Activity 12

Development of an organically managed baby greens production system: a multidisciplinary approach

Summary

Vegpro International inc. is the largest fresh vegetable producer in Canada. Vert Nature inc., its corporate farm, is dedicated to baby greens conventional production and produces approximately 2 400 ha of baby greens annually, including 1 400 ha in Québec and 1 000 ha in Florida. Vegpro International inc. distributes organic ready-to-eat baby greens blends grown in California, due to production constraints in the Québec and Florida areas, especially adverse climatic conditions and high pest pressure. To increase its competitiveness and reduce its reliance to production in California, Vert Nature inc. wants to develop a large-scale organic production of baby greens in Canada.

The general objective of the project is to develop an organically managed baby greens production system. The experiment will be conducted at the Organic Agriculture Innovation Platform of the Research and Development Institute for the Agri-Environment (IRDA) located in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville (Quebec).

Two fields will be dedicated to the project, «Field 1» having been used for an Organic Science Cluster II project entitled «Impact of cover crops and organic fertilizers on organic carrot yields and safety in muck soil». Long-term experimental plots were established 3 years ago and carrots were grown in 2015 and 2016. The factors to be investigated include cover crops (oat, forage pea, and control) and organic fertilizers (chicken manure pellets, compost, and control). Cover crops are included for their ability to reduce muck soil degradation caused by wind erosion and carbon oxidation. They can also have other effects on many parameters like weeds and plant diseases. Baby greens (lettuce and spinach) will be produced from 2017 to 2020 on these plots to evaluate the impact of the treatments on crop yields and quality, and pests. Research activities realized in 2017 are financially supported by the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ). Treatments will be evaluated to reduce populations of flea beetles. These will include 3 trap crops, each one associated to a cover crop. Weed emergence will be monitored over several crop production cycles on cultivated and non-cultivated lands in order to establish relationship between meteorological data (air and soil temperature, and soil moisture) and seedling emergence. Meteorological data will also be used to develop sound irrigation strategies and will contribute to optimize false seedbed operations. Overall, this will contribute to 1) reduce costs linked to non-cultivated lands; 2) improve weed control and; 3) reduce muck soil degradation of uncovered soils.

The experiment in «Field 2» will look at cover crops of fall rye, buckwheat and oat mix, and control, and combinations of weeding operations: flex-tine harrow, rolling harrow with cage rolls, herbicide 1 and herbicide 2. Treatments evaluated for the control of thrips and flea beetles will include bioinsecticides and natural enemies. Two production cycles (baby lettuce and arugula) will be realized after weeding operations in 2018 and 2019. Evaluated treatments will include biopesticides applications and mechanical weeding operations, with the objective of reaching the best crop yields and quality while respecting environmental and public health issues.

Name of Scientist or Technical Expert Team Member external to AAFC (carrying out research) Organization/Location
Caroline Côté (Activity Leader)
IRDA/St-Bruno-de-Montarville
Annabelle Firlej IRDA/St-Bruno-de-Montarville
Maryse Leblanc IRDA/St-Bruno-de-Montarville
Carl Boivin IRDA/Québec
Hervé van der Heyden Phytodata/Sherrington
Daniel Malenfant and colleagues Vert Nature/Sherrington

 

Contributing partners

Vert Nature  

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada