Avoid Root Rot

One of my former students visited me over the Christmas holidays. He is now what I consider to be one of the best grower-managers of one of the premier greenhouse ranges in the United States.

As old professors often do, I asked him questions just to stimulate his thoughts. I asked, “How do you avoid root rot?”

We then had a half-hour discussion about all the symptoms, the chemical controls and the environmental conditions that could be used to control root rot problems in plants.

It was a very good and valuable exchange of information during which I probably learned more about the recent advancements in this area of plant pathology than he did. I complimented him on his thorough knowledge of the subject.

Then, just to keep him on his toes, I said, “You know a great deal about root rot in plants, but I was trying to determine what you know about root rot in a business.”

I compared the symptoms of plant root rot to the symptoms of root rot in a business. He said that his observations were that there are three stages of development in a business.

First, there is the development stage, secondly the growth phase and then either the maturation or demise of the business.

Breaking Down The Phases

In the development phase, everyone has to work hard and long to obtain the capital it takes to sustain the business. From what I’ve seen over the years, it usually takes three to five years to make a profit on a business in our industry unless you have a source of enough money to build and mature the business before you start.

I have one former student who said it took him and his wife more than 10 years in the development stage to become financially sound. However, today they have a retail growing operation that provides an income of more than $500,000 a year. Their business is now mature and they need to determine what to do with it.

The third stage is usually a difficult transition. The owners need to decide whether to maintain the business, pass it on to family members or sell or close the operation.

Very few horticultural businesses last 100 years. Some only last for a year, some for five years, some 25 or 50 years, but they usually follow the business life cycle. If the owners do not develop a succession plan, the business will eventually die.

Many owners have succession plans but do not share them with family members involved in the business or with their employees because they feel the time is not right. They do not want any of their customers or suppliers to know that they will be leaving the company, because if they are the key figures and have built the company, they have the respect and confidence of customers and suppliers. They want to avoid business root rot as long as possible and leave the business in a strong position for the next CEO to be successful in developing the business further.

Here are six keywords related to root rot in plants and business:

Genetics

If you don’t have the plant varieties that are most resistant to root rot, you will be vulnerable to the disease from the beginning.

With people, root rot may also start with genetics. For example, nepotism, giving family members jobs that they are not capable of doing, or hiring incompetent management. Today, our businesses require many skills. Education is an essential part of the person to be hired. Those best qualified with education and practical experience should be chosen. The chances of root rot in business are high when the right people are not employed.

Product

Perhaps you have chosen the wrong plants or you don’t know how to grow them. Your plants aren’t saleable – a sign of plant root rot.

When your sales don’t increase or you can’t sell what you have grown, there is a lack of profit – a sign of business root rot. You have to identify the cause and solve the problem quickly.

Environment

You need the right environment to grow quality product. Plants need good control of temperature and moisture, appropriate media and proper sanitation. People need the right environment to do their jobs of growing and selling the product.

Many improvements have been made in the last 10 years in each of these areas. Computerization of plant production, logistical management, information technology and sales and marketing have improved tremendously. All these are now essential to produce the plants and move them to where the consumer can purchase them.
When all these systems are working, there is less root rot.

Knowledge

Plants need knowledgeable people to grow them. If the growers don’t have the basic knowledge of the plant sciences, they can’t grow plants successfully. Poor or no plants will mean no business.

Plants have to look good to be sold. The best method of production will be the one that produces the best-looking plants.

People who have not been trained or have no experience growing plants almost always produce poor quality crops that cannot be sold. A successful business usually has the best-qualified growers and managers.

Quality people produce quality plants. Less root rot will occur when the business has both.

Capital

The secret of producing green plants is having the money to grow them. If plants don’t have the proper fertilizers, chemical controls, media, light and temperature, they are more difficult or even impossible to grow. Root rot will occur.
Likewise, if you don’t have money, you can’t hire the skilled people needed to do a proper job of growing the plants. If you don’t have money, you can’t build and maintain the proper facilities to grow the plants.

Many people start in our business because they love plants. They are amateurs who think they can make a living growing plants that other people will love as much as they do. While the thought is wonderful and can give them a feeling of self-satisfaction, most who enter the commercial world of floriculture have major problems when they don’t have the money to build the facilities and hire professional growers and salespeople or the contacts with suppliers of the products they need to compete commercially. No money equals plant and business root rot.

Survival

There is little hope of survival when a plant does not have the proper environment to grow. It will show signs of the problem. All types of symptoms can occur. A professional grower or outside consultant can usually identify the problem, but in many cases it is too late to save the crop. Root rot of the plant will occur.

Also, a business will not survive when all the steps in production and business management are not followed. It will not make a profit and will need to borrow money. Many have borrowed from suppliers, using the supplier as a banker because the bank will not loan them money. When debt becomes too high, the business shows signs of root rot and it may be too late to save it.

Root rot of the plants or the business means neither will survive. My point is that both plants and businesses can suffer from root rot. The prevention of the problem is similar in both!

I hope you will continue to check both your plants and your business to prevent root rot.

Will Carlson is a Michigan State University emeritus professor who has devoted his career to educating growers. He also had the vision to launch Greenhouse Grower magazine with Dick Meister more than 25 years ago. Drop him a line at will@greenhousegrower.com.

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Heating Roundup Feature Image

August 1, 2015

5 New Heating Options For The Greenhouse

Five heating systems manufacturers share their latest and greatest products. Tubing And Aluminum Heat Pipes (BioTherm) From Megatube and MicroClimate tubing to DuoFin and StarFin aluminum heat pipe, BioTherm is dedicated to providing heat solutions that can withstand the toughest greenhouse environments. The MegaTube and MicroClimate tubing options are easy to install and ideal for bench or floor heating. The tubing has a conductive heating surface that allows for maximum root-zone heating. The DuoFin and StarFin aluminum pipe options are great for perimeter heating and melting snow trapped in the greenhouse gutter. It can also be useful for bench heating. Both pipe options provide gentle, radiant heat for plants and don’t require welding. TrueLeaf.net Infinite Energy 2 Condensing Boiler (Delta T Solutions) With up to 98 percent efficiency, the IE2 condensing boiler boasts a stainless steel heat exchanger with larger waterways to ensure maximum heat transfer. The product’s design ensures flexibility while […]

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

July 31, 2015

All-America Selections Promotes Garden-Fresh Cooking

All-America Selections (AAS) has stepped forward with another first when promoting AAS Winners, this time in the form of cooking videos using vegetables/edibles that have performed extremely well in the AAS Trials. These days, a love of gardening is directly related to a passion for cooking. Tying the two together is a natural when marketing joys of cooking with fresh vegetables from the garden and farm market. After 82 years of conducting trials where only the best performers are declared AAS Winners, the organization now has more than 325 individual varieties that have been “Tested Nationally & Proven Locally.” It is some of these many varieties that culinary storyteller, entertainer and horticulture industry veteran Jonathan Bardzik will use in a series of five videos demonstrating cooking techniques with AAS Winning herbs and vegetables. “I am excited to partner with All-America Selections to show people across the country that AAS Winners perform […]

Read More
Burpee Home Gardens Brand Adds Flowers

July 31, 2015

4 Reasons Retailers Snub National Brands

Greenhouse Grower’s lead editor, Laura Drotleff, and I got into a debate about why garden retailers, especially independent garden centers, snub marketing efforts from breeders and growers. She was very much on the breeders’ and growers’ side, expressing frustration about how limited retailers’ vision can be on the topic. I’ve reported on the garden retail side of the industry since 1998, about the same length of time Laura has reported on growers. I’ve heard a lot of retailer views on this, so allow me to share the most common reasons why retailers decline free marketing: Costs. While the marketing materials are free, and sometimes advertising, participating in these projects usually requires minimum orders. From a grower’s perspective, the minimum orders are reasonable. If garden stores promote a plant line, they need to have enough supplies to satisfy demand. From a retail perspective, if inventory reports show a plant line can […]

Read More
Latest Stories

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Berns_Roberto Lopez_Purdue6

July 22, 2015

Cultivate’15 Greenhouse Learning Tour Showcases G…

Growers took advantage of the Greenhouse Learning tour held Saturday, July 11 at Cultivate'15 to see the strategies and technology two successful growing operations are using to tackle production challenges and come out ahead of the game.

Read More
thermoflor

June 16, 2015

Philip Schaafsma To Represent Thermoflor In The U.S.

Philip Schaafsma is a new sales representative for Thermoflor, a company with a lot of experience building garden centers worldwide. The history of the Dutch construction company Thermoflor goes all the way back to 1877. Since then, the company has been through a lot of changes, from simple conservatories to complex glass and steel turnkey projects. With a new sales representative, Thermoflor is well equipped to service the American market. Previously, Petitti Garden Center (Avon, Ohio), Chuck Hafner (Syracuse, N.Y.), Jacob’s Garden (Ottowa Lake, Mich.), Hicks Nurseries (Westbury, N.Y.) and Holes (Alberta, Ca.) were all built by Thermoflor. After a period of absence, the company is now  represented in the U.S. and Canada by Schaafsma, who has more than 40 years of experience in retail lawn and garden, greenhouse growing and the floral industry, and is a former board member of the Garden Centers of America. Schaafsma is the former owner […]

Read More

June 15, 2015

Hortica Insurance To Become Member Of Sentry Insurance …

Upon completion and approval of an affiliation agreement, Hortica Insurance (Florists' Mutual Insurance Company) will become a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, based in Stevens Point, Wis. As a member of the Sentry Insurance Group, Hortica keeps its name and brand and will continue doing business from its current headquarters in Edwardsville, Ill.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

June 2, 2015

Cal-Poly Students Seek Continued Industry Support To Sa…

Agriculture students and faculty at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, want industry members to continue to stand with them in their effort to preserve Class 1 agricultural land from being repurposed. The university recently released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential and/or recreational space. According to Joel Leonard of Students For Agriculture, an organization of Cal-Poly students in favor of saving the land, the Master Planning Committee will be meeting over the summer to form a final version of its plan and present it once more to the public in the fall, before it is submitted for final approval to the California Board of Trustees. Students For Agriculture’s goal in the meantime is to increase awareness and rally industry supporters to continue to send their input to the planning committee. Visit studentsforag.com to see more […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save…

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
Barry_Sturdivant_columnpic

May 8, 2015

How To Survive Succession Planning And Resolve Conflic…

If you work in agriculture, you most likely work with family-owned businesses. This is especially true within the greenhouse industry. I’m fortunate to work for a company that specializes in financing and supporting such businesses. Family-owned businesses often have a level of commitment and support that helps during lean times. This is important for a company exposed to seasonality and events that are sometimes beyond management’s control. Business owners and management are constantly looking for solutions to the unique issues faced by these small but complex businesses. Specifically, how these issues affect the transition from one generation to the next. There are many family enterprise success stories, cases of harmony, health and longevity. Yet it’s no secret that family businesses can struggle with governance, leadership transitions and even survival. According to the Family Business Institute, only 30 percent of family businesses last into the second generation, 12 percent remain viable […]

Read More

April 30, 2015

North Creek Nurseries Welcomes Nikki Drake As New Finan…

Nikki Drake will fill the role of new financial administrator at North Creek Nurseries, with responsibility for the accounting department. She will also serve on the strategic planning committee.

Read More
Andy Huntington Pleasant View

April 29, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Promotes Andy Huntington to Natio…

Pleasant View Gardens recently announced that Andy Huntington will be the company’s National Sales Manager. Huntington, who has years of horticulture industry experience, will oversee national territory and inside sales departments, while fostering strong partnerships with customers. “Our relationships with customers are central to all that we do at Pleasant View,” Huntington says. “In my new role, I am excited to work with a broader base of broker, grower and retail partners to understand their business needs. Pleasant View’s goal is to be so in tune with our customers that we are able to anticipate their problems before they arise.” Huntington has a history of growing sales and forming long-lasting relationships with a diverse customer base. For the past two years, he has been working as a territory account manager for Pleasant View Gardens, responsible for young plant liner sales in New England and New York. Prior to that, Huntington was […]

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More