Crops & Plants

Supporting sustainable food production

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Pulses can be a key part of sustainable food production. They are a “nitrogen-fixing crop”— meaning that they have the potential to work with soil bacteria to draw nitrogen from the air and store it. This property means that farmers can reduce the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied to their field. After harvest, pulses leave behind nitrogen-rich crop residue, again helping to reduce the amount of fertilizer that farmers need to apply for the next crop too. This approach is an example of how growing different types of crops in the same field (an ancient practice called crop rotation, mentioned earlier in  this booklet) can help the environment, as well as farmers’ businesses.

Plant-based proteins

Plant-based proteins have become popular, as people look for alternative protein sources in their diets, or wish to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, which means eating fewer or no animal products. That push has led to a growth in new food products, such as plant-based burgers; seafood alternatives; and “chik’n” strips made from pea, bean, or soy proteins; egg substitutes made from mung bean; and plant-based beverages made using oats, for example. It’s estimated that the global plant-based food market will reach $250 billion in sales by 2035, and that Canada can supply the ingredients for 10 per cent of the world’s plant-based food and beverage products. Over the last five years, Protein Industries Canada alone has supported the creation of more than 380 new products, as well as over 170 new processes for extracting, refining, and processing plant-based products.

Did you know...

Peat moss, the medium in which mushroom farmers grow their crop, is also a popular organic fertilizer for farmers growing field crops.

Mushrooms all year long

Mushrooms are grown indoors on trays filled with naturally-pasteurized substrate, topped with a layer of peat moss. They are one of the few crops that can be grown in Canada year-round, with Canadian mushroom growers selling 153,321 metric
tonnes of mushrooms in 2022 — mostly white button mushrooms, followed by brown and Portobello. Demand for specialty mushrooms, such as Shiitake, Oyster, King Oyster, and Enoki, continues to grow. The first mushroom crop can be harvested 30 days after new seedstock (known as mushroom “spawn”) is planted. This is followed by one or two more harvests from the same growing beds, over the next two weeks. Mushrooms have a wide array of uses in the kitchen. The little black specks which you sometimes see on mushrooms are remnants of the peat moss. Just brush or rinse mushrooms before eating to get rid of the specks.

Did you know...

Mushrooms can double in size every 24 hours.

Fruits and vegetables

More than 120 fruit and vegetable crops are grown in Canada, on approximately 14,200 farms. These include many long-time favourites, from apples, peaches, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and grapes, to carrots, peppers, onions, lettuce,
potatoes, asparagus, cabbage, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The list certainly doesn’t end there, though. Ginseng, cranberries, garlic, cauliflower, cherries, apricots, hazelnuts, saskatoon and haskap berries, and many more crops, are grown across the country. British Columbia has the most fruit farms in Canada. Farmers in British Columbia, Québec, and Ontario grow 90 per cent of Canada’s fruit crops. Ontario is Canada’s vegetable king; it is home to almost 70 per cent of Canada’s production of greenhouse vegetables, the leader in field vegetable production (those that are grown outside in a field instead of in a greenhouse), as well as being the biggest producer of mushrooms in the country. Québec and British Columbia are Canada’s other two big vegetable-producing provinces.

Quick fact:

Space spud — the first vegetable grown in space — was a potato! NASA and the University of Wisconsin first tested seed potatoes in space aboard the Columbia space shuttle in 1995.