For many years, this Mid-September Young Plants Issue has been my baby. If an editor isn’t careful, the content of a bonus issue can be more of an afterthought, but this is an issue I look forward to publishing all year. It’s an opportunity to really focus and capture what is going on with our supply chain for live inputs–our pipeline to profits.
I can still recall the first time I heard the term, “young plant grower.” It was during an interview with Tom Smith of Four Star Greenhouse about 14 years ago. He said, “As a young plant grower … ” and I wondered what he had meant. Sure, he was younger than a lot of the grower owner-entrepreneurs at the time. Then I found out that’s what they called plug and liner growers in Europe.
This issue started out as a Plug Guide. We presented the latest university research to help growers produce better plugs from seed and store them, if plants needed to be held. But over time, plug producers emerged as a highly specialized segment with most growers buying plugs instead of growing their own.
In the late ’90’s, vegetative annuals came on strong and we started giving cuttings at least equal time and renamed this issue the Young Plants Issue. With most of the cuttings coming in from offshore, I was determined to fully understand the market channels from breeder-producer to finished grower.
In Europe, the channels are more vertical with breeders working directly with young plant growers who sell directly to finished plant growers. If a breeder wants strong market penetration in the United States, the breeder needs a network of young plant growers aligned with multiple brokers in each region.
Whenever I try to explain how the system works to people who are new to the industry, the information is overwhelming. I tell them the best way to learn this side of the industry is to go to Pack Trials or read our past Mid-September issues.
One of my favorite parts of putting this issue together is tracking the key players over time and gaining a wealth of market research through our Top 25 Young Plant Growers and Top 10 Cuttings Producers surveys. This is where you can see who is thriving, where the growth is coming from and what obstacles are in the way. Check out these reports on pages 14 and 18. These rankings began as Top 10 Plug Growers and Top 10 Liner Growers, but we merged them when more plug growers started rooting cuttings.
This issue also provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on some of the operations represented in these rankings. Knox Nursery continues to break new ground tracking plug trays with RFID. (page 28) Speedling’s new CEO Greg Davis shares his insights and plans for the future. (page 8) We also invited Selecta First Class to share the positive contributions it has made in Uganda through a venture with the Wagagai cuttings farm. (page 22) Enjoy your literary tour of these progressive operations!