Just fifteen minutes from downtown Whitehorse, researchers are excited about the latest crop of haskaps, agrias, linzers, caribes and Detroit Supremes.
Agrologist Matt Ball and other members of the Yukon government’s agriculture branch welcomed the general public to its research farm on Wednesday, located at the Gunnar Nilsson and Mickey Lammers Research Forest.
The experimental farm has a number of plots where researchers are studying which varieties of crops can survive in Yukon’s harsh climate.
Beets, potatoes, currants and apples are among the plants and trees being grown at the site.
The big news this year, Ball said, was the growth of Detroit Supreme beets across multiple rows.
“You can’t really see any difference across these five rows,” he said to a group of roughly 30 attentive guests.
“No matter if you’re adding organic fertilizer, blood meal, bone meal, sulphate of potash or compost – you can get really good yields. It just takes a few years for the soils to build up.”
Now in the fifth year of production, the beet greens looked lush and healthy.
Ball said the key is to make sure gardeners amend their soils, as Yukon soils are generally low in organic matter and carbon.
He pointed to a row of beets where nothing had been added to the soil and their size paled in comparison to the healthier ones.
Weed management was another topic of discussion.
The weeds are all hand picked and usually easier to get rid of if they’re old, said Ball.
Researchers use a Quadivator, a cultivator implement that attaches to the back of an ATV, as a method for weed control.
“The timing is important as you have to catch those weeds when they’re young,” he said.
“Lambsquarters (an annual summer weed) can produce about 50,000 seeds. You have to be diligent with weed management.”
Brad Barton, another researcher at the site, talked about potato yields and the importance of understanding how they grow and their potential for marketability.
Barton is looking at different varieties, such as the rode, linzer and agria, to determine their size and taste.
The potatoes will be presented at the North of 60 banquet at the end of the year and were more recently showcased during the Yukon Culinary Festival.
Another highlight of this year’s crops is the haskap fruit, a cross between a blueberry and a grape.
Tony Hill, director of the Yukon’s agriculture branch, told the group the fruit is high in antioxidants and rich in flavour.
“It has the same maturing period as the strawberry and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future,” he said.
More than 30 acres of the fruit have been planted around the territory this year, he added.
A barbecue featuring Yukon-grown foods was held prior to the tour of the research farm.
Contact Myles Dolphin at firstname.lastname@example.org