Hoffman Nursery, university work to solve production issues

Grower works with N.C. St. Univ. researchers to develop seedless ornamental grass, encourage beneficial insects and control weeds

May 16, 2011
David Kuack

Hoffman Nursery in Rougemont, N.C., grows ornamental and native grass liners it wholesales to customers in the U.S. and Canada. Owners John Hoffman and Dr. Jill Hoffman are working with research and extension experts at N.C. State University on three projects designed to create a superior cultivar of a popular ornamental grass and to solve problems related to pest and weed management.
The Hoffmans are helping to fund the research to develop a seedless cultivar of the ornamental grass Miscanthus sinensis. In some locations the plant can reseed and become invasive. University plant breeders at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Mills River, N.C., are working to develop non-invasive cultivars. They are testing plants in the mountains, while the Hoffmans are conducting field trials at their location.
The nursery is working with N.C. State to find ways to encourage beneficial insects to thrive in greenhouses. Black Pearl ornamental pepper plants are being used as banker plants to support the survival and reproduction of the predatory minute pirate bug. The bug is used to control thrips, spider mites and aphids in greenhouses. Research is being conducted comparing greenhouses with banker plants and pirate bugs to houses without them.
The nursery and university are also looking at better controls for weeds. With funding through the USDA’s Interregional Research Project No. 4 (IR-4), studies are being done with herbicides and ornamental grasses. Currently few herbicides are labeled for pre- and post-emergence weed control in ornamental grasses. The research aims to help identify new control management tools for ornamental growers.