Articles by author: sackles

  • I spy, with both my eyes, something that is more sustainable: Two-eyed seeing

    Contributors: Liette Vasseur, Catherine Longboat and Jocelyn Baker.


    How do we see the world? This is a question of enigma and reflection: Do all of us see the world and the knowledge that we acquire in the same way?

    Throughout human civilization, the way to acquire knowledge has changed. For hunter-gatherers, most of their knowledge came from nature, including understanding seasonal changes, the tracks of animals, etc. When humans later became sedentary and started pursuing agriculture, they began to derive knowledge not only from nature, but from their own experience with crops, and gradually, with livestock.

    With this, in the Western world, humans began to take more control over nature, leading to devaluating the value of nature. Humans instead began to see themselves as the predominant force upon the Earth’s ecosystems. This period of human history also led to the development of many religions which viewed humans not as part of nature — but as superior to nature. With the development of new technologies and the transition to the industrialized world came the use of fossil fuels and the era of science. The sciences have brought benefits that were not imagined in times past. With modernization also came an increasing need for more resources, which lead to competition, instead of collaboration, between countries and corporations. Under such a system, trade and the economy have increased. The sciences also became a major focus in academic institutions and research centres and new “discoveries” and technologies have become a must in society, while simple things, such as a having a walk in nature, are becoming increasingly obsolete.

    This nonstop race for new knowledge has led to the belief that only scientists know the answers and can solve problems. This human hierarchy has pushed aside contributions from certain groups of peoples, as their knowledge was felt to be unfit for resolving issues. Indeed, some of their principles, values and beliefs may interfere with market production. This is how Indigenous knowledge became relegated to the margins of colonial living and the Western capitalist system. Indigenous knowledge was therefore not included as Western scientific knowledge.

    With a gradual acknowledgement that technology cannot fix everything, and the increasingly dire situation of the degraded Earth, humans have started to realize that other forms of knowledge may be better suited to solving the problems that humanity faces, such as biodiversity loss, land degradation, and climate change.

    This is where Indigenous knowledge becomes important to acknowledge and respect. Indigenous knowledge is based on a different worldview than modern Western society. In Indigenous cultures, humans have a strong relationship with nature and are thus one among many other species. There is no question that mutual respect and reciprocity is foundational for understanding relationships on Earth and beyond. The Indigenous traditional knowledge is based on the natural world and information that has been transmitted from generation to generation over millennia. What is wonderful is that in recent years, there has been an increased will to embrace these two types of knowledge — scientific and traditional knowledge — into what has now been called “Two-Eyed Seeing,” or Etuaptmumk in Mi’kmaw.

    This concept of Two-Eyed Seeing was introduced by Mi’kmaw First Nation (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia) Elders Albert and Murdena Marshall as a means to bridge Western science and Indigenous knowledge1. Two-eyed seeing promotes using one eye to see the strengths of Indigenous knowledge, the other eye to see the strengths of mainstream knowledge, and both eyes together when fully ‘seeing’ the world around us1. The goal is to create cross-cultural collaboration. Two-eyed seeing is underpinned by the belief that there are many ways of understanding the world, some of which are derived from Western sciences and others by various Indigenous knowledge systems. What is important is that both knowledges are seen as equitable, embracing the idea of having cultural respect for any action and not changing the other without agreement.

    The goal of two-eyed seeing is to bring awareness of alternative ways of knowing (where diverse perspectives can work together) with the aim of creating equity, where no one perspective has domination over the other 2.  Using both eyes together creates alternative ways of addressing solutions as afforded through different ways of seeing, by offering opportunity to look through a different lens and create solutions that may not be perfect or without flaws 2.  An important aspect of two-eyed seeing is the framework for a plural co-existence of worldviews 2. The important consideration, especially for the natural world, is remembering that all systems are interconnected, and human systems are to work in conjunction with the natural world in order to support and complete the whole ecosystem.


    1. Bartlett, C., Marshall, M., & Marshall, A. (2012). Two-eyed seeing and other lessons learned within a Co-learning journey of bringing together Indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 2(4), 331-340. doi:10.1007/s13412-012-0086-8

    2. Broadhead, L., & Howard, S. (2021). Confronting the contradictions between western and Indigenous science: A critical perspective on two-eyed seeing. AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, 17(1), 111-119.

    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • Parasitic Wasps: Unseen Vineyard Warriors

    Fairyfly (more formally from the wasp family Mymaridae, as seen in the photo inset) is a name given to some species of tiny wasps (mostly 0.5-1.0mm) that are thought to be important parasitoids of vineyard pests. They may also be attracted to cover crop plants such as sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), shown growing below the vines in a local vineyard in the photo above (photos by Kasia Zgurzynski and Heather VanVolkenburg).


    When grape growers consider using cover crops in their vineyards, they likely look at plants that can grow well between rows of vines, such as clover or rye. These, and other common cover crops, provide farmers with benefits such as the reduction of soil erosion, improved nutrient cycling and weed inhibition. It is also possible to grow cover crops that are attractive to beneficial insects, which can be achieved by planting directly under the vines. In doing so, farmers may encourage the presence of beneficial organisms, such as parasitoids (i.e., parasitic wasps), to target pests that feed on grapes and vines.

    Parasitoids are insects that lay eggs in the bodies of other insects, such as leafhoppers and moths. Although they vary in size, most parasitic wasps are smaller than one centimetre — some are even as tiny as a fraction of a millimetre. Mymaridae, the family of parasitic wasps also known as fairyflies, includes the smallest insects known to science. They are important to agriculture because members of this family parasitize pests, particularly leafhoppers. Another family of particular importance in viticulture includes wasps that parasitize the grape berry moth, which is a common grapevine pest. Parasitic wasps can also influence pest insect populations, but more research is still needed to fully assess their efficiency in that regard.

    It is easy to take these wasps for granted. They occur naturally throughout the landscape, but due to their small size, we are more likely to see the parasitized pests than the wasps themselves. Some grape growers choose to buy adult wasps and release them into their fields. The introduction of beneficial insects in this way is referred to as classical biological control and can be an important part of an effective and sustainable integrated pest management program. Conservation biological control, on the other hand, involves creating the right conditions in the landscape to attract naturally occurring beneficial insects, rather than manually releasing them in the area. Whether the population is natural or released, farmers can support and encourage the presence of beneficial insects by providing the adults with food sources such as nectar and pollen, i.e. flowers.

    Here at Brock University, we are currently testing cover crops that could be planted in vine rows. One of these is sweet alyssum, a popular horticultural plant that provides a floral display and sustenance for beneficial insects. Since it is the flowers of alyssum that attract parasitoids, the plant mainly serves its purpose while in bloom. The flowers on sweet alyssum are wide and shallow enough that parasitic wasps can feed on them effectively with their small mouthparts. More research is also needed to uncover other types of insects that feed on alyssum, and whether it also attracts pests. It grows as a hardy annual in Ontario, so it usually needs to be seeded every year (although it has been shown to be able to reseed itself) and does not provide the ideal winter habitat that is important to many beneficial insects.

    Alternatives to pesticides, based on conservation biological control, are expanding and gaining momentum. Research is needed to learn which plants can better attract beneficial insects (such as parasitic wasps) and to help farmers make more informed decisions about their approach to pest control. Farm management and climate change, especially extreme weather events such as flooding and droughts, may affect the performance of alyssum and other cover crops as well as populations of parasitic wasps. It is important to understand how these various factors may impact the performance of plants and parasitoids.

    This blog will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with monthly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

     

     

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog

  • We can’t protect our planet without radically transforming our worldview — is it possible?

    Contributors: Liette Vasseur, Catherine Longboat, and Jocelyn Baker.


    Everyone has a worldview, a conception of what the world is like. Also referred to as a philosophy, a worldview is a collection of beliefs, values, attitudes, interpretations, and stories about the world around you. Worldviews inform your thoughts, behaviour, vision, relationships, knowledge, and actions. It is your picture of reality. Your worldview represents the reality of the world in which you live, your perception and your interconnectedness (on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level).

    Throughout history, human populations have developed a multitude of diverse ways to view themselves and the world around them. Worldviews have different origins, stemming from various social, cultural, religious, political, and economical systems that have developed over millennia. These different origins can inform and create similar worldview realities shared by different groups of people and societies.

    As humans developed neo-liberal ideas and developed different systems, civilizations, religions, and economic and political structures, humans began to believe they possessed a superiority to all other organisms on the planet. Many of these systems operated with the worldview that all organisms and resources on this planet are to be used and exploited for the benefit of human societies. For example, one of the predominant worldviews in the western world today is neoliberal capitalism, which describes one’s desire for a free market, largely unregulated by governments, based on trade, stock market and infinite economic growth. The current utilitarian mentality is, however, causing the degradation and depletion of most of this planet’s vital resources — including water, mineral resources, and organisms.

    There are many cultural frameworks and worldviews practiced by Indigenous Peoples around the world that differ greatly from this current western worldview, and many of which respect the earth as a Mother upon which all beings are expected to co-exist for their on-going sustainability. They live according to a set of ethics that reflect their obligation toward their relations whether considered animate or inanimate. Thus, protocols and processes for co-existence are about acknowledgment of balance and harmony. Acknowledgment of sacrifices and willingness to support one another are complex and inter-relationships include others than human beings. Unlike the neoliberal capitalism worldview, this worldview is not based on the importance of accumulating wealth and material goods.

    Most Indigenous worldviews involve humans striving to live in co-existence with all other beings. This is rooted in their understandings of various Creation stories that are passed down from generation to generation. While these stories vary, they all explain, from the very outset, that there is an interconnection that exists between all life. Notions such as interdependency, balance, and harmony are prominent, and the duty to care does not hinge on the human as master, but rather, on the two-legged co-existing as an equal being amongst all others, aiming for peaceful coexistence. In North America, the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address, for example, addresses 17 aspects of Creation to be recognized, including ‘the people’ as being given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things.1.

    With the increasing urgency to advance reconciliation and find solutions for the survival and sustainability of our planet, accepting and respecting multiple knowledges, worldviews, and ways of knowing are crucial. We can, and should, learn from sources outside the dominant neoliberal-capitalist system. There is an urgency to review how such systems are destroying the environment necessary for human existence.

    There is an urgent need to change the current western worldview, which is unsustainable for the future of human existence. The continuous economic and population growth of human societies should not come at the expense of nature. We need to radically transform our relationships with the natural environment and the focus for that change must include knowledges that perceive nature and humans as inter-connected, inter-related, holistic, balanced, and in harmony.

    Transformation of the western worldview calls for rethinking humans as being the most important, superior, and dominant creatures on the planet, and the natural world as subservient to human benefit. Most Indigenous worldviews share commonalities, where humans are not the most important creatures, relationships and community are at the heart of decision making, and all life is seen as sacred and interconnected.2.  Indigenous worldviews are holistic and recognize the interconnections between all peoples and all other beings. They also look back to their ancestors for guidance while simultaneously looking, at a minimum, seven generations forward into the future.2.

    Re-embracing a worldview that genuinely reflects Indigenous ways of knowing may serve to transform our relationship with nature and bring about a more sustainable social-ecological system for all beings on Earth.


    1. Stokes, J., & Kanawahienton Benedict, D. (1993). Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the natural world (english version). Retreived from: https://americanindian.si.edu/environment/pdf/01_02_Thanksgiving_Address.pdf

    2. Marshall, A., Beazley, K. F., Hum, J., Joudry, S., Papadopoulos, A., & Zurba, M. (2021). “Awakening the sleeping giant”: Re-indigenization principles for transforming biodiversity conservation in Canada and beyond. FACETS, 6, 839-869.

    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • Launch of Shoreline Public-to-Public (P2P) Online Survey

    In previous blog posts we have highlighted some of the various ways that we can build resilience through robust adaptation, including options for enhanced shoreline protection (https://brocku.ca/unesco-chair/news-3/).

    During the MEOPAR project, we have also listened to you, as part of our interviews, focus groups, and informal chats. In addition to enhancing green spaces and using both natural and traditional shoreline protection, you helped us identify a number of other options, such as tax relief and subsidies for improvements, technical guidance, insurance coverage, and facilitating managed retreat.

    The team has compiled these options and created a survey to let you rank them in terms of your personal experience, preferences, and values. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic does not allow us to have in-person meetings to continue our discussions; so, we are moving online with a few tools to further the understanding of opportunities and challenges for climate change adaptation in Great Lakes communities, such as Lincoln, and elsewhere. First, we will be rolling out an on-line survey. This on-line survey makes use of a public-to-public (P2P) platform decision support tool (DST) developed by the University of Waterloo’s Dr. Simone Philpot.

    We would love to get your input on what you consider appropriate risk-based options. If you are interested in participating in the survey, please contact us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca and we will provide you with what you need to know to take the survey.

    We will be coming to you soon with other opportunities to continue the discussion… virtually, of course!

    Thanks again for your interest in the MEOPAR project. Your input will help us co-create community solutions to address the issues of resilient shoreline protection.

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Springtime flooding is just around the corner

    A google maps satellite image representing the five Great Lakes across Ontario and how they are all connected by a variety of water systems.


     Basement flooding, often resulting from snowmelt, intense rainfall events, and poor drainage, is a concern many of us have as springtime approaches. Basements are inherently prone to flooding because they are the lowest level in the home and are constructed below-grade. Flooding of these spaces is even possible during dry seasons, when sudden, heavy rainfall occurs. This year’s winter in the Niagara Region has been unpredictable, with a lot of snow accumulation seen within the last few weeks. This means that flooding this spring is possible, depending on how quickly the weather warms up and melts the existing snow.

    We should always plan to reduce the related impacts from flooding. Having a wet spring and summer has the potential to change the dynamic of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, as well. The five Great Lakes — Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie and Ontario —  are the largest freshwater system in the world, spanning a total surface area of 245,013 square kilometers and flowing gradually into the St. Lawrence River.  This system moves a lot of water; even more so during the spring meltdown or a series of intense rainfalls like those that occurred in the spring of 2017. When excess water enters that system, flooding can then occur. It can either be localized or associated with a river or water system. An area of land that drains all of the streams and rainfall to a common outlet is known as a watershed. When too much water from smaller streams is drained into these interconnected lake systems, it leads to flooding of the riverine areas. In our region, small local watersheds all ultimately discharge into Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, or the Niagara River. The Great Lakes are considered a larger watershed consisting of all these smaller watersheds (including those of the other lakes). More snow around Lake Superior will gradually have an impact on our lakes here in Niagara.

    Flooding can cause water damage to homes (including the foundation) and can also result in the contamination of homes from sewage or mud. There are many steps you can take at home to prevent your basement from flooding, however. The INTACT centre guide on flood-proofing your home lists many strategies that can be useful to prevent damage to your home.

    Here are some examples of cost-effective flood protection measures:

    • Clean out storm drains, eavestroughs and water valves of debris to allow for clear drainage and flow.
    • Check for leaks in plumbing fixtures to prevent inside leaks.
    • Test your sump pump to ensure it is working properly and have a back-up sump pump system in place.
    • Install window well covers as well as water-resistant windows.
    • Extend downspouts and sump pipes two meters away from the home’s foundation to prevent the possibility of flooding.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt and increase resilience to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith Caspell, Bradley May, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Grape Rootstock in a Changing Environment

    A diagram representing the rootstock (the root portion of a single, healthy plant), scion (the young shoot of a different plant) and the junction where they are artificially united (graft union; diagram created by Heather VanVolkenburg).


    Managing vineyards can be challenging to say the least, especially with the added complexity of extreme environmental changes, both between and within growing seasons. In order maintain a productive vineyard, growers have several key components that they must consider when planning for vine establishment and maintenance. The selection of rootstock is one such component. The types of rootstock may determine how the vines respond to the abiotic and biotic stressors that present-day vineyards face, especially those related to climate change.

    Rootstock are an essential element in most vineyards, including vineyards here in Canada. To obtain a new vine, growers use the root system of one vine (i.e. rootstock) and combine it with a shoot from another one (i.e. scion). Each component can be from a different species of grapevine or even several species combined. Rootstock choices enable growers to select for grapevines that are more resistant to environmental adversities such as drought or disease, thus allowing for maintained or increased vine productivity Moreover, rootstock selection helps to overcome problems with soil such as texture, pH and density. While rootstock is normally selected for below-ground performance and resistance to challenges such as drought and disease (both of which occur more frequently due to effects of climate change), scions are usually chosen according to control above-ground aspects such as vine vigour, how quickly grapes ripen, fruit size, quality, and overall yield. In a simple way, the new plant has the best parts of two different plants!

    The selection of a rootstock can be quite complex. For example, if the vineyard is located in an area prone to flooding, consideration should be given to a rootstock’s ability to survive in this condition. The type of soil will also influence this selection. Other considerations may be related to resistance to certain pests or viruses. Selection considerations must constantly evolve as agroecosystems are constantly changing according the environment in which they exist. With the changing climate, especially extreme weather events, selection becomes even more challenging.

    Considering how closely existing rootstock choices interact with other management strategies (e.g. irrigation and cover cropping), defining good practices for local vineyards remains important. Here at Brock, we embrace the opportunity to work alongside vineyard growers to examine how integrated management techniques can help strengthen the sustainability of the industry. In our project, using organic vineyards as study locations, we are testing different combinations of three components of vineyard management, including irrigation, cover cropping and rootstock or their combined viability as local management techniques. By monitoring grapevine yields and growth, as well as disease and pest occurrence over consecutive seasons, we hope to evaluate how climate change may be affecting the different rootstocks and vine varieties present locally. Ultimately, we hope that results will contribute to maintain production of local grape growers in a sustainable way despite the challenges presented by climate change.

    This blog will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with monthly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

     

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog

  • Climate data and trends in the Greater Niagara Region

    A graph from climatedata.ca that illustrates the rising mean temperature from the years 1950-2100 under a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). This increase in mean temperature can lead to negative impacts for agriculture, coastal communities and the overall health of individuals in the Niagara Region.


     In a previous blog post, we discussed how to take initiative towards adapting to and mitigating (reducing) the effects of climate change. However, before we can discuss specific methods of actually doing so, it is important to first understand the historical and predicted future climate trends in the Greater Niagara Region.

    A great tool for understanding climate trends across Canada is the publicly accessible website climatedata.ca. It provides climate data that helps individuals, communities and governments better understand historical climate data and make informed decisions for a more resilient Canada in the future. The website provides past, present and current climate trends for multiple locations in Canada. The data can be analysed on a broader provincial level or drilled down to look at specific municipalities or townships. Specific climate variables, such as temperature, precipitation, frost days and growing days, are also available. This information can be extremely valuable when trying to plan adaptation and mitigation measures in your community, for infrastructure, on farmland and even at your own personal residence. For example, frost days (number of days where the temperature drops below 0˚C) are particularly important in the Greater Niagara Region as the agricultural sector is a main economic driver for the area.

    The website generates graphs of climatic trends under three future greenhouse gas emission scenarios, also known as representative concentration pathways (RCPs). These RCPs were generated by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). RCPs represent the degree of warming of an area or location (translated in watts per square meter) under different scenarios. Those scenarios range from acting rapidly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to not acting at all and keeping a business-as-usual way of life. They include a low emission scenario (RCP2.6), moderate emissions scenario (RCP4.5) and high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). The RCP2.6 scenario leads to the least warming and reflects a future that uses immediate efforts to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RCP4.5 models a future in which some mitigation of emissions prevents the extreme warming of the high emissions scenario of RCP8.5. Analysing the high emissions scenario (RCP8.5) on the website allows you to understand and prepare for the worst-case scenario when dealing with climatic trends. Unfortunately, due to trends and behaviours we are currently seeing in Canada, such as increases in population, pollution, and deforestation (among others), the RCP8.5 scenario may become the most probable one.

    We used the website to find data about the Niagara Region under a high emission scenario (RCP8.5). Using the website, the climatic trends reported for this area show that the annual average temperature in the region was between 8.4 ºC and 9 ºC between 1951 and 2020. Under a high emissions scenario, annual average temperatures are projected to be 10.9 ºC by 2050, 12.9 ºC by 2080, and will continue to rise above 14.3 ºC by 2100. Average annual precipitation in the region was historically 866 mm. Under a high emissions scenario, this is projected to be 7% higher by 2050, 10% higher by 2080 and by 2100.

    Rising temperatures and precipitation rates can have a significant impact on agriculture, coastal communities and the overall health of individuals in the Niagara Region. Over time, climate change has become more severe and in order to take initiative and make change, we must adapt and mitigate so we can slow or stop these trends from climbing.

    It is important to note that these climatic trends are projections, meaning they are just a model and may not be 100% accurate. However, they do provide guidance as to what the future may hold for our region. With a proper understanding of the potential climatic changes Niagara could be facing, it allows us to be more prepared and create more efficient adaptation and mitigation plans. In upcoming blogs, we will discuss strategies that can be used to manage these projected climatic changes and how we can initiate change.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt and increase resilience to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith Caspell, Bradley May, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

     

     

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Vasseur chairs session at York University’s Global Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference

    Liette Vasseur, UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global and President, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, has been chosen as the Chair for a session at the Global Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference: Reimagining Approaches in Higher Education in an era of Global Uncertainties. Hosted by York University, the conference will bring together scholars, policymakers, sustainability experts and other key stakeholders.

    Vasseur will chair Plenary Session 2: Student & professional mobility 2030 and beyond: transferability of degrees, credit transfer, refugees and immigrants
    on Thursday, January 21 at 9:30 a.m.

    Plenary Topic:
    What are the grand challenges for higher education having a mobile student community and workforce today and in the future? How can universities/colleges help create welcoming structures in receiving societies? Who is winning and who is losing through this global mobility?

    Speakers:
    Dr. Ethel Valenzuela,
     Director, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Secretariat, Thailand
    Fabio Nascimbeni, Senior Expert, UNIMED – Mediterranean Universities Union, Italy
    Sjur Bergan, Head of Education Department, Council of Europe, Belgium

    Read more about the conference

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Let’s Adapt to Climate Change — Adaptation Series Post 2: Technology-based Adaptation (TbA)

    Examples of TbA application – Artificial Intelligence


    Technology has the potential to help us adapt to climate change and Technology-based adaptation (TbA) strategies can support the Niagara’s agricultural sector. But what is TbA? TbA aims to maintain the resilience of various crop systems by using both traditionally available and innovative technologies. The following TbA strategies have been found most relevant to Niagara’s agricultural sector.

    Community-based weather monitoring systems provide local farmers with early forecasts and warnings of changing weather conditions so they can be better prepared to cope with weather uncertainties (e.g. in Niagara, Vine Alert is used to alert grape growers of impending frost or extreme low winter temperatures so they can turn on their wind machines and protect their crop). These systems have become popular because of their affordability and low capital and operational costs. Weather monitoring systems can be the first point of reference for farmers to accordingly shift their sowing and harvesting periods following changes in temperature and precipitation patterns. Considering Niagara’s geography and topography, decentralized community-based weather monitoring systems can be effective for improving adaptive responses.

    Integrated Nutrient Management (INM) is another very promising TbA that involves the balanced application of both natural amendments (manure, compostable wastes) and man-made fertilizers (mineral/synthetic fertilizers) to maintain healthy soils. INM can be successfully applied at both large and small-scale farms and leads to higher yields, better resistance against plant diseases, pests and droughts, especially if organic matter is added.

    Examples of TbA application – Drip Irrigation

    Drip irrigation allows for a controlled delivery of water to the root zone of plants through a system of pipes, valves, tubing and emitters. In the Niagara Region (especially in light of increasing droughts), this system has expanded, mainly in vineyards and in greenhouses.  It offers one of the most efficient water use mechanisms for agriculture with minimal waste. This may lead to increased yield and a reduction in plant diseases.  The best part is that drip irrigation can be used for the growth of both greenhouse and field crops — fruits and vegetables, in particular. Careful monitoring is required as it leads to algal growth and the build-up of sediments in pipes, which caused reduced efficiency and increases the chances of contamination. The capital cost of installation can also be prohibitive. But, with advances in research on the technology, its affordability is improving.

    Rainwater harvesting is also a very well-established TbA to reduce water shortage during droughts. Rainwater harvesting refers to the collection and transfer of rainwater from a roof to a storage tank (rain barrel or even a retention pond) for future utilization. In Ontario, retention ponds have been used for more than a century to reduce flooding and, around farmlands, to increase water availability for irrigation. One of the other positives about rainwater harvesting is that it is suitable for both greenhouse use and for field growers. On the other hand, rainwater harvesting systems have high initial capital costs and may also result in algal blooms if proper maintenance is not regularly undertaken.

    The newest TbA tactics involve the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning tactics to automate irrigation systems and make them more efficient. The application of AI makes irrigation systems very precise as the sensors collect real-time data on various parameters, like soil moisture, climate and lux (light) conditions on the farm and then release the required amount of water to the crops. Drones can also be used to precisely map the areas where irrigation or nutrients are most needed (also referred to as precision agriculture). Drones can assist with monitoring for pest outbreaks or localized flooding in some parts of the fields. With advanced sensors and research in the domain of software integration, drones are becoming increasingly popular in agriculture. AI systems offer several advantages for both greenhouse and outside growers. On the other hand, AI systems acquisition and maintenance can be expensive, and those systems require the use of highly skilled labour to operate.

    Conservation tillage can also be considered a TbA. It comprises a variety of soil preparation practices where new crops are planted on previous crop residues that have been purposely left behind on the field (about 1/3 of crop residue). Conservation tillage practices are popular because they minimize the energy required in land preparation for agriculture while improving the retention of water and organic matter that further enhances productivity. Therefore, it has been extensively applied in the growing of fruits, vegetables and grain, as well as in vineyards. Conservation tillage measures also improve an agricultural system’s coping capacity to drought and uneven rainfall by minimizing soil erosion and fuel and labour requirements. The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) has suggested conservation tillage as one of the Best Management Practices to reduce soil erosion and improve water quality in the Niagara Region.

    To sum up, an integration of traditional and innovative technologies can be promosing for the Niagara region and, when combined with any other approaches, can help enhance the resilience of our agricultural sector.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Let’s Adapt to Climate Change — Adaptation Series Post 1: Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA)

    An example of EbA application at farms – Windbreaks


    Since it began, the MEOPAR project has focused on adaptation to climate change. In our next four blogs, we will examine different approaches to adaptation, which, as a reminder, refers to any adjustment or response to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

    In this blog, we will introduce the concept of Ecosystem-based Adaptation, or EbA for short.

    EbA encompasses the various measures that can help both the natural and human components of our ecosystems adapt to climate change. This is achieved by promoting biodiversity conversation, ecological restoration and sustainable resources management. These actions reduce vulnerability and support the development of adaptive capacity and resilience.

    The following EbA strategies have been found most relevant to Niagara’s agricultural sector:

    An example of Windbreaks used in the agricultural sector.

    Windbreaks: Planting windbreaks, or shelterbelts, is a common EbA practice that has been used by the agricultural sector (especially in Europe) for a very long time. It involves planting shrubs and trees, which can be a mix of deciduous or evergreen (single row or multi-row) crops. Windbreaks are effective as an EbA strategy against strong winds, soil erosion and snow accumulation (through the use of a living snow fence) as they obstruct and alter wind flow patterns resulting in reduced wind speeds. For Niagara, windbreaks can be useful for protecting perennial fruit crops as well as annual crops. It is important to note that windbreaks may involve capital investment and increase maintenance costs, and that the placement of them must be selected carefully in order to avoid competition for nutrients with crops.

    Integrated Pest Management (IPM): IPM involves a series of steps that includes the preparation of soil and crop planting, trapping of pests, monitoring and inspection, designing of cultural, biological and chemical controls, and record-keeping that minimizes overall economic, health and environmental risks. IPM also includes the use of pesticides, but only when there is a pest outbreak. In Ontario, IPM has been used extensively for apples (to manage black rots, blister spots, scabs, borers, moth), raspberries (to manage spur blight, cane blight, orange rust), grapes (to control parasitic nematodes), as well as most greenhouse crops. The application of IPM can help maintain ecosystem health and decrease pesticide use as well as the probability of the development of pesticide-resistant insects. In the Niagara region, institutions like Brock University, Niagara College and Niagara Orchard and Vineyard Corporation are actively involved with farmers for IPM research.

    Miscellaneous measures: Various other EbA measures have also been identified for Niagara’s agricultural system. For example, intercropping (mixed, row, strip, relay), and crop diversification, with alternate rows or plots of different crops species or varieties, can reduce pre/post-harvest losses and improve resilience to the impacts of climate change (such as higher annual rainfall, average temperatures, and droughts). Other successful EbA techniques include tile drainage, cover cropping (e.g., legumes, white clover), and drought-resistant crops (pearl millets, sorghum) for improved drought resilience and profitability. These techniques are relevant to both field (e.g., soybean and corn) and greenhouse crops. Restoring a pasture into a tallgrass prairie (a natural system originally present in the Niagara) can also help provide fodder to animals during droughts.

    EbA is based on a participatory, integrated and inclusive approach to climate change adaptation. It has the potential to reduce the vulnerability of Niagara’s agricultural system to climate change, and to contribute to the development of a more resilient farming community.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog