June 15, 2015
The Ontario Horticulture Research Priority Report 2015 has been released by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

In January of this year, Landscape Ontario, Flowers Canada Growers and Vineland hosted a research strategy workshop that included growers and other members of the value chain such as input suppliers, consultants, researchers, wholesale and retail.  

Following a general discussion of market trends and a discussion that explored potential research areas, the group developed a set of criteria for prioritizing research topics. These included will the research answer a need relevant to the industry, how fast will the research be done, what is the size, economic value and/or breadth of the potential impact of the research and that it needs to be specific, clear and well communicated.

Dr. Tania Humphrey PhD, Director of Strategic Planning and Research Management at Vineland, prepared the document. “The development of a research strategy or priority list is the first step that helps to provide focus and direction,” wrote Dr. Humphrey. “Implementing these priorities requires leadership from both industry groups and researchers. Both need to work together to come up with specific project ideas and matching funds and develop proposals for applying to research funding programs.”

The list contains nine priorities. Areas include water, nutrients, labour, pests, consumer research, energy, lighting, improved production, improved root growth and new varieties.

For optimizing water use, the report states, “Utilize water more efficiently in ornamental plant production and improve water quality in storage and recirculation systems by optimizing growth media, irrigation systems and/or recirculation systems.”

To optimize nutrient use, the report recommends, “Develop strategies to optimize the use of nutrients in plant production in order to reduce input costs, promote plant health and manage contamination of water runoff.”

On reducing labour costs, the report concludes, “There is a need for early-stage research to characterize labour use and to identify issues and opportunities for driving down labour costs in the sector.”

The report’s recommendation on pest control, states, “Research to improve control of insects, weeds and disease in ornamental plant production. In greenhouse floriculture the primary focus should be on biocontrol strategies.”

Consumer research requires understanding market trends, quantify environmental benefits, identify what plants to grow, when to supply them, and how to present and market them.
On the issue of new varieties, the report states, “Identify low maintenance, high performing, environmentally beneficial and/or consumer preferred plant cultivars through trials and/or breeding.”

The report recommends research to understand and improve root growth and /or prevent root circling in container nursery production and compacted soils.

Improving energy efficiency in greenhouse production requires strategies to reduce heat, electrical, energy and fuel use that are economically viable and commercially practical.
The report’s final research recommendation was on supplemental lighting.

“Strategies to improve the production potential of supplemental lighting in greenhouse floriculture,” states the report.

Dr. Humphrey writes, “The development of a research strategy or priority list is the first step that helps to provide focus and direction. Then, actually implementing these priorities requires leadership from both industry groups and researchers. Both need to work together to come up with specific project ideas and matching funds and develop proposals for applying to research funding programs.”