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Applied Research
Practical applied research offering valuable real-world solutions

Agriculture Contracted Field Research Program

At Perennia, we have been building our capacity to do more contracted field research. Testing of products and crop varieties in Nova Scotia ensures our growing conditions and practices are considered when products are registered for use in Canada or that crop varieties sold in Nova Scotia perform well in our growing conditions.

Conducting this applied research means we are assisting with the registration process of new products as well as assisting in the testing for the expansion of use of products into new crops or for new pests. Both processes should provide Nova Scotian producers with new tools to manage damaging pests. These products may provide benefits such as better control of pests, be less harmful to agricultural workers or the environment, or be used to decrease the risk of key pests developing pesticide resistance. This service can lead to the availability of new products or crop varieties, and expanded use of products, for Maritime producers.

During the 2021-22 growing season, we conducted contracted research on the control of common pests in apples, strawberries, wild blueberries and hops. Working with the Atlantic Grains Council, we conducted regional variety performance evaluations for new varieties of corn, soybeans, cereals (wheat, barley, oats) and established varieties of forages for performance and suitability to Nova Scotian climates. This benefits commodities like dairy, poultry, swine, beef and others.

Aerial Drone Water Sampling Supports Shellfish Harvesting

The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) analyzes coastal waters for the presence of harmful bacteria. The program has recently reached its capacity for vessel-based water sample collection and cannot classify additional areas as safe-for-harvesting wild and farmed shellfish which has severely limited expansion of the shellfish culture and wild harvest industries in Nova Scotia. This project aims to expand program sampling capacity through drone-based sampling to augment or replace the traditional vessel-based method.

Traditional vessel-based sampling was tested side-by-side with drone sampling, to determine if both methods were comparable. Bacterial estimates for 42 sample comparisons demonstrated no significant differences between both collection methods. Results from this study suggested that the high cost (equipment and personnel) of vessel-based sampling could be greatly reduced through the adoption of sampling drones which can easily be directed from shore by a single user. Closed shellfish harvesting areas due to unknown classification is unknown from limited sampling capacity could be sampled more frequently with the drone-based sampling to determine if they are safe for harvest.

This project was completed in partnership with Environment and Climate Change Canada and Spiri Robotics and was funded by the Atlantic Fisheries Fund. The results were accepted for publication in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment and a formal request for drone water sample collection approval has been submitted to the CSSP’s Atlantic Regional Shellfish Committee.

Better Understanding of Nematodes in Nova Scotia

Plant parasitic nematodes are microscopic worms found in soil that feed on the roots of plants. Nematodes can cause significant damage to plants directly through feeding and can create wounds that allow for soilborne diseases to infect the plant.

In recent years, with the phasing out of certain chemical controls, nematodes have become an increasing issue within the Nova Scotia agriculture industry.  Compounding the issue is that there is limited current research on nematodes in this region.

Based on the challenges surrounding nematodes and the threat that they pose to industry, the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture funded a multi-year project to:

  • identify the geographical distribution of nematodes throughout Nova Scotia
  • trial new management practices on apple, strawberry, and carrot crops
  • recommend effective mitigation strategies for Nova Scotia producers

In 2021-22, soil sampling was performed at 13 farms throughout Nova Scotia to identify plant parasitic nematode species that are present.  Extraction and molecular identification protocols were also developed at Perennia’s Plant Health Lab, which relocated to the Huestis Innovation Pavilion at Acadia University in June.  From the 13 soil samples collected, 8,115 nematodes were extracted, of which 127 were picked for further molecular identification. Nematode identification work is still being completed by the Perennia Plant Health lab, but protocol development was successful for both the extraction and molecular identification procedures.

Management trials were conducted to assess the impact of strategies to reduce the population of plant parasitic nematodes to manageable levels in one vegetable field, one strawberry field, and one pre-plant orchard block. The focus of the research is on pre-planting cover crops and post-planting chemical treatments. Assessments included nematode soil samples, and cover crop evaluation by drone footage and biomass sampling.

Local resources will be developed for farmers on how to manage nematodes and ultimately improve overall soil health.

Coastal Monitoring Program Collecting Information for Now and the Future

The Coastal Monitoring Program (CMP) provides high resolution coastal temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, ocean wave, and ocean current data for ocean users.

Data collected aims to support and inform science-based development of coastal communities and businesses, guide government policy and management decisions, encourage environmental stewardship, and prepare for climate change. For example, the data helps industry with aquaculture site selection and site monitoring decisions.

In 2021-22:

  • 229 oceanographic sensors were deployed between 63 locations throughout coastal Nova Scotia
  • 1 million rows of data were processed and published to the Nova Scotia Open Data Portal
  • Reports summarizing current speed and direction data were published for 71 coastal locations
  • Reports summarizing wave height, period, and direction data were published for 46 coastal locations

This project was funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the Centre for Marine Applied Research at Perennia and the Ocean Supercluster through Vitality.