Priority Agricultural Pests of the Cariboo Region

Category Archives:Agriculture

Priority Agricultural Pests of the Cariboo Region


Climate change is already influencing, and will continue to influence, agricultural pest dynamics and their impacts on agricultural production in the Cariboo region. During the Cariboo Adaptation Strategy planning process of the BC Agriculture and Food Climate Action Initiative, stakeholders identified a number of agricultural pests of concern and also highlighted a significant gap in regional monitoring. A survey has been developed as part of a project to help regional producers begin to adapt to emerging pest management issues resulting from climate change.

Please use this form to help identify existing and emerging insect, disease and other non-weed pests impacting agricultural operations in the Cariboo Regional District:

SURVEY CLOSED

Invasive plants (weeds) can be reported to the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Invasive Plant Committee.

Trees on Farms in British Columbia


This week’s release of the 2016 Census of Agriculture data provided an opportunity to check up on the use of trees on British Columbia (BC) farms for production and conservation. There are no statistics gathered to help us differentiate what management systems are employed, hence the numbers presented here represent the use of trees in a blend of conventional horticulture, farm forestry and agroforestry.

All raw data has been derived from the Statistics Canada’s Census of Agriculture for 2011 and 2016, tables 004-0200, 004-0208, 004-0214, 004-0218, 004-0219 and 004-0220.

Tree Fruit and Nut Production Increases

When classed by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), 3,180 farms representing 18.1% of all BC farms were categorized as fruit or tree nut farms, up from 17.0% in 2011, and well ahead of the national proportion of 4.1%. These numbers however, include a significant number of berry producers (blueberry, raspberry) concentrated in the Lower Mainland region. In specific tree fruit categories, BC has 3,921 ha of apples (0.4% increase from 2011), 259 ha of pears (0.4% decrease from 2011), 191 ha of plums (1.1% increase from 2011), 1,987 ha of sweet cherries (17.5% increase from 2011), 42 ha of sour cherries (5.0% increase from 2011), 522 ha of peaches (2.2% increase from 2011) and 98 ha of apricots (a decrease of 4.3% from 2011). These plantings represent 22, 29, 29, 91, 4, 20 and 66%, respectively, of the national totals for these tree fruits.

Tree fruit production is highly concentrated within the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan-Similkameen and Central Okanagan Regional Districts account for approximately one-third of the provincial tree fruit and nut farms, and 79% of the area planted. Domestic markets are important for fruit and nut sales, but export markets are on the rise. The large expansion in cherry plantings can be almost wholly attributed to BC sweet cherry exports to China creating much stronger demand for these high quality soft fruits.

Big Increases in Forest Products Sales

Forest product sales from BC farms rose 40.1% from 2011 to over $6.3 million, and representing about 9% of the total sales of forest products from farmland across Canada. The large increase in raw log sales from farms reflect, in part, shrinking supplies from Crown lands, where the mountain pine beetle has run its course and salvage harvest volumes are declining. Overall however, wood sales from farms in BC remains a very small proportion of the harvest from Public lands, and sales from farmland have not yet rebounded to pre-pine beetle levels.

Non-timber Forest Production Declining

Production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) on BC farms has weakened since 2011. The total number of farms growing Christmas trees has declined by 21%, and the area planted by 23%. Total farm area dedicated to Christmas trees now sits at 2,016 ha, but importantly from a total industry standpoint, does not include the area of public lands used for Christmas tree harvest.

BC’s burgeoning bigleaf maple tapping sector gave mixed signals on it’s growth. The number of farms reporting maple taps decreased by 7% from 82 to 76 farms, concentrated heavily on Vancouver Island. A portion of this decline may however be attributed to errors in prior reporting. Some interior farms may have included taps on paper birch trees as maple taps in statistics prior to 2016. Birch tapping data are not collected by Statistics Canada. Encouragingly, though the number of farms reporting taps declined, the number of spiles employed increased by 11% to 4009. The number of maple spiles in BC only accounts for a fraction of the Canadian total (dominated in Quebec and Ontario). Bigleaf maple syrup insiders also note the number of small-scale producers tapping for their own consumption (and thus not captured in the Census) is likely in the hundreds on the Island.

Trees for Conservation Expands

The use of shelterbelts and windbreaks on BC farms (both natural and planted) continues to increase. Over 27% of BC farms employed shelterbelts in 2016, a relative increase of 40% in use of this conservation / agroforestry practice from 2011. BC still lags the national average with 36.4% of all Canadian farms using shelterbelts or windbreaks. BC Peace River regional farms have significantly higher use of shelterbelts with approximately 58% of farms in the Peace River and Northern Rockies Regional Districts reporting this practice.

Ecological Services Initiative Review


Ecological goods and services (EGS) are the natural outputs and processes that create health, economic or social benefits. In British Columbia, as in many other jurisdictions, agricultural operations tend to occupy portions of the landscape both high in biodiversity and supporting key ecological functions. Agricultural lands have therefore become a focus for the development of payment for ecological services (PES) programs as a means to reward private-land stewardship that restores or maintains EGS.

The Ecological Services Initiative (ESI) was established in 2009 to demonstrate and test the concept of PES schemes for agricultural producers. As a next step to advance support of EGS from agricultural lands, the British Columbia Agricultural Research and Development Corporation (ARDCorp) undertook a strategic review of the ESI and explored options for the future support of EGS from agricultural lands in BC.

UPDATE: The Ecological Services Initiative is now known as the “Farmland Advantage” Project

Access the review here.

AEI-GF2-ARDCorp logos and text

Nutrient Management Planning for Ranchers


The British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture is sponsoring a research project to help better understand the amount of soil nutrients deposited on livestock feeding grounds in the interior of British Columbia. This information will be used to build reference values that can aid ranchers in understanding the carry-over fertilizer effects from manure and feed remnants deposited on seasonal feeding areas (sites used for pasture, hay or other crops during the growing season, and also for feeding, watering and bedding livestock in the dormant season). Through better nutrient management planning, producers can lower the costs for their forage production while minimizing any risk to the environment, through avoiding over application.

Fifty-eight ranching operations from Kelowna to Smithers, and points in-between will allow researchers to access their feeding sites this winter (starting January 2015) to take samples of beef cattle manure and/or feed remnants. These samples will be sent for laboratory analysis to determine the total nutrient content (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) and its availability for crop growth.

Those participating in the study will be receiving, free of charge, the results of the analysis of the nutrients deposited on their own ranch, as well as the regional averages.

Expressions of interest to participate in this research project are now closed. Results are expected to be released in mid-2015.

Funding for this research is being provided through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

GF2

Closing the Local Food System Loop


…by recycling poop.

For several years I’ve been working from a theory that we could be near a radical shift in our primary food production systems – an Agrarian Devolution. Barring the technological leap that brings on a cheap, abundant fuel source, or a massive drop in global population, the combination of high fuel, fertilizer and transportation costs and conservation challenges are making high input, centralized production and distribution less viable. If unhindered, economics will drive agriculture back to its agrarian roots of local production for local consumption. High input costs and high transportation costs should re-establish local food networks as the low-cost option in most areas.

Quality niche and specialty foods aside, the general populace still votes with their wallets. And despite a lot of lip service to local food, that vote is still very much for low cost, convenient options. It is a safe bet to assume therefore, that if (or when) local food starts to trump imported food on a cost basis (albeit with both at a higher nominal level than today) sales will surely follow.

Now, those with libertarian-leanings are probably thinking, ‘market signals will push our food systems back to the local level – stay out of the way and let it happen, end of story, get on with your life.’ But with the politics of food as it is, that shift may not be as simple as sliding along a supply-demand curve. Food is big business, with billions of dollars, rupees, yen, euros and yuan on the line. The existing multi-nationals have a vested interest in squeezing out expansion in local competition. And they have never been above lobbying governments to distort markets in their favour through twisting agricultural subsidy programs – the chief offenders being in the United States of America and the EU. Fifty years from now our food system could look the same as today, if governments are willing to squeeze their citizens for taxes to subsidize cheap food. Large-scale agricultural producers in some regions will continue to win, but the total number of farmers will decline, and small-scale producers would continue to live on the edge of going broke.

I believe, a little foresight and planning is needed to promote efficient, sustainable production. We need to level the playing field with public agricultural policies and support programs that focus on production efficiencies. That is to say, food production is worthy of some public funding, but don’t base that support on the total volume of output or the area in production, but rather the ratio of outputs to inputs. Expand a framework supporting a transition to lower input costs without greatly sacrificing production levels. And this should include closing the production loop in local agriculture systems by returning our food, human and agricultural waste streams back into food and energy production on much larger scale than is currently practiced. Close the loop, recycle your poop.

A few examples of what can be done with existing technology:

1. Mandate phosphorus recovery from every sewage treatment facility. Phosphorus is an essential element for crop production and coincidentally (or maybe not so much) one of the primary water pollutants in the western world. Humans contribute over 3 million tonnes of phosphorus annually to global septic systems. And many technologies already exist to recover phosphorus from sewage, including ‘mouse-trap’ cones developed at the University of British Columbia that pulls this valuable plant nutrient out of sewage effluent and creates a high-quality slow-release fertilizer. Local waste becomes a local resource.

2. Build the infrastructure to create biodiesel from algae fed on sewage water. There are already many private enterprises with viable systems to turn oils extracted from sewage-pond-grown algae into biodiesel. We can use carbon taxes on fossil-fuels to build a network of algae farms and biodiesel plants, and then sell back the fuel to agricultural producers and processors at cost without an accompanying tax. Incentives could also be given for farm-scale algae production ponds utilizing on-site manure and crop wastes to generate some or all of the on-farm energy needs. Again this turns an environmental liability into a production efficiency.

3. Use sewage sludge or waste water to fertilize farm forestry plantations. The trees then become a source of fibre for solid wood products or bioenergy, and can also be placed on-farm to serve soil and water conservation roles. A potential win-win-win solution.

And there are other practical options available too, including biogas generation or mandatory community composting programs that return that valuable humus to build soils. The important first step is removing any incentives that externalize the costs of waste generated in our food systems by letting producers and consumers pollute water with excess nutrients. And then through directed R&D and selective taxation, provide support to production, recovery and regeneration systems that operate at the highest efficiency.

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