Teagasc Mushroom Picking Technology Webinars

Mushroom growers face the constant challenge of recruiting and retaining staff to harvest crops. Labour accounts for one-third of a mushroom farm’s overall cost of production. The current method of harvesting mushrooms consists of one-handed picking, manually cutting the mushroom stalk, placing the mushrooms into the punnet, weighing the punnet to ensure it reaches the correct weight specification, labelling the punnet and placing the punnet into the crate. This process has been in place since mushroom production began. However, as the availability of labour tightens, this means the industry must look at streamlining the process to gain harvesting efficiency.

Teagasc Mushroom Advisor, Donal Gernon, attempts to address this issue by hosting a mushroom picking technology webinar series featuring some of the world’s leading companies in the area of mushroom picking innovations. The webinars are exclusive to all mushroom growers and stakeholders in Ireland. Some of the interesting technologies include GTL’s ‘tilting shelf system’, Christiaen’s ‘drawer system’ and Axis Technologies’ ‘mushroom processing unit’. All these technologies are aimed at reducing labour costs by introducing two-handed picking on to conveyors which cut the stalk and transport the mushroom to the packing area. These systems are aiming to double the speed of picking and ultimately reduce dependence on recruiting and retaining harvesters. ✽

Hortassure Project is Launched

A new four-year study led by Teagasc and funded by DAFM, investigating key issues in the management of microbial and chemical contamination of horticultural produce has been launched. The HortAssure project will seek to support the horticultural sector in mitigating the risks associated with microbiological and chemical contamination by developing evidence based knowledge regarding the sources of contamination. The project will look at current and new technologies to help reduce the risks of contamination. Some of this work will involve structured sampling of water sources and surfaces on commercial horticultural facilities to identify likely routes of exposure. It is by identifying potential routes of exposure that will allow the industry to take remedial actions to reduce the risk to their business and their consumers.

The project team is extremely keen to work directly with horticultural producers on this project, so if you are interested in finding out more please contact either Kaye.Burgess@teagasc.ie or Michael.Gaffney@Teagasc.ie.


Teagasc New Appointment

Eoin Sweetman, Newly Appointed specialised vegetable advisor to the Horticulture Development Department in Ashtown, Dublin
Eoin Sweetman, Newly Appointed specialised vegetable advisor to the Horticulture Development Department in Ashtown, Dublin

Teagasc recently appointed Eoin Sweetman as Specialised Vegetable Advisor to the Horticulture Development Department in Ashtown, Dublin. Eoin will take over from Stephen Alexander who retired recently. Eoin completed a B.Ag.Sc in Horticulture from UCD in 2018, and since then has been studying a M.Ag.Sc in the Walsh Scholarship programme. His thesis ‘Factors Influencing Tillage Students’ Decision to Diversify into Horticultural Food Production’ investigated opportunities to increase participation in the vegetable sector by young tillage farmers.

Eoin comes from a strong horticultural and agricultural background, in North Co. Dublin. ✽


Catch me if you can!

A new four-year collaboration between Teagasc (Dr Michael Gaffney), Harper Adams University (Drs Tom Pope and Joe Roberts) and Keele University (Prof. Toby Bruce) will see Walsh Scholar, Eugenia Fezza investigate new methods for controlling adult vine weevil on commercial soft fruit and hardy nursery stock nurseries. Despite recent advances in the development of biological control agents for the control of the larval form of this pest, options for the control of the adult are limited and it still remains an economically important pest. This new project will focus on the control of the adult vine weevil, focusing on the development of improved trapping either by the design of the trap or incorporating novel attractants or repellents into the trap. In addition, the impact of biopesticides, particularly those previously shown to cause sterility in the adult weevil will be investigated to see how they can be deployed at a nursery level to aid in the management of the adult weevil. The project commenced in September 2020, and if any grower is interested in participating or finding out more, please feel free to contact Michael.Gaffney@Teagasc.ie. ✽

Latest Strawberry Research

A zoom seminar took place on September 29, the first in a series of evening seminars, focusing on the latest strawberry research trials conducted at the Teagasc Research glasshouse in Ashtown, Co. Dublin. The research concentrated on a number of trials growing the strawberry variety ‘Malling Centenary’ over the last number of years. Studies took place in both heated and cold glasshouse units and the main emphasis of the work was to compare various nutrition regimes, plant density, and planting dates on subsequent fruit yield and quality.

One of the most interesting findings was that growers could reduce their crop fertiliser inputs without any loss of crop yield or fruit quality. This would allow the crop to be grown in a more sustainable way whilst also reducing costs. For more

information please contact eamonn.kehoe@teagasc.ie.

Sustainability in Horticulture Survey

Horticulture is an economically strong and important sector for the nation’s health, and for future growth, it will need to comply with certain standards for sustainability. With this view, Teagasc’s Horticulture Development Department is leading two studies to examine sustainability in the Irish horticulture industry.

The first focuses on field based growth and the second on controlled environment growing. The purpose of this work is to develop a participatory and inclusive research agenda to support the sector’s growth. Similar approaches have been followed by the Dutch and the New Zealand horticulture sectors.

These two studies focus on collecting sustainability views, practices, benefits, barriers and challenges in Irish horticulture. So far the field based study has completed 16 interviews with vegetable and nursery stock/plant/cut foliage growers from across Ireland with balanced representation across gender, organic and non-organic growers, as well as small and large scale growers. Results emanating from these studies are forthcoming in 2020 and 2021.

Please contact Teagasc researcher Dr Lael Walsh at lael.walsh@teagasc.ie if you wish to participate in the controlled environment study which is due to start in October 2020. ✽