Greenhouses in the Winter

With freezing temperatures and snowy conditions, winter in Ontario can be harsh. However, the fruit and vegetable sector in the province remains active and productive, thanks to the use of greenhouses. Commonly used to grow cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, these large structures provide a controlled environment for crops to thrive, shielding them from the elements and ensuring a steady supply of fresh produce even throughout the coldest months in our northern climate.

Of course, one of the biggest challenges faced by greenhouse operators in winter is controlling the temperature for crop growth. Ontario's greenhouses use technologies such as climate control systems and energy-efficient heating to create a warm and stable environment. The lack of sunlight in winter months also creates difficulties for greenhouse growers, as plants are without light needed to grow. To combat the darkness, a combination of highly advanced lighting control systems providing light, and energy screens are used to conserve the heat inside, reducing the amount of natural gas needed to heat the greenhouse, while transmitting sunlight through to the crops and keeping cold air out.

These practices not only ensure the well-being of crops but also contribute to energy conservation. In further efforts to heat greenhouses as efficiently as possible, a recent study by the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre has found that over 96 per cent of greenhouse growers use a form of insulation, such as insulated heating lines and multi-poly layers, to improve energy efficiency, reduce heat loss, and the subsequent inputs necessary to grow throughout the Winter.

Sustainable practices extend beyond energy efficient investments, which include water management. Ontario's greenhouses use advanced irrigation systems, including drip irrigation and sensor technologies, to optimize water usage and only water crops when needed. This both conserves water resources and minimizes runoff, which is important when preventing potential environmental contamination. Additionally, the sector coordinates with municipalities and government to ensure water stewardship and conservation.

Another example can be seen through the crop protection methods utilized in most greenhouses. Often referred to as integrated pest management (IPM), growers widely deploy biological solutions to manage insect pests with other insect species, like predatory mites on thrips, instead of traditionally used chemical applications.

Through innovative technologies, renewable energy practices, water conservation and much more, Ontario greenhouses thrive in a northern climate. With domestic food production as important as ever, Ontario fruit and vegetable growers continue to show a commitment to adopt sustainable practices and provide top-quality fruits and vegetables ensuring food security in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.

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