The Green List: Growers
We asked the experts for basic tips on moving greenhouse production toward a more sustainable model. Here's what they said. Which boxes have you checked?
August 1, 2008
Associate Professor, Extension Specialist, Kansas State
â‘ Sanitation: Remove weeds, plant and growing media debris regularly from the greenhouse. These are sources of insect pest populations.
â‘ Scouting: Initiate a scouting program that is designed to detect pests (insects and mites) early so that populations can be controlled easily.
â‘ Properly time applications of pest control materials: Use the information obtained from scouting to time applications of pest control materials at the most vulnerable life stages (i.e. larvae and adults).
â‘ Use biological controls: Gather as much background information as you can and consult biological control suppliers and Extension entomologists before implementing a biological control program. This will increase the likelihood for success. Also, be sure there is a commitment to initiating a biological control program.
â‘ Obtain information on what pest control materials may be used in "sustainable production" programs. Then know the benefits and limitations of these products. For example, know what life stages (i.e. eggs, larvae or adults) these products are most effective on.
Owner, Marion Gardens, Herbs,
East Marion, N.Y.
â‘ Pest control should be with biologicals and approved pesticides.
â‘ Adjust your growing schedules to use slower acting (organic) fertilizers.
â‘ Pay more attention to your plants. Remember you cannot use any systemic pesticides. Actually this has other benefits, too.
â‘ Promote your growing practices.
â‘ Sleep better knowing you are doing something good for the environment and your fellow man.
Assistant Professor, Extension Specialist, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.
â‘ Recycle all materials that are recyclable in your community (cardboard, plastics, paper, metals, glass).
â‘ Create a community compost from organic wastes (plant material and media) or donate organic wastes to local composting / landscape recycling centers.
â‘ Incorporate biological control measures.
â‘ Properly dispose of chemical wastes (pesticides, fertilizers and plant growth regulators).
â‘ Replace incandescent lamps with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps.
â‘ Properly clean reflectors on supplemental lighting fixtures to increase efficiency.
â‘ Properly clean furnaces and filters to increase efficiency.
â‘ Use nonchemical height control measures for height control of greenhouse crops (www.ipm.msu.edu/grnhouse06/G04-08-06.htm).
â‘ Consolidate delivery orders to reduce fuel usage.
Owner, Cascade Cuts and consultant on sustainable production, Bellingham, Wash.
â‘ Consider the soil media as more than an "anchor" for a root system. Focus attention on the ways you can most efficiently add biology to your soils. Even a minor charge with special composts can add a synergistic effect to your fertility program. Start with talking to your soil supplier and investigating what types of untapped, high-quality organic materials may be locally available.
â‘ Focus on building a healthy root system that will build a basis for stronger top growth of your plants. A biological boost to the soil medium can be achieved in a number of ways. Worm castings, high-quality compost or compost teas may be the best way to move biology into your growing system.
â‘ Practice with some of the new biological pesticides on the market and learn how to use them correctly. Take your time to evaluate their modes of action and monitor your experiences so you are truly gaining practical working knowledge from these experiences. The "Yeah, I tried that once" attitude needs to be revisited!
â‘ Consider a beneficial insect program carefully. Start out with some basic beneficial mites for, say, fungus gnat and thrips control. These are very resilient creatures that are not that easily damaged by the occasional pesticide application. Research the pesticide compatibility charts available to see for yourself.
â‘ Think also about creating your own beneficial insectories, both in the greenhouse and in your perimeter areas. Build biodiversity. By doing so you are creating a natural biological buffer.
â‘ Recognize the value of your employees in the drive for more sustainability on all levels. Your team's understanding and buy-in of the company's statement of purpose is key to success. Can you support and inspire your team to the point where they feel personally vested in your creative ideas?
Grower at Plug Connection, Vista, Calif.
â‘ Structure - Reduce carbon footprint by passive cooling, shade/energy curtains, water run off collection.
â‘ Use bio-degradable pots
â‘ Use natural inputs for fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides - A good source is the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) www.omri.org or Washington State Dept. of Agriculture http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/Organic/MaterialsLists.htm
â‘ Compost green waste
â‘ Recycle paper, plastic, etc.
Sales Manger, Eagle Creek Wholesale Greenhouses,
â‘ Convert to alternative fuel sources for heating. Our new boiler system burns wood chips and wood byproducts mixed with manure. We're looking at using a higher percentage of cow manure and how systems are linked on the agricultural end. In addition to using manure to heat the greenhouse, we can use it to create methane, which can be used to cogenerate heat and electricity at the same time. Right now, we're buying electricity off the grid. Creating our own electricity and selling it back to the grid is our next thing.
â‘ Convert your vehicles to alternative fuel sources. The vehicles we own are run on vegetable oil. The conversion is very doable. We run trucks on biofuel, gas and ethanol with a two-tank system. We can use straight diesel or vegetable oil/soy oil. There is a conversion involved.
â‘ Recycle water by installing ebb and flood benches and/or floors. Eighty percent of our greenhouse utilizes recycled water with ebb and flood floors.
â‘ Find ways to make the finished plant product more sustainable. One example is using biodegradable pots. We tried cowpots but they don't work with automation. We're starting to use the Enviropot this year in the retail environment. There's a big movement to use rice hulls instead of perlite. Perlite production is derived from using petroleum and fossil fuels.
â‘ Use heat retention curtains to conserve energy and promote that you're doing it.
â‘ Recycle plastics and cardboard
â‘ Reuse wooden pallets. When we get supplies shipped in on skids, we take the pallets apart and build racks to ship the roses we grow in containers for Jackson & Perkins. It saves money and it's not wasteful.
â‘ Pursue grants to implement sustainability programs and invest in technology and systems. We believe in it. Once you really look into it, it's financially viable and makes sense and helps save money. If you take the time to look for grants, you'll kick yourself for not doing it. We're looking into 2008 grants and have met with people who write grants. There's a plethora of money out there waiting to be applied for.