Ontario farmers protect fruit & vegetable crops with innovation, technology

News release

Ontario farmers protect fruit & vegetable crops with innovation, technology

For immediate release

Guelph ON, 8 April 2024 – For decades, Ontario’s fruit and vegetable growers have used sustainable practices to safeguard their crops against pests and diseases. Now, advances in both technology and science mean they can use these tools and practices in ways that are even more sustainable – environmentally and financially.

New tools from smart sprayers with weed-identifying cameras and systems that can predict plant disease to drones and laser weed zappers are increasingly in use on fields and in greenhouses, orchards and vineyards across Ontario.

Brian Rideout, a fruit and vegetable grower from Chatham-Kent and chair of the crop protection committee at the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA), emphasizes the continuous learning journey of growers when it comes to protecting crops.

“As growers, we continue to learn more and more every day about crop protection practices on our farms,” says Rideout. “Many of the practices we’ve traditionally used have sustainable benefits that we are only now fully appreciating.”

One example of this is cover cropping, where crops are planted for the purpose of covering the soil instead of being harvested. Traditionally this has been done to improve soil health and reduce erosion, but research is showing that there are many additional benefits like controlling weeds that have become resistant to sprays and attracting helpful insects and pollinators.

Many farmers also use an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which involves scouting for pests and diseases, targeted treatment only when necessary and using beneficial or “good” insects to go after ones causing damage to horticultural crops. Pheromone disruption controls pest populations by naturally interrupting their ability to reproduce, and predictive systems can give growers a heads up the level of risk posed by certain diseases so they can take preventative action.

Some farmers are also experimenting with robotic weeding systems, laser weeders that zap unwanted weeds in the field, and drones that allow for quick surveillance and analysis of crops for potential problems.

“When I look at the tools we have available to us now versus what was available when I first started farming, we are much more targeted and efficient, and we can use products that benefit us as well as the environment,” Rideout says. “More than ever, growers are thinking about worker health, public health and their own health as well as that of the environment as we adapt technology to protect our crops.”

More information about how Ontario fruit and vegetable growers are growing fresh Ontario produce sustainably is available on the OFVGA website. The OFVGA is one of the province’s oldest farm organizations and is the voice of Ontario’s 3,500 fruit and vegetable farmers on issues affecting the horticulture sector, including food security, sustainability, and grower profitability and competitiveness. The sector grows produce in fields and greenhouses across the province for fresh and processed consumption. Visit, or follow @OntFruitVeg on Twitter or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ofvga


For more information:
Ben Murray, Communications Advisor, bmurray@ofvga.org