2016 - A Year in Review

  Hort Snacks - January 2017
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 It is always challenging to attempt to sum up a year, since it tends to be one-sided and biased towards the experiences of the writer. That being said, it is always good to reflect on the year and what happened, if only to gain perspective on your individual situation. The biggest challenge is dredging up all of the things that you suppressed over the past year. Sigh…

2016 was a bit of a strange year, with the standard run of challenges that seemed to pop up unexpectedly. Some sectors did ok this year, despite a tough start, while others didn’t do as well, largely due to the rough start.

If you are interested in the weather, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (with some other provincial and federal departments) has a dazzling array of weather stations gathering data from across the province. Even better is the fact that much of this data is analyzed and you can access all sorts of interesting things on the Alberta Climate Information Service website (www.agriculture.alberta.ca/acis/). There are maps, individual station data reports and much, much more.

  • Winter 2015/2016 was the strangest one that I can remember, with extremely mild temperatures through much of January and February. At some points, temperatures reached the positive teens, even in places that don’t typically get chinook weather conditions. It was very odd. Of course, this was balanced out with bouts of horrifyingly cold temperatures, just to keep us honest.
  • The growing season started off with things being very, very dry. There were major concerns, across the agriculture industry as a whole, about how the season would progress in the absence of moisture. In many cases, the worries about the D-word (drought) ended in a single day around the May long weekend, with a big dump of moisture. For some, dry conditions did not end until into July, however, when the dry conditions ended, they ended significantly. For the most part, most parts of the province ended up well above average for precipitation and soil moisture levels. In fact, some areas were at 50 year high levels. No arks were reported to have been constructed, but things were pretty sloppy in places. Wet conditions during and after harvest made field crop harvest a really challenge.
  • In early May, many berry crop producers across Central Alberta received a devastating heavy frost, right about the time the Saskatoon berries were flowering. There was significant crop loss for many producers, making it a lean year. In some cases, some crop was able to be harvested and processed and/or stored product could be sold. Most other crops seemed to have come through just fine.
  • Severe weather events seem to be a perennial challenge for producers most of the time now, although it wasn’t something that came up a whole lot in calls over the season (thankfully). Hail seems to be the usual (bad) flavour of the day, with few severe incidents reported.
  • Some of the diseases that we’ve been concerned about in recent years, particularly Late blight of potato and tomato, were not reported or discovered in any major way this season (for a second year in a row), likely due in large part to improved monitoring and careful management in crops. At the same time, there weren’t many other common diseases reported in any horticulture crops this season, which is good.
  • Monitoring for problem and/or invasive insect pests, which has been ongoing for the last several seasons, was minimal due to staff and resource restrictions in 2016. Monitoring in some locations by individual producers found some pest issues, but mostly things were quiet. Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) is still a major concern for Alberta, as it is a major problem across North America. The main concern is still day neutral strawberries (fall production) and raspberries (especially fall-bearing types). Levels of SWD are still not such that you might be looking at significant inputs for control/management, but there is definitely a potential need in coming years for increased monitoring and vigilance. More training for individual producer monitoring is coming this next year.
    • Other insect pests, such as Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) and Swede Midge, weren’t picked up this year, at least not in traps in horticulture crops.
    • In commercial potato crops, monitoring for insects such as Potato Psyllid is ongoing, with some insects trapped, however none were infected with the pathogen of concern (the one that causes Zebra chip)
  • Some proposed changes to legislation or the introduction of new programs kept most producers engaged in a process of understanding the potential impact on their operations. This happened throughout most of the year and will continue to be a factor in the coming year.
  • Horticulture extension programming was again quite extensive in 2016, with numerous events offered throughout the winter, spring, summer and fall. Webinar offerings were maintained this season, and topics appeared to be more appealing to growers and industry. Topics were highly variable for programming, with something for everyone. While we offered many different events for people to learn at, we also were able to talk to many people on the phone or via email. It was a rewarding year and we hope that we were able to help out in a positive, impactful way.
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Robert Spencer.
This information published to the web on January 3, 2017.