Farmers Grow Scientific Understanding of Pests Impacting Garlic Production

Though agricultural production in Haliburton County occurs on a relatively small scale, garlic is considered an important crop. It thrives despite poor soil conditions and a short growing season. Unlike other market garden crops, garlic and other products from the Allium family, such as onions, chives, and shallots, grow extensively through the County and represent important income for growers in the region.

Figure 1. Leek moth damage on garlic leaves. Photo credit: Gayle Short.

Figure 1. Leek moth damage on garlic leaves. Photo credit: Gayle Short.

In 2013, members of the Haliburton County Garlic Growers Association (HCGGA) were starting to document significant crop loss as a result of leek moth (Acrolepiopsis assectella) (Figure 1). This observation eventually led to a partnership with a local community-based research centre, U-Links, as well as the Haliburton County Farmers’ Market Association.

The research objectives were simple; to document the distribution and impact of leek moth on growers and develop evidence-based tools that would help growers respond to and address the impact of this pest.

This collaborative project also involved expert scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) as well as the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), who were instrumental in developing a method for monitoring garlic pests.

Figure 2. Some of the garlic grower citizen scientists. Photo credit: Emma Horrigan.

Figure 2. Some of the garlic grower citizen scientists. Photo credit: Emma Horrigan.

All partners played a key role in leading research efforts, with the garlic growers involved in data collection as citizen scientists. The citizen scientists were all members of the HCGGA and were experienced garlic producers (Figure 2).  Most had suffered the damaging effects of garlic pests and were distributed across the County.  For growers, the project evoked a strong interest in improving their own crop and also a desire to help other growers. Long-term grower Rick Ratcliff commented: “I wanted to get involved because it impacted me personally and other members of the Association…knowing it’s a problem province-wide,  it was an opportunity to be part of the solution…If through our efforts we can help others, it’s a win/win situation.”

An important aspect of the experience was the mutual respect of the scientists who served as resource persons and the citizen scientist growers.  Both partners learned from one another.  “It gave me a better sense of data collecting and an opportunity to observe the correlation between insect activity and the weather,” said Richard Taylor, garlic grower. The value of the citizen scientist contribution was reflected in a small stipend that was built into the grant. Says citizen scientist/grower Ron Reid, “The past three years assisting with both the Leek moth and Nematode studies was for me an honour to be able to provide support and assistance to these worthwhile science projects.”

Since 2012, research efforts have grown to encompass other garlic pests such as soil bulb and stem nematode and the impacts of leek moth on native forest Alliums, such as wild leeks. This project will be completed in 2017 and it’s expected that these results will help inform garlic production across Ontario and serve as a model for successfully involving growers in meaningful research.

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.

This project also received funding from the Haliburton County Development Corporation.

Contributed by Angel Taylor, Haliburton County Garlic Growers Association


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