Privatizing The Pipeline

For nearly a century, flower growers have benefited from publicly funded research from USDA and the land-grant university system. As state and federal budgets tighten, these programs are often listed on the chopping block. In other countries the model has changed where there is no more public support for floriculture research. It is all privatized and supported by the floriculture industry. Leading faculty members have told me this could happen in the United States within the next 10 years.

We’re also at a point where many iconic industry educators are ready to retire. Several who come to mind who are of retirement age include Terril Nell and Jim Barrett at the University of Florida, Paul Nelson at North Carolina State University and our own Allan Armitage at the University of Georgia. Floriculture positions that were filled in the 1970s and ’80s are disappearing through attrition.

In my March column, I discussed how floriculture research and Extension programs are being phased out at land-grant universities due to a change in how programs are funded. More faculty members are required to raise money to support projects and programs. Some are engaging geographic or topic-centric communities of growers and allied industry suppliers.

At the same time, we’re seeing an increase in research and development programs by the private sector. While it has been normal for companies in crop protection, varieties, fertilizer and growing media to hire technical experts from academia to conduct research and educate grower customers, we are starting to see more research at the grower level.

Costa Farms near Miami hired Kate Santos with a doctorate from the University of Florida to direct its research and development programs. In addition to testing production methods and inputs, extensive field trials rival many at the university level.

Ken Altman of Altman Plants, who has served on the boards of American Floral Endowment and Floriculture Industry Research & Scholarship Trust, has established The Center For Applied Horticultural Research on his property in Vista, Calif.–a nonprofit organization that addresses practical issues nursery and floriculture growers face. The center’s director, Lucia Villavivencio, holds a doctorate in plant physiology from North Carolina State University.

While both of these growing operations have reputations for being very generous and sharing with the industry, privatized research normally is for private benefit. Let’s flash forward into a future where all floriculture industry research is privatized. What will we have lost?

The research being done most likely would not get published and would not be peer reviewed and held to high scientific standards. The floriculture scientists would not be working together or able to build on each other’s discoveries. A select few would have access, but the industry as a whole would not gain. Results would serve corporate interests.

Where will the big scientific breakthroughs come from if the focus is on solving specific production problems? Would DIF (the mathematical difference between day and night temperatures) have been discovered at someone’s greenhouse as a way to control plant growth? Would we have been able to or motivated to solve the riddles of photoperiod and vernalization requirements outside the university laboratories?

Where will the future scientists the private sector hires come from if there are no more floriculture programs at the universities? Disciplines outside of horticulture? What would make them choose our industry?

It is more imperative than ever for our industry to reinvest in the future, collectively and individually. Support a university program you believe in. Write a check to American Floral Endowment. Support our industry lobbyists’ efforts to secure USDA funds. Keep our pipeline flowing.  

Leave a Reply

4 comments on “Privatizing The Pipeline

  1. Discouraging government involvement in our industry may not be as bad an idea as you might think. One benefit from this philosophy is that when knowledge becomes harder to come by competition is reduced because their are fewer people with the required knowledge to get into the business. That in turn improves the health of the growers who are in the business now.

  2. This is an important article that brings up important points.
    The Center for Applied Horticultural Research (CfAHR) that I sponsor has an independent board of directors and research is published. But there is no way we can offer the benefits of University Research. Universities have a lot more resources and the benefit of multiple researchers and departments collaborating for the good of the entire industry.
    If our industry doesn’t do more to support our Horticultural Departments and we continue to lose resources in those departments it will be a loss for us all.

  3. Discouraging government involvement in our industry may not be as bad an idea as you might think. One benefit from this philosophy is that when knowledge becomes harder to come by competition is reduced because their are fewer people with the required knowledge to get into the business. That in turn improves the health of the growers who are in the business now.

  4. This is an important article that brings up important points.
    The Center for Applied Horticultural Research (CfAHR) that I sponsor has an independent board of directors and research is published. But there is no way we can offer the benefits of University Research. Universities have a lot more resources and the benefit of multiple researchers and departments collaborating for the good of the entire industry.
    If our industry doesn’t do more to support our Horticultural Departments and we continue to lose resources in those departments it will be a loss for us all.

More From State of the Industry...
Lavandula 'Meerlo' (Sunset Western Garden Collection)

March 3, 2015

Why You Will Still Grow Today’s Big Perennial 10 Years From Now

What will be the next big perennial? Breeders say it takes more than a splashy plant to distinguish itself in the market. Therefore, the question is not what will be the next big perennial, but rather what perennial performs well enough in the garden to have staying power in the market for years to come.

Read More

March 2, 2015

Avoid Surprises On The Delivery Dock

A call in advance about problems with a plant shipment to a retailer you supply goes a long way toward customer satisfaction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

March 2, 2015

Deliver Plant Quality That Trumps Price [Opinion]

The industry's goal is to have loyal customers who return to the same plants time and time again, not because of price, but owing to a plant brand that shouts top-notch garden performance and is synonymous with excellence, which gives them the secure knowledge that their investment will be worth every hard-earned cent.

Read More
Latest Stories
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

February 2, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 State Of The In…

The Greenhouse Grower 2015 State Of The Industry Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, including comparisons on 2014 sales to past years, details on how 2015 production volume and prices will compare to 2014, crops that growers will increase and decrease production on, where growers stand on using neonicotinoids on crops, how many growers will pursue growing medical marijuana and more.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Benchmarks: Let’s Change Our Story

It's a new year. Time for our industry to change how consumers perceive plants by creating a new reality where plants are valued for more than their physical beauty.

Read More

January 21, 2015

AFE Wins Platinum MarCom Award For “Murder, Sex a…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) took home its fourth award for the animated awareness video "Murder, Sex and Greed." The organization also recently announced that there are two new members on its board of trustees.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 19, 2015

2015 State Of The Industry: Current Green Industry Tren…

Demand for green industry products and services is forecasted to increase in coming years as the housing market rebounds.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Terra Nigra Joins DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group will be expanding its range of cut flowers by incorporating Terra Nigra, a company specializing in breeding and propagation of gerberas and roses.

Read More

January 14, 2015

Florensis Receives Horticultural Entrepreneur Award

During the January 7, 2015 award ceremony in the Keukenhof, in Lisse, Netherlands, Florensis received the Horticultural Entrepreneur Award. Florensis was one of four nominated companies, which also included Arcadia BV, Artemis and Martens Asperges.

Read More
AmericanHort

January 9, 2015

AmericanHort Celebrates Its First Birthday

AmericanHort was formally launched one year ago on January 1, 2014, and the association is celebrating numerous successes of the first year.

Read More
Carol Miller

January 7, 2015

We’re All In This Together

Growers and retailers have a common goal — to serve customers better. In this new column, Greenhouse Grower will take a look at ways growers and retailers can work together to take advantage of profit opportunities and better meet customer needs.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Industry Speaks Out Against “Waters Of The U.S.” Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule change to the Clean Water Act, known as “waters of the U.S.,” has the potential to disrupt normal business practices for growers across the country.

Read More

January 7, 2015

Students Tackle Real-Life Challenges At National FFA Fl…

Top prize winners put skills learned in the classroom to the test at the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Floriculture Career Development Event.

Read More
Lesley Judd

January 7, 2015

2014 Meister Scholarship Awarded To Ph.D Student

The Richard T. Meister Scholarship was awarded to Lesley Judd, a graduate student with a passion for horticulture and a desire to pass her knowledge along through teaching.

Read More

January 6, 2015

39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium Will Be Febr…

The Professional Gardener Alumni Association (PGAA) will hold the 39th Annual Today’s Horticulture Symposium program will be on February 6, 2015 from 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. in the Ballroom at Longwood Gardens, and will feature an array of engaging speakers.

Read More
Shawn McBurney

January 6, 2015

Society Of American Florists Hires New Lobbyist

Shawn McBurney joined the Society of American Florists' (SAF) staff starting January 5 as the new senior director of government relations.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Growers Are Optimistic For A Strong Year In 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s State Of The Industry survey reveals that growers are being cautious about the inputs they use, and they’re worried about input costs and regulation, but enthusiastic about the rebounding economy.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

The 2015 State Of The Greenhouse Industry: Numbers At A…

Greenhouse Grower's 2015 State Of The Industry Survey shows some promising trends for the new year. Here's a look at the greenhouse market for 2015.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

January 5, 2015

Suppliers Will Increase Prices, Grower Education For 20…

Vendors' expectations are high for 2015, according to their responses on Greenhouse Grower's 2015 State Of The Industry Survey.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

December 31, 2014

2015 State Of The Industry: Major Changes In Washington…

Immigration, tax and regulatory reforms are a few important issues to watch in 2015. Still, the horticulture industry is on the threshold of change and has reason to be optimistic.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower State of the Industry

December 31, 2014

2015 State Of The Industry: 2015 Brings More Debate On …

Pollinator health dominated regulatory discussions in 2014 and will continue to do so in 2015. Expect to see another busy year of regulatory changes and research.

Read More