Sakata Seed America offers a complete line of cyclamen, bred by Schoneveld Breeding. Ken Harr is the product technical manager for Sakata Seed supporting growers/customers with the latest, up-to-date cultural information of Sakata ornamental genetics. Harr provided these cultural tips for growing the Super Cyclamen.
Because cyclamen naturally have a dense canopy of foliage as they approach finishing, the air movement through the crop can be inhibited. Preventative fungicide applications should be applied to prevent Botrytis, and other foliage and stem diseases. Additionally, Fusarium can be a problem especially in plants that are watered overhead and are exposed to splashing between plants and rows. If at all possible, it is highly advisable to place cyclamen crops on drip-tubes, capillary mats, or ebb and flow benches or floors. This will greatly alleviate the incidence of diseases spreading throughout the crops.
The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo, in coordination with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo, offers more than 69 sessions and workshops. The trade show has more than 425 exhibitors covering 4 acres of exhibit space.
The New England Grows educational conference and exposition gives participants unique access to targeted, industry-specific products, information, education and connections. The expo will feature more than 500 of the industry’s leading suppliers.
With keynotes and education led by some of the nation’s elite business experts, and smaller group discussions facilitated by industry leaders, head home with extraordinary insight, empowering ideas and a plan you can put into action right away.
The Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) is a trade event showcasing the latest trends in foliage, floral and tropicals in warm and inviting South Florida. TPIE’s trade show is more than an exhibit area — it’s 200,000 square feet of plants creating a virtual indoor garden of displays. With almost 400 exhibiting companies in nearly 800 booth spaces, TPIE offers wholesale buyers an array of resources for foliage and tropical plants.
Understanding the label
Departments - The Growing Edge
Biological production. USDA organic labels. OMRI Listing. Certification can get confusing. Here's how to sort it out.
This year, the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) released its first national survey of organic farmers since 2008. The report, entitled the 2014 Organic Production Survey, revealed some fascinating statistics.
First, organic sales have increased 72 percent since 2008, a huge jump that shows the potential sticking power of field-to-table and local food movements. However, the number of certified organic, under glass, floriculture operations decreased from 289 in 2008 to 242 in 2014. Yet the total square footage of such operations increased dramatically from 1,388,908 in 2008 to 2,107,052 in 2014. With the increase in square footage comes a corresponding increase in sales, with organic floriculture operations, indoor and field, combining for a total sales value of $27,330,041 in 2014 versus $15,479,962 in 2008.
As organic sales and production continue to increase for both agriculture and floriculture, it is crucial that growers gain an understanding of the market and what various labels mean. A common misunderstanding is the difference between an OMRI listed product and an USDA Organic label.
Organic growth desired
Only farms and food handling facilities can be organic certified. If a grower decides they want to go organic, the process can be quite intensive. Miles McEvoy, the Agricultural Marketing Service’s Deputy Administrator responsible for the National Organic Program, says the process is meant to be comprehensive.
To gain organic accreditation, growers have to present a plan for organic production to a USDA-accredited certifying agency. If the agency accepts the plan, the grower can implement it. Then an annual inspection of the growing facility and audits of the sales and production records will be conducted. Each certifying agency is required to perform random site inspections for 5 percent of the operations it oversees. There are also residue tests to ensure organic methods are being followed.
Certifiers have a specific set of procedures and processes they look for, McEvoy says. Livestock farms will have far different requirements than, say, a floriculture greenhouse.
“In terms of crop production, you have to be using naturally based fertility products (rock minerals, manure) as the primary source of nutrients. Things like crop rotation and cover crops should be used to provide nutrients in the soil,” McEvoy says. “In regards to pest control, it’s relying on preventive methods first, such as mechanical weed control, resistant varieties and then naturally based pest-control materials. If that’s not effective, then some selective synthetics may be used. Insecticidal soap for aphids, for example, may be used.”
Despite the rigors, the market for organic products has never been stronger. McEvoy believes the decline of standard commodity prices may explain the ascent of organic.
“Conventional commodity prices were quite high so there wasn’t as much of an incentive to get into organic production. Those commodity prices have fallen off somewhat, so there’s renewed interest in the organic sector for the premiums that are there,” he says. “For instance, there is a shortage of organic feed in the U.S., so there’s a lot of organic feed that is being imported.”
Over the past decade and a half, the number of organic growers has more than doubled. In 2004, USDA recognized 8,021 organic certified growers, all located within the United States. In 2014, there were 19,474 recognized domestic organic growers and 8,340 international growers.
“The market for organic is very strong, both domestic and export sales continue to expand for the sector,” McEvoy says.
But organic certification focuses on farms and handling facilities. To aid those businesses in meeting organic requirements, USDA allows businesses to utilize certain approved products.
The market for organic is very strong, both domestic and export sales continue to expand for the sector.
Get the right product
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a nonprofit organization that verifies crop and livestock inputs for organic use. Should a product pass OMRI’s review, it is added to the collection of OMRI Listed products, which are allowed for use in organic production facilities.
“For example, when an organic certifier is working with a farm, they’ll look at what fertilizer is being used. If that fertilizer is not OMRI Listed, then the certifier will have to ask a lot of questions because they have to know what’s in those fertilizers,” says Amy Bradsher, marketing director at OMRI. “If it is OMRI Listed, it means OMRI looked at it in advance. The certifier knows that it’s OK to use.”
Bradsher says an OMRI listing means farmers and growers will be able to determine if what they’re buying is acceptable for organic production. Certifiers will know that someone has examined the product. An OMRI listing should streamline the organic certification process.
OMRI does not certify farms or growing operations. It only certifies crop inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, etc., for organic production. The organization works with manufacturers and suppliers.
“We’re looking for what’s acceptable under the organic standards. We look at all of the ingredients, the formulation, any possible synthetic ingredients,” Bradsher says. “Certifiers and growers want to keep out prohibited chemical fertilizers and pesticides, so they have very clear rules of what is allowed on an organic farm. All of the information that we review is confidential. That way, a manufacturer doesn’t have to share what’s in their fertilizer with several certifiers. They can share it once with OMRI instead.”
It is important to note that because a product has received OMRI listing does not automatically make its use acceptable. McEvoy says that an OMRI product may be used under the supervision of a certifier.
“For instance, just because it’s on the list, a product still has to be used in a certain context. A grower has to use preventative practices first before using, say, a Sulphur material,” he says. “OMRI approves the substance but the certifier approves the use of the particular substance at the farm or handling facility. It’s more nuanced than ‘It’s on the list, so go ahead and use it.’”
One of my favorite questions to ask during editorial job interviews is which magazine inspires the candidate. It offers an interesting look into the person’s passion and what motivates them, and their pick is often unexpected. One female candidate recently named a magazine that’s geared toward a male audience as her inspiration, not for the topics, but because of its quirky attitude and stellar social media strategy. Her answer showed me that she was willing to think outside of the box, and would likely bring an interesting perspective to the team.
Another point I always take into consideration is that, while one candidate may not have as much (or any) experience as other candidates in an area, if they have the right attitude and drive, they might still be the right person for the job. And, while hiring an editor is a little different than hiring a new head grower or accountant, bringing the right person on board is important for both. In our October State of the Industry Report research, 52 percent of growers that we surveyed ranked finding high-quality hires “difficult” or “very difficult” (4 and 5 on a 5-point scale, with 5 being very difficult).
As you’ll read in this month’s cover story, some greenhouse owners have had just as much luck hiring a smart and enthusiastic person with little or no growing experience as they have looking for someone who already has a degree in the field. We take a look at the current state of greenhouse labor and programs such as H-2A, H-2B and E-Verify, how to fill your open positions and other aspects of labor starting on page 16.
We hope this information will help you to make better hiring decisions and strengthen your work force. Happy hiring!
Editor’s note: In part I of this two-part article, author Richard McAvoy addressed managing Easter lily crop production up to bud set. You can read that article and see the complete 2016 production schedule in our September 2015 issue at greenhousemag.com.
Once lilies emerge, all focus should be on optimizing flower bud count and keeping on schedule for the early date Easter in 2016. Bud set should be completed in early- to mid-January. During this part of the crop cycle you can use insurance lighting to reach your full 1,000-hour vernalization goal, but do not attempt to speed development of the crop with high temperatures. Once bud initiation is set you will need to track height to meet production goals, leaf unfolding rates and bud development to meet targeted sales dates.
With both pot-cooled and case-cooled lilies, greenhouse forcing starts at the end of the bulb-cooling period. Typically this is 17 weeks before Easter for case-cooled bulbs and 14 weeks before Easter for pot-cooled bulbs. The difference in the two schedules just reflects the stage of shoot development. With pot-cooled bulbs, the shoots are either at the soil surface or already emerged as soon as forcing begins (Week 14). In contrast. case-cooled bulbs will take up to three weeks to emerge. So either way, the shoots on both crops should be emerging by about week 14 (Dec. 20).
Bud initiation begins soon after lilies emerge, and should be completed no later than mid-January in the 2016 crop, when shoots are 3 to 5 inches tall. The development of stem roots coincides with flower bud initiation. During this period, day and night temperatures of 60° to 65°F are desirable (63°F is ideal), but it is imperative that temperatures do not exceed 65°F until bud initiation is complete.
Leaf counting & forcing temperatures:
If you haven’t previously used leaf counting, this will be a good year to start. Begin using the leaf counting technique to track lily development as soon as bud initiation is complete. You should be able to start this by week 10 or 11 (Jan. 10 to 17). This will allow you adequate time to determine if lily development is on track, and if not, to make the necessary adjustments. Don’t wait to start leaf counting this year. Too often, growers do not realize their crop is behind schedule until after visible buds fail to appear at about week 6.
Run lower average daily temperatures (55° to 60°F) if lilies are ahead of schedule — an unlikely circumstance this season, or higher temperatures (70° to 75°F) if behind schedule. Begin to assess crop development early so that temperature extremes can be avoided later. Typical leaf unfolding rates vary from approximately one leaf/day at 53°F to 1.5 leaves/day at 63°F, 2 leaves/day at 72°F and 2.5 leaves/day at 82°F. Forcing temperatures between 55° to 70°F produce the highest quality lilies and are most fuel-efficient.
Once lilies reach visible bud, they will typically flower in 30 days at 70°F and 35 days at 65°F. Monitor bud development by measuring bud length. Adjust temperature as needed to stay on schedule. A “bud stick” is a useful tool to gauge the rate of lily bud development and the time needed to finish at a specific temperature. If you don’t have a bud stick refer to Table 1 to estimate the rate of bud development. I recommend you assess bud development early and adjust temperatures at that time. In late Easter seasons, growers in northern climates often hold off on forcing bud development until the last two weeks, knowing that high natural light and warm weather in early- to mid-April will assist in this effort. But this season, you will have to push in late February and early March for the early sales dates. Ask yourself, what conditions can I expect this time of year? If winter weather patterns are still likely to prevail at your site, start your push earlier.
Uneven temperatures produce uneven crops. Use horizontal airflow to equalize greenhouse air temperatures. If you need to use temperatures above 80°F to push lilies at the end, take care to maintain adequate soil moisture and humidity levels or lily development may stall and buds may abort.
Growth regulators should not be applied until after flower buds have set (early- to mid-January 2016). Use DIF to control lily height during flower initiation. Equal day/night temperatures or cool morning temperatures will produce a DIF effect and keep lilies short. The conventional PGR program uses a single application of A-Rest, Concise, Topflor or Sumagic as needed when shoots are 3 to 5 inches tall. The dose used is high enough to provide control through to about week 6. However, many growers have learned to fine-tune PGR applications to exert more precise control on the crop and with far better results. A typical program may call for weekly applications as needed to either slow stem stretch with a growth retardant such as Sumagic, or increase stretch with gibberellins such as in Fascination, or to prevent leaf yellowing in closely spaced plants (also with Fascination). Growers that use such programs are successfully applying growth retardants to lilies that are past the visible bud stage.
Even if you are inclined to be more conservative in your PGR practices, split applications are preferred as they produce the most desirable plants. With split applications, use half the normal dose at the first application and then a one-quarter to one-half dose in subsequent applications (depending on the number of applications you plan to use and the amount of control needed). Lilies exposed to high concentrations of growth retardants have a greater tendency to develop lower leaf yellowing in the later stages of production. Some growers have been applying low concentrations of Sumagic (or similar products) just as the shoot emerges and then following with a second application when the bud initiation period is over. I prefer to allow bud initiation to be completed before altering natural hormone levels in the plant. Plus, if you are maintaining 63°F day and night, as you should, you already have a zero DIF regime that will limit stretching during this phase. If you still wish to apply PGRs at this time, I recommend the lowest effective dose (an eighth to a quarter of the normal dose). Just apply enough to hold the plant for seven to 10 days rather than the typical 3 to 5 weeks.
Leaf yellowing can develop gradually in the greenhouse or suddenly and severely after lilies are sold. Gradual leaf yellowing can be a sign of chronic stress due to a persistent and unfavorable environmental condition or a telltale symptom of a diseased root system. Improper nutrition, poor media aeration or overwatering, and low light and poor air movement from tight plant spacing, are conditions that are conducive to leaf yellowing.
Sudden and severe leaf yellowing at the end of the crop is most likely to occur on lilies in poor root health and suffering from the poor nutritional and carbohydrate status associated with a bad root system. Prolonged cold storage prior to shipping and poor shipping conditions can also favor sudden, catastrophic yellowing.
To prevent early- and mid-season leaf yellowing (from seven to 10 days before visible bud until seven to 10 days after visible bud), spray Fascination at 10/10ppm. (Note: Fresco and Fascination are similar PGR formulations; both contain two active ingredients and recommendations are provided in a format that reflects the concentration of each). Apply only to lower leaves and cover thoroughly. To prevent late-season leaf yellowing and post-harvest flower senescence, spray 100/100ppm to thoroughly cover all foliage and buds. To protect leaves from yellowing during shipping or cooling, apply when buds are 3 to 3½ inches long but not more than 14 days before the start of shipping or cooling. Side effects include increased stem stretch, so avoid contact with immature leaves during early- and mid-season applications unless increased height is your objective. Growers sometimes spray these compounds at 3 to 5 ppm at seven-day intervals or as needed to increase stem stretch.
Getting ready to ship:
Lilies require adequate fertilization from planting to finish but high salts in shipping can be a problem. Apply one clear watering right before shipping to lower salt levels and enhance the keeping quality for the consumer.
Good quality lilies can deteriorate rapidly after leaving the greenhouse. Avoid holding sleeved and boxed lilies for long periods of time, especially when temperatures are high in the shipping container. EthylBloc can also be used to increase post-harvest flower life. EthylBloc works by inhibiting the damaging effects of ethylene (a naturally occurring plant hormone that greatly accelerates the onset of leaf yellowing, and flower aging and death). Plants produce ethylene naturally but ethylene can also result from the incomplete combustion of fuels in a greenhouse, shipping or warehouse environment.
The active ingredient in EthylBloc, 1-methylcyclopropene or 1-MCP, is released as a gas and therefore lilies must be treated in an enclosed environment. A sealed shipping container or truck, or sealed greenhouse can be used to treat plants. Flowers must be fully developed before treatment. To extend flower-life, treat lilies with EthylBloc just prior to harvest, or immediately after harvest, or just prior to shipping, or upon arrival from a supplier, or just prior to sale. Note that repeat applications are not harmful and are recommended on species such as lily that bloom sequentially over time.
Richard McAvoy is professor and extension specialist at the University of Connecticut.