OAG Annual Report

October 31, 2016 - Download the PDF

COMMENTS FROM THE CHAIR

On October 30th, 2016, as I write this report, I have one week left of harvest. In my 41 years in the apple business, this has been the latest harvest, as well as, the hottest and driest one that I can remember. A fellow apple farmer and friend of mine very effectively described this apple harvest as “the good, the bad and the ugly”. In most growing areas of Ontario, it was a great spring for pollination and cell division. Then, as we know, it turned hot and dry in most regions. The excessive heat in July and August caused some trees to shut down and even killing some, creating a late and ugly harvest with poor colour and size, especially on Gala apples. After last year’s poor crop yield, this was not the year I had hoped for the Ontario apple industry to experience. Unfortunately, the effects of this growing season could linger into next year. This year also showed us which varieties have been compromised by the damage of the past few winters and sadly one of our most marketable apples in Ontario, the Gala, is one of them. On a positive note, we have some of the sweetest apples this year that should make for easy and return sales.

Dr. George Brinkman, an economics professor with the University of Guelph, once lectured that farmers should look at their market and grow the crop to fit. Gala makes up 50% of retail sales in Ontario. Our challenge, as growers, is to learn new ways to consistently grow a better Gala to meet this market. It is my intent to push for more research into the chemical thinning and winter hardiness of the Gala apple to meet the market demand.

This leads me into my next topic - Apple Crop Protection. There have been many re-evaluations of some of our most valued crop protection materials, such as Captan, Thiram and Metiram this year. PMRA advises that the final decision on these re-evaluations will be known by the end of 2018. Sevin, used as a critical part of apple thinning, had its final assessment published in March of 2016. We are awaiting confirmation on how long growers in Canada have to use old labeled products. The new labeling on the active ingredients applied in a given year has been restricted and now only one full spray with an REI of 14 days is allowed. Sevin, as a product for use on apples, was to be removed entirely but, with the help of the OFVGA, Kristy Grigg-McGuffin from OMAFRA and the great response from the OAG’s member survey, we have been able to keep this product. This did not happen without some changes to the label. A more restricted use pattern will be implemented compared to our competition in the United States. In response to this restriction, a new stand-alone thinner, called Brevis, should help reduce our dependence on Sevin. Brevis (made by Adama) is currently not registered in North America. We need Adama’s support first, but OAG representatives are willing to push hard for its registration at the Minor Use Meeting in March 2017.

Most diseases and pests were under control in Ontario this year with the exception of fire blight. We learned the hard way that heat alone with little moisture will produce major infections. Monitoring the weather and control measures is critical as this bacterial disease is a grower’s worse nightmare. We continue to have good support from OMAFRA with the weekly Fire Blight Predictive Maps which are generated by Mike Celetti and his team and emailed to members. Additionally, we have a project underway with OMAFRA and AAFC to gain information on the prevalence and distribution of fire blight resistance, evaluate the impact of cultural practices and develop strategies for integrating newly applicable products for management of fire blight in Ontario’s apple and pear orchards. There is a preliminary report under the research section of this annual report on this research project and many others that we have undertaken this year. My thanks are extended to the many researchers and extension staff that work on apples on our behalf. We have a good relationship with them and look forward to continuing the partnerships. Thanks also to Cathy McKay, Vice Chair and the OAG Research Committee Chair.

OAG continues to work with Agricorp on ensuring that the needs of the apple sector are being meet with regards to production insurance. Our overarching goal is to have a plan that is responsive to the apple sector needs and reduce the complexity of the current plan. Thanks to Brett Schuyler and the Risk Management Committee for their work this year. We are pleased that enhancements to the tree plan have been implemented for 2017. Our work with Agricorp will continue as we work together on improvements to the plan.

Marilyn Sewell has retired from the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission this fall. She has been the OAG’s analyst since before it was formed in 2004. We wish Marilyn all the best in her retirement and look forward to working with our new analyst, James Corpuz.

The staff at the OAG continue to utilize the funding programs that are available to benefit the apple sector. We have been able to access funding on both a national and provincial level for apple research and promotional activities. As Growing Forward 2 enters its final year, time will tell what the next installment of agricultural policy programming will look like. We will continue to communicate the needs of the apple sector on your behalf. My thanks are sincerely extended to the Ontario Apple Growers Board of Directors and our staff for their continued commitment to the organization and the sector.

Respectfully submitted, 

Charles R. Stevens 

Chair, OAG 

 

 

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