Greenhouse Growing Goes Electronic With Online Tools And Education

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Figure 1. e-GRO University allows you to watch pre-recorded lectures on greenhouse production topics when it is convenient for you.

The world around us is moving faster and faster everyday. Just think of what you can do with your phone these days. Talk, surf the web, check eMail, snap photos, shoot video, play games — the list grows everyday. In this article, I will cover some of the ways that growers can harness this fast-paced world and the technologies that go with it.
Do any of these describe you?

1) You went to college to learn to be a grower, but clothes styles have changed at least twice since you graduated.

2) You never went to college but you’ve been working in a greenhouse for years and learned with dirt under your fingernails.

3) You just got into this industry and are feeling overwhelmed with everything you have to learn.
Regardless of your level of expertise, many of us find it necessary to go back to the basics and re-learn, review or learn them for the first time. It makes us better growers when we do. The problem is that it usually isn’t easy, no matter how strong your motivation is. We pick up great information at educational programs and in magazine articles but it might be months before we get to apply the knowledge to grow a crop. It can also be difficult to see how it fits into the “big picture” of growing in a greenhouse. We get so focused on the topic being discussed that we lose sight of everything else that is happening around that topic.

E-GRO University Offers Free Education On Multiple Topics
Recently a new offering was added to the resources available at the website e-gro.org. It is called e-GRO University. This is a unique opportunity for seasoned growers to brush up on the basics or for a new grower to learn basic concepts and techniques from the comfort of their own office, or even from their living room sofa with their tablet in hand.

Six university faculty (Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University; Kim Williams, Kansas State University; Brian Whipker, North Carolina State University; Margery Daughtrey, Cornell University; Roberto Lopez, Purdue University; and Brian Krug, the University of New Hampshire) joined forces to develop this introductory greenhouse production course.

e-GRO University consists of dozens of lectures on topics in five categories: Greenhouse Management, Growth Management, Insects and Mites, Nutrient Management and Diseases. See Table 1 for a list of all available lectures. These lectures are usually between 10 and 20 minutes in length and can be watched in any order you wish.

Maybe the best part of e-GRO University is that it is free. Thanks to support from the Fred C. Gloeckner Foundation, you can watch these videos  as much as you want, completely free of charge. e-GRO University tries to give you the experience of being in a classroom without making you step foot on campus. In addition to hearing the speaker and seeing a high-resolution copy of the presentation, you also get to see video of the lecture, and you can even download the slide set of the lectures.

FloriCAST: Greenhouse Education Five Minutes At A Time
You may already be familiar with FloriCAST, an educational video series hosted by Greenhouse Grower that covers various greenhouse production topics in five minutes or less. Over the past four years, there have been more than 200 FloriCAST episodes that cover basic and in-depth topics.

This year, FloriCAST episodes have been contributed by 11 university researchers on subjects including annual and perennial production, pest and disease control and nutrient management. Upcoming episodes cover subjects such as biological control of thrips, and PGRs for growth management of herbaceous perennials.

Growers can have episodes of FloriCAST delivered to their inboxes every week by subscribing to Greenhouse Grower’s Benchrunner eNewsletter at GreenhouseGrower.com/subscribe.You can also browse previous episodes of FloriCAST in the Video section at GreenhouseGrower.com/video.

Online Calculators Save Time
There are several mobile apps and web apps available to make your life as a grower easier and to help you get the job done faster. PGR MixMaster, from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, and Plant Growth Regulator, by OHP, are mobile apps that will assist in calculating PGR dilutions. OHP’s calculator is available for the iPhone. It has the ability to calculate dilutions for its PGR products and provides product information for each.
PGR MixMaster will calculate dilutions for almost all of the major PGRs on the market and is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry.

How would you like to carry a library of references with you wherever you go in the greenhouse? Having the internet at your fingertips is nothing new, but this app lets you take it a step further. John Dole at North Carolina State University has created a database of greenhouse-related articles from scientific literature, trade and association magazines/websites. This database, Floriculture InfoSearch, has decades worth of material, and is easily searched from http://floricultureinfosearch.ces.ncsu.edu/.  

Electronic books can also expand your mobile reference library. Available on a number of mobile devices, electronic books allow you to store bookshelves worth of information in your pocket. A few that are specific to the iPad include:

  • Poinsettia: Fertility Management and Pictorial Guide to Nutrient Disorders
  • Ipomoea – Troubleshooting Guide to Disease, Insect, Nutritional, and Physiological Disorders of Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

These can be found on the iTunes Bookstore or on e-gro.org.

So whether you are early adopter or a bit of a luddite, give one more of these resources a try if you haven’t already. You may find they become a necessity in your greenhouse.

Brian A. Krug is an Extension assistant professor at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. E-mail him at bkrug@ceunh.unh.edu.

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