Grower Trials Benefit The Whole Industry [Opinion]

Robin SiktbergEach year, growers are faced with the choice of what to grow for the following spring. It’s an important decision requiring evaluation of a number of factors: what sold well last year, what shipped well, what will fit into the production schedule, what had a decent profit margin. And then there are the hundreds of new varieties that are introduced each year. Which ones should a grower try, if any?

This is where field trials come in, and is one reason we devote significant space to the results in our November issue each year. Trials are where the wheat is separated from the chaff.

Field trials used to be the primary province of university horticulture departments, but more and more, growers are running their own. It is a significant investment of time and resources, so what is the reason?

Al Gerace, owner of Welby Gardens in Fort Collins, Colo., says he realized more than 30 years ago that the results he was seeing at trials around the country and abroad did not reflect the performance he was seeing in Colorado.
So Gerace began his own trials in the early 1990s and now evaluates up to 1,200 varieties each year. He says there are many benefits, both tangible and intangible.

“We invite our customers, breeders and other growers to our annual Open House, and about 300 people usually attend,” Gerace says. ”We ask each person to vote for their 10 favorites. We distribute trials plants (100 each) to selected retailers to conduct their own evaluations and let the public give their input. We also grow out another trial of the best of the items for spring promotion at about 20 participating retailers and send out a member of our staff to introduce these new varieties to the public at these locations.”

In addition, Gerace says having trials at his own operation allows the growers and sales team to learn about the merits of each new introduction and become familiar with the particular characteristics of each breeding company.
“It’s a great way to launch new varieties, keep the selection fresh and pique interest in our assortment of offerings,” Gerace says. “Having our own trials helps maintain our leadership in the field, keeps our customers and staff informed and makes our own contributions to the evolution of this very dynamic industry.”

While many growers are not large enough to conduct and maintain their own trials, enough large growers are doing so that it is benefiting the whole industry. University trials are still valuable, but given the vast climactic diversity between regions and the tremendous number of new varieties to be tested, it’s a win-win that growers are getting into the game, too.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Editorial...
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Apricot'

February 25, 2015

National Garden Bureau Designates 2015 As Year Of The Gaillardia

Gaillardia, also known as the blanket flower, is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) and a long-blooming pollinator plant. It is fitting that the National Garden Bureau has specified 2015 as The Year of the Gaillardia.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Annual Meeting Date

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
Evolvulus Blue My Mind

February 24, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bloomers For Greenhouse Production

Grow what consumers want! Surveys show that blue is one of the top preferred colors of today’s consumers. Here are twelve top recommended blue-flowering Proven Winners annuals and perennials to suit your spring production cycle.

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

February 10, 2015

Biocontrols Aren’t Scary [Opinion]

Crafting a softer pest management program is likely in everyone’s future — if it’s not here already, especially due to increasing regulation and growing consumer concern over pesticide use. Learn more about biocontrols to determine how they could fit in with your goals and production practices.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

January 5, 2015

“Growers Are Artisans” [Opinion]

We need to elevate the craft of growing to attract young talent to our industry.

Read More

December 1, 2014

Consumers, Retailers Only Hearing Voices Of Protest

Speak up about your operation's responsible practices.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

November 12, 2014

5 Ways Growers Can Be More Sustainable [Opinion]

While you're still preparing your operation for spring and investing in new ideas, consider employing some of these improvements to save money and resources.

Read More

October 1, 2014

Greenhouse Grower Issues A New Challenge To The Industr…

Let's rally behind the healthy pollinators initiative. How will you step up to the challenge?

Read More

September 15, 2014

What Does Precision Horticulture Mean To You?

Precision horticulture is what you do every day — growing with precision for efficiency and profitability.

Read More

July 28, 2014

How Gen X & Y Horticulturists Will Change The Indus…

Seek out young professionals in the industry and in your operation to develop new ways to do business, improve communication and address consumers. How have you cultivated ideas from younger generations?

Read More
Laura Drotleff

July 8, 2014

Consider Hiring Non-Traditional Growers To Secure Our I…

Your operation can benefit from hiring returning veterans, professionals changing careers and non-traditional students, in addition to horticulture graduates. Where have you had luck recruiting?

Read More
Carol Miller

June 3, 2014

Consumer Success Is Key To Industry Success [Opinion]

Many breeders are aware of the problem and are striving to ensure that plants in a customer’s home garden will live up to the visual appeal the plant has on a store display bench. A lot of the resulting plants were on display in California.

Read More

June 3, 2014

Active Grower Voices Are Invaluable To Retailers, Consu…

Creating our own advocacy is an important tool in areas like presenting science-based knowledge about pollinator health, and informing the public about how growers already preserve natural resources through responsible practices like integrated pest management (IPM), water reclamation and recycling, plastic recycling and sustainability initiatives.

Read More

May 7, 2014

Stand Firm, But Speak Gently

Teach your community about how much the floriculture industry depends on pollinators and the responsible actions we take to ensure their safety. Listen to consumer concerns, help build bee havens and hotels and promote and plant pollinator-friendly gardens.

Read More

March 26, 2014

The Case For Locally Grown

A growing consumer desire for locally grown produce is one reason greenhouse ornamentals producers should consider vegetable production.

Read More

March 10, 2014

Geek Is The New Chic

Let's make it a priority to show kids and the general public how cool horticulture really is.

Read More

February 1, 2014

Are eCommerce And Non-Traditional Retail Outlets Right …

Evaluate your business to determine how you can make your products and services more relevant to next-generation consumers.

Read More

December 31, 2013

Plants Are Our Friends — With Benefits

Communicating the health benefits of plants is an effective way to market to younger generations.

Read More
Laura Drotleff (right) and Robin Siktberg

December 2, 2013

Change And The Next 30 Years Of The Greenhouse Industry…

The December 2013 issue of Greenhouse Grower is all about change. Change for you and your greenhouse business and for our industry as a whole. Some changes will be no-brainers. Some will be hard. Some will take a lot of imagination and creativity. But they’re all changes for the better.

Read More

October 18, 2013

Grower Trials Benefit The Whole Industry [Opinion]

Each year, growers are faced with the choice of what to grow for the following spring. It’s an important decision requiring evaluation of a number of factors: what sold well last year, what shipped well, what will fit into the production schedule, what had a decent profit margin. And then there are the hundreds of new varieties that are introduced each year. Which ones should a grower try, if any? This is where field trials come in, and is one reason we devote significant space to the results in our November issue each year. Trials are where the wheat is separated from the chaff. Field trials used to be the primary province of university horticulture departments, but more and more, growers are running their own. It is a significant investment of time and resources, so what is the reason? Al Gerace, owner of Welby Gardens in Fort Collins, Colo., says […]

Read More

September 12, 2013

Smaller, Longer-blooming Shrubs Are Becoming More Popul…

If I hadn’t noticed before, it would’ve been hard to miss the trend toward dwarf shrubs as submissions came in for our perennial and shrub roundup. I’m glad to see it — while I love forsythia, spiraea and viburnums in all their giant glory, the larger sizes are not always practical. Novice gardeners are intimidated by the need to prune these larger shrubs in order to keep them within the bounds of the landscape bed, especially if they are near the house. Breeders are working hard to produce newer, smaller versions of old favorites. Many are selected for longer bloom times or reblooming and offer foliage interest, as well. Nowhere is this more evident than in the genus hydrangea.  A particular favorite of mine at Spring Trials this year was Hydrangea ‘Bobo,’ by Proven Winners. At just three feet tall, this H. paniculata cultivar still has full-size flowers, giving maximum […]

Read More