In Pursuit of a Better Cranberry

In 2011, BC cranberry growers celebrated the ground breaking of a new cranberry research farm that promised to help return a competitive edge to an industry.

The centre is one of four in North America, and the only one of its kind in Canada.

“We have seen terrific response from producers, and a real excitement around the research facility,” says Todd May, research chair for the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission. “It has been challenging for our sector at times, economically as well with yield and pest pressures being felt in industry.”

Over the past three years, research plots and experiment designs have been developed and put into practice in the centre’s cranberry bogs.

These plantings are assessing new varieties developed in other parts of North America, to see how they perform in BC’s unique growing environment.

“The geography, growing mediums, weather patterns and cultural practices are different in our region,” May explains. “We are evaluating new varieties for our specific area and the West Coast in a broader sense, and looking at how we can relay that back to the grower about renovating and planting newer varieties.”

“The funding we received through the Investment Agriculture Foundation has allowed us to establish, monitor and evaluate the research and variety trials, and demonstrate some of the cultural practices and management styles that could be used by our growers.”

Funding: $142,829 through the former federal Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. (A0678.01)

Building Community & Native Plant Propagation

Industrial activity is expanding across the BC Peace region, creating a growing demand for specialized services to restore the land to productivity after development.

Companies are increasingly looking for native plant species for use in the reclamation.

Two Northern First Nations are working together to develop unique skills and expertise in their communities to capitalize on the opportunity to service this rapidly emerging industry.

“This is a fledgling business that has been a concept here at West Moberly since the industrial development started happening in this area,” says John Lewis, director of operation for Moberly First Nation.“It’s something that our leadership and community members want to see happen. They are out on the land and see the cumulative impacts of industry, and they want to help mitigate that.”

When the Saulteau and West Moberly First Nations first set upon the idea of starting a native plant nursery, they recognized the need to develop a properly trained workforce to make it work.

Unlike conventional horticulture, native plant nurseries face unique challenges including the need to collect wild seed, difficult germination requirements, and often unpublished fertilization requirements.

Working in partnership with Royal Roads University, Tipi Mountain Native Plant Nursery and Keefer Ecological Services, they set about developing a focused, hands-on training program to teach native plant nursery skills in the communities.

A series of modules were developed covering the technical, research and business skills required to run the business. In 2013, the first cohort of students completed the program.

“Seven students graduated through the program, and they were able to do a lot of on-site training with a couple of coal companies,” says Lewis.

Local companies, including the mining, oil and gas sectors, and pipelines, have been supportive of the initiative, including support to help build two large propagation greenhouses.

“The response from the companies has been good. They are happy to be doing business locally with our nursery,” says Lewis. “In our first year the greenhouse is running at 100 percent capacity with contracts to grow for Spring 2014, and we are seeking funding resources to complete the second greenhouse. Once our bases are covered here, we are hoping to get into site reclamation as well.”

Funding: $114,849 through the former federal Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. (A0725 ES)