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APRIL 2, 2012 /


Features Diversification

New sea buckthorn variety By Lisa Guenther


ea buckthorn berries are brimming with vitamins, along with high levels of beta carotene, omega-3 oils, and flavonoids. The fruit can be found in a range of food and skin care products in health food stores. The plant is drought hardy and resistant to diseases and pests, making it a tempting option for fruit growers or other crop producers looking to diversify their farm income. H o w e v e r,   s e a   b u c k t h o r n berries cluster tightly against the  stem,  making  them extremely difficult to handpick and impossible to harvest mechanically. Numerous thorns also complicate the process.

“It’s like a cob of corn. Trying to get each piece off individually is very difficult,” explains Betty Forbes of Northern Vigour Berries. Growers must cut the branches and freeze them to remove the berries, a labour-intensive process that drives up costs. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada  researchers  recently announced that they will be releasing a new variety of sea buckthorn this year that can be hand-picked or mechanically harvested. AC-Autumn Gold is nearly thornless, and the berries are on long stalks, making them easier to harvest. The berries are also twice as large as other varieties. Forbes is glad to see new varieties and thinks automation will

be better for the entire industry. “There still is that problem of the existing crops. I guess my goal is to definitely help all the people who have already planted. Of course, we have to look to the future and putting in new varieties, but I think we have to work with both.” Kathie Fedora, spokesperson for the Manitoba Seabuckthorn Growers Association, hasn’t had a chance to evaluate the new variety, but she is cautiously optimistic. “If this new variety still retains the resilience of the old variety, but adds in a far more favourable harvest condition, we would have a winner.” † Lisa Guenther is a communications specialist in LIvelong, Sask. Find her online at www.

Sea buckthorn is an option for fruit growers or farmers looking to diversify.

» CONTINUED FROM Previous PAGE can usually be solved by harrowing prior to seeding. Another potential concern for seeding this spring is residual products in the soil. Farmers must remember what they sprayed on their fields last summer and fall to control weeds. If a crop that is sensitive to a certain residual is planted on a field with that residual, the results may be disastrous. For example, if metsulfurson, a residual broad leaf herbicide, was applied in the summer of 2011, lentils could not be planted on this field, as it would destroy the crop’s root system. Deficiencies in nitrogen and sulphur can occur in waterlogged soil. “Don’t assume you will have nitrogen because the field stayed fallow last year,” Gerry warns. He says that under wet conditions nitrogen becomes mobile, and will find its way to the surface where it will gas off into the atmosphere. Also, certain microorganisms have the ability to obtain oxygen from nitrites and nitrates in waterlogged soils, therefore further reducing the quantity of nitrogen. Sulphur may suffer a similar fate in wet soils, as excess moisture allows the sulphur to leach from the soil. Gerry recommends that farmers soil test last year’s flooded fields to learn the amount of fertilizer in the soil, and determine what requirements each field has for the pending growing season. Farmers in the flooded areas may encounter some insect problems they would likely not typically encounter. One example is the flea beetle. Flea beetles are heat sensitive. An increase in the number of black summer fallow acres means an increase in temperature in those fields, which could translate into an increase in flea beetle numbers. “We may see higher flea beetle numbers then we’ve seen in years,” says Gerry, “Guys aren’t ready for that because we aren’t used to summer fallow.” Whether the issue is weed control, crusting, residuals, nutrient deficiencies, or insect pests, farmers in Southeast Saskatchewan and Southwest Manitoba will still be feeling the effects of the 300-year 2011 flood as they prepare for the 2012 growing season. †

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Danell van Staveren writes from a farm near Griffin, Sask. 0000-1140_PREPARE_Gameboard_CANv3 8.125x10.indd 1

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