A chemistry that is off patent isn’t necessarily generic, especially when it has an expanded-use label that not even the original formulation allowed.
This is what growers in the U.S. ornamental market will understand when they come to know brands from Fine Americas, a newer subsidiary of Fine Agro Chemicals Ltd., with 23 years of experience developing plant growth regulators (PGRs) in the ornamental and fruit markets. The company is 100 percent dedicated to providing not only quality PGR products but also application solutions that go beyond the traditional methods and are backed by trials from the top researchers in the United States.
Greg Johnson, vice president of sales and marketing for Fine Americas, says the company’s focus remains defining and commercializing PGRs. “Our expertise is on the PGR side, and for a company our size, we’re putting in a lot of development because these products are very important for us,” he says.
Going Off Patent
Fine’s five main products — Piccolo, Dazide, Fresco, Florgib and Concise — are all off-patent chemistries. Florgib and Fresco are gibberellic-acid-based products to increase plant and bract size, while Piccolo, Dazide and Concise are anti-gibberellins that make plants more compact and increase flowering.
Johnson uses Piccolo, a paclobutrazol product, as an example of how Fine has taken an off-patent chemistry and made it unique through research and an expanded label.
“Piccolo is the only PGR with a liner dip label,” he says. “We have worked with a number of the key researchers, such as Brian Whipker (North Carolina State University), Jamie Gibson (University of Florida), Joyce Latimer (Virginia Tech University) and Jim Barrett (University of Florida), to expand labels to allow growers more flexible use of the PGRs. We see the need and then we go out and try to commercialize those benefits by expanding the labels or maybe modifying formulations to make them better for growers to use.”
The liner dip technology is just what it sounds like, Johnson says. Growers can dip rooted cuttings or liners into the product and it absorbs into the media. Fine Americas received EPA approval for this pre-transplant soak method in September.
“We’ve seen a lot more growers using liner dip applications and that’s why we’ve expanded our Piccolo label,” he says. “Sometimes they have the liner in for a defined time frame and they measure how much moisture is on that liner prior to application. All the key researchers have done a lot of work on this to define a method.”
University trials have shown the treatment is highly effective in reducing the height of very vigorous plants, with a particular benefit of allowing the use of variable Piccolo rates in mixed containers. This provides greater plant growth uniformity in the end product, according to Johnson.
“The use of Piccolo as a liner dip opens up tremendous opportunities for growers who strive to grow a superior crop,” he says.
Fine Americas advises growers to always test a few plants first to determine optimal rates for their particular operation and conditions.
In August, the company introduced Concise, a uniconazole formulated as soluble concentrate. Concise produces more compact and marketable plants across a broad range of ornamentals from bedding plants and potted flowering crops to herbaceous and woody perennials. Its label offers growers flexibility in application because it can be used as a foliar spray, drench, dip and media spray. Johnson says Fine Americas has received registration for Concise in most states but the company is waiting on registration in New York and California.
An Economic Approach
In addition to expanding applications and improving PGR formulations, Fine is focusing on providing technical assistance and information technology to growers using its products.
“We’re committed to quality products and support of our products,” Johnson says. “That goes in to providing material that meet their needs, expanding product labels and technical support because of our expertise in this market.”
In the coming years, Johnson says he feels off-patent chemistries will be a benefit to growers looking for expanded application technology, as well as those aiming to reduce input costs.
“They’re going to be a benefit to the grower and also to the industry because they are allowing growers additional tools for their use,” he says. “Expanding research in this area is going to be beneficial because it will make the products more efficient to use and potentially an economic advantage to the grower. With the cost of energy and everything else, growers are continuing to look at how they manage all of their costs. So if we can provide a tool that helps them manage their business and their costs better, they’re very open.”
While Fine Americas provides third-party comparison testing for the various products its PGRs compete against, Johnson says the company encourages growers to do their own comparisons and evaluations of Fine’s products.
“Growers are continuing to look at their input costs and all growers are going to evaluate the products in their greenhouse conditions,” he says. “It’s important for us to be able to show growers the performance and similarities but they are going to apply and evaluate, which we very much encourage. Once they’ve done that, we’ve seen a very quick adoption of Piccolo in the industry because of the benefits that we’re providing: very broad label, flexible applications and also an economic advantage.”
With increased competition and retail consolidation to consider, Johnson says he is seeing more growers of all sizes expanding their use of PGRs, especially active PGRs such as Piccolo and Concise.
“There was a first generation of PGRs with a little less active compound. Triazols are what I call second generation PGRs,” he says. “They’re more concentrated, and Piccolo falls in that category because it’s very flexible to apply, especially now with our liner dip application. Growers can apply it as a liner dip, drench, sprench or spray, so it allows for different modes of application and has a very broad label, which we’re expanding. So I think Piccolo is one of the key PGRs in the ornamental PGR arsenal.”
Johnson says while growers are using PGRs more, they’re also doing it with a more careful approach to applications.
“Right now I see more specific applications of PGRs, almost more of a pharmaceutical approach to growing crops,” he says. “Everyone is looking at what’s the best way of growing their crops and getting quality, and that’s going to be ever-changing. It depends on the grower and the crop itself and what they’re trying to accomplish.”