Ontario’s herb growers share a small but valuable niche market

Though exact figures are hard to come by, one estimate is that it is between $10 and $20 million. And research is ongoing to enlarge it


Connie Kehler, the executive director of the Saskatoon-based Canadian Herb, Spice and Natural Health Product Coalition, can take you on a tour of the entire country and tell you the strengths of each province.

For example, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are big producers of fiddleheads. In P.E.I., it’s hawthorn berries and rose hips. In Ontario, there is a wide, hard-to-pin-down range but there is also a lot of research being done. Yet, if you want to know how many farmers are planting how many acres of what crop and earning how much from it, that information just isn’t out there.

A refuge calculator tool to help you choose your corn hybrid

Log on to the Better Farming website and you’ll find a link to a handy tool, which will help you comply with refuge requirements when planting Bt corn varieties


Choose your Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) corn hybrid with care. And don’t forget to match it up with the right amount of refuge hybrid if one is required. That’s one piece of advice crop experts stress and there’s a new tool to help you do that.

Corn hybrids marketed for the first time in 2012 are available in a searchable fashion on Better Farming’s website at

CROP SCENE INVESTIGATION – 34: What happened to Karl’s corn planter?


With the challenging planting conditions of spring 2011, Pioneer Hi-Bred agronomist Scott Fife knew it would only be a matter of time before he received his first call from a grower asking him for help with some strange happenings in a newly planted field.

Fife’s first call to investigate came in late June from Karl, a Glengarry County farmer, who was trying to understand why his corn field featured an odd pattern – five short rows followed by one taller, knee-high row – that was repeated across the entire field.

Ontario ginseng growers have an edge in a $100-million market that is poised to grow

It’s an expensive crop to produce and the soil can only be used for it once. But, with production declining in British Columbia and Wisconsin, Ontario producers are well positioned to take advantage of ginseng’s promising prospects 


When Doug Bradley points his GPS-guided tractor into a ginseng garden to create a seedbed, he begins a saga that will take years to play out. When it is harvested, the root could be worth even more than this year’s crop thanks to favourable markets and the efforts of scientists who have already published papers in scientific journals confirming a number of health benefits, based on pre-clinical animal trials.

Growers see a promising future for canola in Ontario

Though it lags far behind soybeans and corn, acreage has more than quadrupled since 2006, yields are improving and it fits well with crop rotation


For Mike Schill, there’s nothing new about adding canola into the crop rotation. The spike-leaved, yellow-flowered plant occupies about 35 per cent of the roughly 5,000 acres he farms with his father and brother near Arthur in Wellington County. “My father started growing it in the mid-1980s,” says Schill.

Dow AgroSciences wins a partial victory on 2,4-D

As the result of a legal settlement, Quebec agrees that the herbicide doesn’t pose unacceptable risks, provided label instructions are followed. But cosmetic bans on its use may still continue


Quebec can keep its ban on non-crop uses of 2,4-D, but it had to drop a controversial description of the product as dangerous as a result of the settlement of a legal challenge by the herbicide’s manufacturer.

Make your crop residue an opportunity, not a problem

That’s the philosophy at VanMeer Farms, in Tillsonburg, where using residue to control erosion and give back nutrients to the soil is routine practice


When you enter the office of George Vermeersch and his sons, Greg and Jeff, of VanMeer Farms, Tillsonburg, you will notice a key feature: a whiteboard displaying different tillage tool headings and fields specifically labelled to require a certain tillage pass based on cropping history, harvest and previous tillage.

 “We look at vertical tillage as a tool in our toolbox,” says Greg. “We use the best tool for the job, or sometimes more than one,” adds Jeff.

Tillage – it all started with a stick

Today’s tillage revolution has its roots in the 1950s, when horse-drawn equipment made the transition to tractors. A pioneer in the farm machinery business and a collector of antique tractors recalls how the evolution took place


The earliest tillage, probably, was a sharp stick in the ground pulled by someone or something to create a furrow. Then we went to plows, then plows with coulters, then tractors and multi-furrow plows and now we’re heading to a different place where the plow is being outperformed by vertical tillage tools that like to run fast behind tractors with big power.

CSI AGRONOMY Crop Scene Investigation – 33: Which pest invaded Jeffrey’s corn field? – Solved

About one-third of the larvae in Jeffrey’s field were not western bean cutworm. These pests had yellow and greenish bodies, a tan-coloured head and distinctive black dots along their body.


Jeffrey had assumed that all the pests chewing on his corn were western bean cutworm (WBC). But on closer examination, about one-third of the larvae were actually corn earworm (CE). Feeding patterns of the two pests are similar.

Crop Scene Investigation – 32: A puzzling ‘crop square’ – Solved or not?


In the March issue of Better Farming we asked readers if they could help crop consultant Merv Erb solve a puzzling “crop square” he investigated in a corn field near Topping in Perth County last October.

What struck Erb about this field was the level of detail and precision in the flattened area, which measured 16 rows wide and 45 feet long. He observed that every row had been flattened in the opposite direction – one row toward the north, followed by a row to the south. He also noted that every two rows seemed to be laid into each other and almost intertwined. There was no evidence of human activity at the site.