The lower risk management showcase projects carried out since 2018 with growers of strawberries, potatoes and fall apples are so conclusive that the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) is thinking of extending them to other crops.
“In all the producers and for all the crops, we have noticed a drop in the risk indices, both for the environment and for health,” says Élisabeth Fortier, an agronomist at MAPAQ.
The principle of the showcases consists of measuring the differences in the risk indices for health (IRS) and the environment (IRE) between a so-called conventional plot according to the usual management of the producer and a showcase plot cultivated according to the intervention strategy. The projects were coordinated by Carrefour Industriel et Experimental de Lanaudière (CIEL) for autumn strawberries and potatoes, while the Agro-environmental Research and Development Institute supervised the apple project.
“Preliminary results show that it is possible to integrate more biopesticides or lower risk pesticides in the management of your crop to have a good impact on the environment, without affecting yields,” he continues.
Showcases began in 2018 for fall strawberries and apples and in 2019 for potatoes. Spanning four years, the fall strawberry study ended in 2021 and the final report is currently being written. The apple showcases (a break year in 2020 due to the pandemic) and potatoes will end this year.
“These three crops were selected because we know there are alternative techniques that were available and easily transferable to growers. It is also because these are important crops in Quebec in terms of area. Therefore, we will have a greater environmental gain because we are dealing with significant areas”, concludes Élisabeth Fortier, adding that the exhibition project could be extended to other crops in the future.
After the autumn strawberry, the summer strawberry?
CIEL agronomist Julien Brière was part of the team that oversaw the low-risk management showcase for fall strawberry growers.
“We had four growers targeting different markets. A producer that sold wholesale and kiosk producers, but not the same size. It’s interesting because we manage to make a profit everywhere. The differences were more marked for health than for the environment”, reveals Julien Brière.
Fall strawberries were targeted because they bloom continuously, making them more susceptible to insects and disease. “Since production is continuous from summer to fall, it requires more treatments than summer strawberries,” said the agronomist, adding that CIEL has submitted a request to MAPAQ to extend the project precisely with summer strawberries.
It should be noted that Julien Brière’s team took advantage of the last year of the project to experiment with exclusion nets aimed at limiting the presence of spotted-winged drosophila at the producer’s site in Île-d’Orléans. “Yes, there are additional costs related to managing the nets when it comes to harvesting and treatments, but in general it has reduced the amount of insecticides. We noticed a 45% reduction in IRS and a 56% reduction in IRE compared to conventional management”, he concludes.