Cultivating better leaders and growers

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Did you miss educational sessions at Cultivate’19? Read about some of the ones we found to be most valuable.

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August 26, 2019

Pictured from left are Nursery Management Editor Kelli Rodda, Alan Jones of Manor View Farm, Terri McEnaney of Bailey Nurseries, Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers, Art Van Wingerden of Metrolina Greenhouses, Dale Deppe of Spring Meadow Nursery, George Lucas of Lucas Greenhouses and Greenhouse Management Editor Kate Spirgen.
Photo © picturethelove.com

This year’s Cultivate was full of sessions covering everything from leadership to email campaigns to sustainability. Here are some of the best educational pieces we found during the show.

For full versions of these articles and more coverage of Cultivate’19, click here.

Greenhouse Management and Nursery Management magazines recognize top industry leaders

The publications honored six outstanding professionals at Cultivate’19.

At the annual Horticultural Industries Leadership Awards, Greenhouse Management and Nursery Management magazines recognized six outstanding professionals for their dedication, hard work and contributions to the nursery and greenhouse industries.

Sponsored by Syngenta, the HILAs are the only national awards program to honor leaders from the greenhouse and nursery industries.

HILA recipients will have made significant contributions to the horticulture industry, such as:

  • contributing to its development with their innovation and expertise
  • excelling in environmental stewardship
  • enhancing the lives of employees, customers, communities and the industry at large with their charitable giving
  • otherwise making a positive impact on the industry

3 tips for producing the best annuals and perennials

According to John Erwin, an extension specialist at the University of Minnesota, the horticulture industry faces growing challenges that separate it from traditional agriculture. 

“You have to be advanced in understanding what makes plants flower,” he said during his presentation titled ‘Flowering Annuals and Perennials When You Want!’ at Cultivate’19 in Columbus, Ohio. “You take hundreds of varieties and species from all over the world and you have to try and get them to bloom, usually in one to two months’ time. That is much different than corn or soybeans. You have to be far more sophisticated in what you do. So what we need to do is we need to figure out these tricks to understand how to get things blooming in a certain amount of time.”

Here are three tips from Erwin, who also is a consultant for Altman Plants, for growers looking to fine-tune their flower production. 

1. Understand the difference between ‘juvenile’ and ‘mature’ plants.

According to Erwin, juvenile plants are crops that are only capable of vegetative growth. In that stage of the growing process, he said, growers should not treat the plant if it’s ready to flower. Not only is it a waste of product, but it will also spur plant growth.

To identify when a plant is ready to move from the juvenile stage to the flowering stage, Erwin recommended checking the nodes — the spot on the flower where the buds or leaves will originate. Each plant has a minimum number of nodes to be classified as mature.

2. Put your plant in the right group.

There are two types of irradiance (the density of radiation received on a plant) response groups, Erwin said. The first, Facultative Irradiance Response, means the, “leaf number below the first flower decreases as irradiance increases.” The second, radiance Indifferent Response, means there is, “no impact of increasing irradiance on leaf number below the first flower.”

One way growers can use this info is in determining if lighting will help their operation. If a plant is in the former group, there can be a benefit of increasing lighting to increase flowering, Erwin said. He noted that there is a limit of how much light can actually speed up growing, and finding that limit is key to keeping lighting costs under control. If a plant is classified in the second group, using HPS or LED lighting may not be helpful. 

Additionally, Erwin said there are five plant classifications for growers to be aware of: 

Obligate Short Day Plants — plants only flower when grown under short days

Facultative Short Day Plants — plants flower earlier and with fewer nodes below the first flower when grown SD than LD

Photo © SNEHIT | Adobe Stock

Obligate Long Day Plants — plants only flower when grown under long days

Facultative Long Day Plants — plants bloom earlier with fewer nodes below the first flower when grown under LD compared to SD

Day Neutral Plants — plants flower at the same time developmentally under SD or LD

According to Erwin, breeders and local extension specialists can help growers identify which category their plant falls under. The classification matters, he said, because growing a plan incorrectly — either in the plug or blooming phase — means grow times will be off. That can mean delays in growing, meaning orders can’t be filled on time. 

This classification can apply to produce crops as well, Erwin said. Herbs, for example, are short day crops. 

3. Know the right temperatures.

One common, avoidable mistake Erwin said he sees growers do is growing their crops in a greenhouse that is either too hot or too cold. Even a short period of time in the wrong environment can negatively impact plant growth.

Vinca, Erwin said, is one crop he’s seen growers make numerous mistakes with. Vinca are best produced in a high-temperature greenhouse (68-78o F). But over several years, he’s seen growers put them in greenhouses that are too cold. When that happened, he said it delayed blooming by several weeks.

A number of ideal growing temperatures are available on Erwin’s website. He also recommends contacting the local extension specialists for any plants that aren’t on his list or during unique weather conditions that could impact the growing environment. — Chris Manning

Going green

Build a sustainable horticulture business with tips from Kathy Fediw.

Photo © Tomas Hulik | Adobe Stock

“What is sustainability?” asked Kathy Fediw, president of Johnson Fediw Associates, an interiorscaping company in The Woodlands, Texas. “It’s being eco-friendly and socially responsible for the long-term and well-being, which is probably the hottest business trend right now.”

Fediw, who specializes in interior plantscaping, is a LEED Accredited professional and is a certified landscapist and landscape technician. She is the developer of the Green Earth—Green Plants® certification programs and is qualified to work on green building and other environmental projects.

How can growing green help your business?

According to Fediw, going green can attract new clients, “especially in the 24-34-year-old range,” she said. “Our customers have become more eco-friendly and they are expecting and demanding that we do the same.” Going green also improves employee retention and morale because according to Fediw, employees want to work for someone who is interested in improving the economy.

Becoming sustainable also improves image, integrity and saves money overall by recycling and reusing, saving on electricity, water, pesticides and other materials, “which may be one of the biggest reasons your company should become sustainable,” Fediw said.

Steps to going green

Fediw advised to look at options and start with one or two changes. “Start with the ones that are easy, then consider long-term plans,” she said. A couple changes could be switching to drip irrigation, which saves water and produces a cleaner plant, and using organic fertilizers, since “customers are demanding organically grown products, especially in the food and cannabis industry.”

Although customers expect perfect plants, Fediw said there are eco-friendly ways to control pests. By using granular drenches and beneficial insects, “good bugs to control the bad bugs,” Fediw said consumers can still get the perfect plant but in a much healthier condition.

Staying away from phosphates in leaf cleaners and shines is another way to become eco-friendly, because according to Fediw, “phosphates and cleaners can get in water systems and the algae can grow to the point where it suffocates fish.”

Fediw also advised employees to use hybrid cars, carpool and suggested employers to allow certain days where employees work from home if using public transportation or hybrid cars is not optional.

“Going green is the right thing to do, Fediw said. “We’re the green industry and we’re supposed to be the leaders. It’s really that simple.” — Sierra Allen