A little-known Northern Ontario agricultural research station that specializes in weeding out diseases that harm farm crops, while providing a source of “healthy” plant stocks like potatoes, has been given a $330,000 boost.
The funds announced on Wednesday in a joint provincial and federal news release will allow the New Liskeard-based Superior Plant Upgrading and Distribution Unit (SPUD) to install new equipment at its 41-year-old facility.
The upgrades include “improvements to irrigation, air filtration, heating and control systems, increases to sterilization capacity and improvements to greenhouse coverings,” a joint news release said.
The upgrades, the release added, will “improve the ability to anticipate, detect, mitigate and reduce plant diseases and pests along the supply chain, benefiting potato, berry, garlic, sweet potato and hazelnut growers in the province.”
According to a provincial backgrounder, the aptly-named SPUD unit produces 10 per cent of Ontario’s supply of “minitubers” needed for the cultivation of seed potatoes.
Potato farmers normally use fresh seed potatoes during spring planting from trusted suppliers to prevent the spread of diseases that can damage crops.
Darren Burgsteden, who grows about 150 acres worth of various potato varieties near Kakabeka Falls and in the Slate River valley near Thunder Bay, said research being conducted by government-funded facilities is invaluable.
“It’s just too expensive to experiment on your own,” Burgsteden said on Wednesday.
The bulk of Burgsteden’s potato crop helps supply the Thunder Bay market, with a smaller amount being shipped to Toronto, he said.
The other Northern Ontario agricultural research facility is located just west of Thunder Bay on Highway 61 and is affiliated with Lakehead University.
The SPUD unit is overseen by the University of Guelph in southern Ontario.
“The SPUD Unit is a critical piece of infrastructure, supporting the clean seed and propagation needs of several significant edible horticulture crops in Ontario,” Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association chairman Shawn Brenn said in the provincial news release.

By Carl Clutchey, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Original Published on Jun 27, 2024 at 10:20

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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