted by Perennia, and more information on each of them can be found here.

  • Pesticide Information impacting Horticulture and Field Crops - March 5, 2024
  • Nematode and Soil Health Convention - March 7, 2024
  • TunnelTalk
    • March 13- Reviewing the Efficacy of Botrytis control products w. Dr. Anissa Poleatewich
    • April 3 - Pollination w. Andrea Keddy
  • 2024 Berry Primer - March 21, 2024
  • South Shore Ag Day - March 25, 2024
  • Horticulture Nova Scotia presents 'Soil Moisture Tools' - April 9, 2024
    • This will not be a greenhouse-specific event, but should prove valuable for outdoor veg producers!

Program Updates

On Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF) Extended Funding for 2024-2025!
Perennia is excited to announce that our agreement with AAFC for an additional year of programming has been solidified! Applications for 2024 will open Monday, March 4. This is an extension of the program that was offered in 2022 and 2023, so we are still focused on supporting implementation relating to these three best management practices:
    Nitrogen Management
    Cover Cropping
    Rotational Grazing

For any questions about OFCAF, your eligibility, or anything else program related, reach out to our OFCAF technical lead, Georgia Lewis!

2023 Season Response Program
This program is intended to support farmers impacted by extreme weather and wildfires in 2023. It builds on other business risk management programs that were available last year, intending to help those still recovering, or who were not covered by other support programs. The new program covers crop damage and yield loss that was a direct result of flooding, excessive preceiptiation or wildfire damage. Other losses such as farm infrastructure, supply losses, and the cost of re-establishing fields may qualify and will be considered. 

 Click here for more details.

Hurricane Fiona Supplemental Relief Program

Seasonal Considerations

With crop planning underway, its important to start thinking about our nutrient management plans and assessing which amendments we want to use this season. We have talked a lot about nitrogen management last year, and the implications to greenhouse soil health when we don't look at the entire breakdown of our amendments. With a heavy emphasis on hitting the target nitrogen levels for our main cash crops, it can be easy to overlook the amount of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and sodium that are also being added into the system. Without additional management plans in place, these nutrients will accumulate exponentially in our greenhouse soils, making it increasingly difficult to produce a healthy and productive crop. 

Check out the webinars we hosted with Judson Reid last year talking about this very issue, or our summary fact sheet:

Considering a new supplier of compost this year? Check out our compost analysis fact sheet, which provides a breakdown of what our reports are telling us, and what it means for our farm. 

Production Tidbits: Germination!

A few years ago, I played around with different combinations of heating mats, and domes, to assess their impact on germination uniformity and success. Here's what I found:

For the first round, the room was set to 70F (21C)

Results 7 days post seeding: 

  •     No seeds had germinated in the control treatment, or the heat mat treatment
  •     Staggered germination of 5/36 tomatoes in the plastic dome treatment
  •     Consistent emergence of 29/36 tomatoes in the heat mat + plastic dome treatment

A few other noteworthy comments from the first round:

  • Treatments without a dome were much more prone to drying out compared to those with domes. It required a more frequent application of water to the top of the soil to make sure seeds had the moisture they needed
  • The combination of the heat mat and the plastic dome saw much earlier emergence compared to the plastic dome on its own

For the second round, the room was set to 80F (26.7C) 

Results 7 days post seeding: 

  • 10/36 seeds germinated in the control treatment
  • 0/36 seeds germinated in the heat mat treatment
  • 28/36 tomatoes germinated in the plastic dome treatment
  • 19/36 tomatoes in the heat mat + plastic dome treatment

The plot thickens!

In this round, the added humidity around the seeds was the most beneficial in aiding successful and uniform germination. Because the temperature was considerably higher for this round, the heat mat was not advantageous to germination and likely resulted in the potting mix drying out at an accelerated rate compared to the control treatment. 

What can we take from this?

  • As with any input, it will only be worthwhile if it is implemented appropriately. Adding a heat mat to a cooler temperature germination space will give the seeds the boost they need for more successful emergence. Adding a heat mat to a warm temperature germination space is not going to give you an advantage, because temperature is not the limiting factor in this scenario. 
  • The domes were a very handy tool for creating a more humid space around the seeds, and reducing the amount of water that needed to be added to the system through the process. That being said...the dome should be removed once the majority of the seeds have germinated. Many post-emergence diseases do thrive in warm and wet environments, and we do not want to encourage their establishment. Do not wait for the plants to hit the roof of the dome before removing it. Once you see >60% of those stems and cotyledons break through the soil, it is time to remove the dome. 
  • It is cheaper to heat up a dome/heat mat system than it is to keep an entire greenhouse at 80F for the duration of emergence and early seedling life. 
  • For those of you who have trouble maintaining consistent temperatures in your germination space, consider adding both. From the first round of trialing, the heat mat on its own was not successful at boosting the quality of the transplants. While we did see some plants pop up under the dome treatment, the quality and consistency across treatment 4 (dome + heat mat) was significantly better. 
  • If properly cleaned and stored, heat mats and domes can be re-used from year to year, making the most of your initial investment.

Feature Pest/Disease

With transplant production top of mind, damping off seems like an appropriate choice for this months feature focus. 

Here are a few things we can do to reduce the degree of damping off we see in our seedlings:

1) Use clean potting materials! Seeding trays, carrier trays, domes, heating mats, gloves, shovels, and everything that can be re-used between seasons should be CLEANED before we get started. Ideally this includes a wash with soapy water, left to air dry, then followed by a sterilizing agent, to make sure there are no stow-aways year to year, waiting for fresh young roots to start growing again.

2) Careful moisture monitoring! Potting mixes are notorious for having different water holding capacities. Fine, small particle mixes are very effective at holding onto water for long periods of time, which requires less watering by you. It can also mean that your plant roots are constantly surrounded by water, with no opportunity to dry out or access air-filled pores, making them prone to fungal infection. Larger particle mixes are very good at draining water, meaning your plants may need more frequent water application compared to others. Ideally your potting mix consists of both fine and larger particle sizes, facilitating both drainage and some water holding capacity. 

The colour of the potting mix surface can be misleading in deciding whether or not the plants need more water. The weight of a tray or pot is a great indication of how much water your substrate is holding, and whether more needs to be applied. 

3) Consider preventative product applications! There are many biological based products which have proved very efficacious against early season fungal disease. Agents such as Trichoderma spp. will coat the new roots as they grow, and provide competition for any problematic agents that are also present in your potting mix. These products can be applied multiple times, according to label instructions, during transplant production and at the time of transplanting, so keep your eye out for these if you are wanting the extra assurance for strong, healthy transplants!

4) Make sure that your seeding tray/propagation setup allows for drainage. A substrate that is not allowed to drain will cause more headaches than solutions.

5) Environmental monitoring! Excess humidity, whether that's from standing water on the floor/carrier trays, or through a covering left on too long, can be hugely problematic. We want some humidity to give our plants everything they need as they set the stage for our 2024 crops, but its important to manage water in all parts of your germination space, not just the potting mix itself. 

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That's all for now! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to your extension specialist.

Happy growing everyone!