Over the last several years, CropLife Canada and various grower groups have been working to develop a certification program for greenhouses and other protected agriculture producers to reduce the risk of nutrients and pest management products leaving the farm with irrigation water. This work was initiated after imidacloprid was found in high levels in some waterways in Ontario and British Columbia. A draft was released in 2020 for public consultation, and feedback has been incorporated into the latest draft which is now available for comment.
The first stage of the proposed water standard affects greenhouse producers who have recirculating irrigation systems. All growers who self-identify as having a closed-loop irrigation system will need to have passed an audit by December 31, 2023. You can find details on the specific definition of closed-loop in the proposed standard, but generally it includes growers with recirculating systems such as flood floors, flood benches and troughs. All greenhouse growers with these irrigation systems will need to be certified under the program – by successfully completing an audit, or by completing a self declaration indicating that their farm has an open irrigation system– by December 31, 2023. If a farm has not taken either of these measures, they may be prevented from purchasing pesticides for use in their greenhouses.
If you’ve completed an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) or gone through the Best Management Practices for Water and Nutrient Management at your farm the questions in the audit will look familiar. The standard also requires farms to undergo a test to prove that their system is closed, and that there are no leaks that could signal a potential threat to the environment. The details on this test are still being refined but it could include a dye test, where a food-grade tracer dye is run through your irrigation system, or a visual inspection of your irrigation system.
OMAFRA and FCO staff are working together to test the safety of tracer dye application while crops are in the greenhouse. We will be investigating if bloom colour is affected after a dye test is run by subirrigation or drip line in several ornamental crops including orchids, hydrangea, Easter lilies, spring bedding plants, mums, gerbera, kalanchoe and potted roses.
The draft standards have been posted to the Crop Life webpage, and the comment period is open until January 21, 2022. You might be interested in commenting on the proposed standard if you own or manage a greenhouse operation in Canada, or if you work for a supplier that sells crop protection products to greenhouse growers. A final standard will be released in early 2022 and be posted to the Agrichemical Warehousing Standards Association (AWSA) webpage. Timelines for when audits can begin will be communicated by CropLife and Flowers Canada Growers when they are available.