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lemons in the greenhouse

July 2021 - The Study is Up and Running... our first bump along the way

I started this orchard with the idea of using my ‘retired’ greenhouse to grow foods I love but, due to climactic limitations, can only buy at the grocery store.

Researching online for techniques and ideas for low input growing lead me to regenerative agriculture, to John Kempf of AEA, Nicole Masters, Elaine Ingham and a slew of other knowledgeable people and inspirational growers. Wanting to understand how my sub-tropical orchard was coping with the Canadian climate, I started along the journey of assessing plant health in the greenhouse through leaf sap analysis with the guidance of a consultant with one of the larger regen companies in the USA.

I realized I had a unique opportunity in the greenhouse to apply what I was learning, and to monitor the progress, so I submitted a proposal to Innovations Agriculture Canada. I am grateful to have received funding May 2021 for the project ‘Leaf Sap Analysis as an Effective Tool for Nutrient

Management of Cold Hardy Citrus and Avocado’.

This study has 3 main objectives:

  • to collect monthly data of leaf sap nutrient and soil health from the citrus and avocado orchard.

  • to design and implement a responsive nutrient management plan to address identified nutrient imbalances.

  • to assess the success of sap analysis and foliar nutrient applications for improving fruit set, fruit quality and yield in cold hardy citrus and avocado.

I have years of experience as a commercial hydroponic grower. I’m comfortable tweaking

nutrient solutions to improve outcomes for leafy crops. But turning the study’s test results into

effective orchard management requires familiarity with the tests, with citrus and avocado

production, and an in depth understanding of plant physiology, and soil microbiology. For that

reason, the study’s funding included consultation with experts in regenerative agriculture.

Unfortunately, as we worked to generate appropriate spreadsheets, set up monitoring

equipment and learn how to use it, our consultant disappeared! Seems strange, but despite

countless calls and emails, not a word. I tried other companies but was unable to secure a

consultant. I can only guess as to why… the study is too small, too complicated (too many

variables, varieties, edgy growing conditions), too much demand for too few regen consultants, not enough leaf sap data to set targets for avocado and citrus…

To cope with this issue Innovations Agriculture Canada agreed to divert the funds allocated for

consultants to educational resources including books and courses about regenerative


The onus was now on the grower, me, to gain knowledge to respond to the data appropriately,

and in a future blog I’ll share this aspect of my educational journey.

I’m grateful for the experience gained from pre-study consultations with AEA, and for the

ongoing conversations with a knowledgeable consultant from Agro-K. They are important

contributions to the study’s effectiveness.

In the next blog I'll explain more about leaf sap analysis.


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