Caroline Mulroney, MPP for York-Simcoe, and Ontario’s Minister for Transportation and for Francophone Affairs, and Helena Jaczek, Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville, were in the Holland Marsh today to make an announcement about the recent funding for the Ontario Crops Research Centre near Highway 400 and Highway 9, also known as the Muck Research Station.
The station was established in 1946 as a field station of the University of Guelph's Department of Horticulture, with the first crop harvested in 1947.
The research conducted at the facility focuses on vegetable crops grown locally such as carrots, onions, lettuce, celery and Asian vegetables. The centre is used by researchers from the University of Guelph and equipped with a plant pathology lab, greenhouses with ebb and flow benches and computer monitored environment, cold storage facilities, and several sites for field research.
"This is very special soil here," said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president of research at the University of Guelph, noting the marsh is responsible for producing 60 per cent of Canada's carrots and onions. "We are proud of our longstanding partnership here."
Both the provincial and federal governments have invested $150,000 into the Bradford centre.
Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the funding will support the installation of specialized lighting and climate control equipment for the greenhouse and a new weather station that automates the greenhouse’s climate control system. The automated system will help create optimal growing conditions for greenhouse-started crops before they are transplanted to the field at the beginning of the outdoor growing season.
The investment in the infrastructure will lead to more sustainable vegetable farming practices, helping farmers be more productive and competitive.
“Our government is helping Ontario crop producers continue as world-leaders in agricultural and food production,” said Jaczek. “This research will help our producers mitigate damage caused by pests and weather so they can continue providing fresh vegetables to Canadians and people around the world."
“This research centre in Bradford is an important resource for farmers in the Holland Marsh area and across the province. The knowledge generated through research conducted at this centre will lead farmers to be aware of and embrace the most advanced agriculture practices available,” said Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Lisa Thompson.
“Research projects such as these at Ontario Crops Research Centre - Bradford, provide necessary data about vegetable production in muck soils that contribute to innovations that strengthen the whole agri-food industry," she added.
“Our government is supporting Ontario's farmers by making critical investments that will set up our agri-food sector for long-term success,” said Mulroney. “Backing research projects like this will encourage innovative farming in Ontario and provide the agri-food sector with the resources it needs to reach new heights.”
"The agriculture industry is the backbone of our community," added Mulroney.
She commended the Holland Marsh Growers' Association for all their hard work in navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic in order to get food on the table for all Canadians calling them "sector leaders".
"You have been there for us every step of the way," she said, and "we want to make it easier for farmers to do business here in the Holland Marsh."
The greenhouse upgrades will improve crop research capabilities at the Ontario Crops Research Centre in Bradford and benefit Ontario’s agricultural sector by:
- Demonstrating how lighting, ventilation and climate controls in greenhouse-started vegetable growing can improve production rates and achieve efficiencies to reduce the cost of production in vegetable farming in muck soils;
- Contributing to the knowledge of how to better manage pests that can damage high-value vegetable crops; and
- Increasing the sector’s understanding of how real-time weather data can be incorporated into crop production and modern greenhouse building controls to advance vegetable production transplants to the field.
"I am excited to see the results that will stem from this investment here in Bradford," said Mulroney.
“University of Guelph researchers remain continuously committed to working for producers to develop new, evidence-informed, farm-tested innovations to enhance on-farm production, drive economic prosperity, and improve the lives of our province’s tremendous food producers," said Campbell. "This investment in research infrastructure will support research that helps Ontario's vegetable growers to remain at the forefront of a sustainable, safe, productive and nutritious food supply, now and in the future."
This investment follows other recent efforts to enhance research in the sector such as $6.5 million in funding for 40 research projects through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance and a $1.8 million intake, under the Partnership, to support project applications through the Ontario Agri-Food Research Initiative. It also builds on other measures to support the agricultural sector and provincial economic recovery during COVID-19 such as a $7.5 million intake under the Partnership for projects to enhance operations and competitiveness on Ontario farms.
"This investment will help ensure Ontario maintains its competitive advantage and long-term sustainability in the research and innovation of agri-food and agri-products. By investing in research infrastructure today, we are all collectively ensuring tomorrow’s agri-food and agri-products innovations, which benefits all Ontarians” said Dr. Lorne Hepworth, chair of the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO).
Since June 2018, both the federal and provincial governments have committed cost-share support to more than 5,000 projects through the partnership, to help eligible Ontario farmers, food processors, agri-food businesses and sector organizations innovate and grow.