Sixty-five percent of the world’s cuttings currently are imported to the North American market, according to Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Cuttings Producers Survey. With that kind of volume comes a great deal of responsibility on the part of cuttings producers to provide growers with clean material, to keep the supply lines open, and to work with breeders and distributors to fulfill the industry’s needs and demands for a large number of varieties.
These farms, owned by breeders and independent producers, have been diligently working to ensure their facilities are pristine, their workers are educated and well cared for, the inputs they use are environmentally sound, and their products are clean. They’re also working with industry organizations and government agencies like USDA to ensure understanding and cooperation to safeguard our industry from misunderstandings, and maintain a steady, reliable supply of vegetative cuttings to the marketplace.
In Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Top Cuttings Producers Survey, we asked the world’s largest unrooted cuttings producers to tell us about what they’re working on, what concerns them, and what they’re excited about — and how all of these things affect growers.
|2016 Rank||Company||Cuttings Produced (% for North America)||Production Space Dedicated To Cuttings||Crops||Production Facilities|
|1||Dümmen Orange||1.4 billion (24%)||375 acres||Annuals, Perennials, Cut Flowers, Flowering Potted Plants, Herbs, Succulents, Tropicals||Guatemala (2), El Salvador, Netherlands, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, Uganda, U.S.|
|2||Beekenkamp||1 billion (1%)||76 acres||Annuals, Perennials, Cut Flowers, Flowering Potted Plants||Ethiopia, Uganda|
|3||Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm||500 million (N/A)||63 acres||Annuals, Perennials, Cut Flowers, Flowering Potted Plants||Israel, Kenya, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia|
|4||Selecta Klemm||380-400 million (15%)||125 acres||Annuals, Perennials, Cut Flowers, Flowering Potted Plants, Herbs, Woody Ornamentals||Israel, Kenya, Spain, Uganda|
|5||Syngenta Flowers||290 million (100%)*||177 acres*||Annuals||Guatemala, Mexico, U.S.*|
|6||Cohen Propagation Nurseries||200-220 million (15%)||38 acres||Annuals||Israel|
|7||Florensis||210 million (2%)||91 acres||Annuals, Perennials, Cut Flowers, Flowering Potted Plants, Tropicals, Foliage Plants, Herbs, Woody Ornamentals||Ethiopia, Kenya, Portugal, Spain, Netherlands|
|8||Ball FloraPlant||200+ million (80%)||115 acres||Annuals||Guatemala, Nicaragua, Israel, Mexico, Portugal, Ethiopia, Kenya|
|9||Kientzler/Innovaplant de Costa Rica||110-120 million||23 acres||Annuals, Perennials||Costa Rica|
|10||Vivero Internacional||105 million (100%)||110 acres||Annuals, Perennials, Flowering Potted Plants||Mexico|
|11||Aris Horticulture||80-100 million (100%)||164 acres||Perennials, Flowering Potted Plants, Herbs||U.S., Canada|
|12||Grolink Plant Co.||70 to 80 million (100%)||23 acres||Annuals, Cut Flowers||U.S.|
|13||Darwin Perennials||50-60 million (92%)||17 acres||Perennials, Herbs, Groundcovers||Colombia|
Reading The Rankings
In the past year, there have been some changes in acreage and production output among cuttings producers. Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm climbed the rankings from Number 8 to Number 3, extending its cuttings business by 26 acres and two countries, as it now lists properties in Ecuador and Colombia. Beekenkamp has grown another 7 acres, while Selecta Klemm has also grown by 34 acres, increased production by 40-50 million cuttings, and expanded into Israel. Vivero Internacional has grown by 11 acres and is producing another 5 million cuttings. Aris Horticulture has moved into the rankings, producing up to 100 million cuttings on 164 acres. Darwin Perennials has increased production at its Colombia facilities by about 20 million cuttings annually.
Meanwhile, Kientzler/Innovaplant has scaled back a few acres and about 20 million cuttings, and GroLink reports 18 fewer acres of production space from 2015, although it has maintained the same number of cuttings produced.
Overcoming Obstacles To Deliver Quality
With few disease issues to speak of in the past year or two, offshore producers say the overall quality of unrooted cuttings has become more reliable, and some say it is the strongest it has been in years. That said, however, producers remain vigilant to heighten quality, cleanliness, and order-fill reliability.
Recently, eliminating the use of the neonicotinoid class of chemistry from production has been necessary for some producers, to provide neonic-free cuttings to grower customers. Producers say the loss of this class has been a challenge, but it’s a change they have been willing and able to make to fulfill growers’ needs for unrooted cuttings with zero trace of neonicotinoid application.
“It has set a new industry standard, which is in a way beneficial since, for a long time, we have been reducing our chemical use in favor of IPM,” says Robbert Hamer of Florensis. “Since all suppliers have to comply, it levels the playing field, and we reap the rewards of our investments.”
As 66% of cuttings producers say they are providing neonicotinoid-free cuttings to growers, and 17% are providing a mix of cuttings — some neonic-free and some that have been treated with neonics — there is a need to replace those products.
Increased integrated pest management (IPM) and use of biocontrols are two areas in which producers are investing time and effort to produce quality cuttings.
“The elimination of neonicotinoids at our facilities requires an unwavering focus on IPM,” says Kate Santos of Dümmen Orange. “Scouting, also with early, accurate detection paired with the best rotation of targeted, approved products, is the best approach to execute and requires constant vigilance to manage. We have made significant inroads in this and have created a team that oversees this across all of our farms to ensure that information, training, and strategies are shared and followed. We see that secondary pests, like mealybugs, that were once managed by a neonicotinoid are now becoming more of a primary issue, and require us to identify new protocols to manage.”
The use of biological controls and beneficial insects has been a gray area in the past due to the zero-tolerance policy for any type of insect at the U.S. border, but some producers are using them in limited ways, like in elite stock production.
“As we were already experimenting with biologicals in production, [losing neonicotinoids] sped up this process,” says Martijn Kuiper of Beekenkamp. “This is still in an experimental phase, but we are trialing the use of these products.”
Working Together To Improve The Supply Chain
Producers have become more involved in working with USDA to educate the agency about the issues involved in the importation of cuttings. They say there are ongoing improvements and USDA is becoming easier to work with on a program basis.
AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are enlisting cuttings producers’ help in developing policy like the Geranium Certification program, and there are discussions underway to manage other imported crops under similar structures. Even the use of biological control agents in offshore cuttings production could become more of a reality with this increased cooperation. It’s a work in progress, Kuiper says.
“We are starting to work with USDA on importing cuttings with beneficial insects,” Kuiper says. “This is not an easy process, as at the moment, all unidentified insects will be sent to a specialist for determination, which results in a hold on the shipments.”
Challenges And Opportunities Await
Weather and labor are challenges for breeders and cuttings producers, just as much as they are for growers. But producers also mentioned increased production costs and the availability of crop protection products to be of concern.
“Increasing restricted use of chemicals that’s driven by emotion, not rationale [is a challenge],” Hamer says. “Further, many big box retailers and countries have their own rules on residues and allowed chemicals, making import a very big puzzle. Importing unrooted cuttings from external sources becomes increasingly difficult since these sources may have used chemicals that are not allowed.”
A growing demand for cuttings during peak periods is making unrooted cutting production more expensive and putting a strain on labor.
“Growers are doing less early and late product and focusing their sales on the peak market — this is driving increased demand for peak season cuttings and less demand for shoulder seasons,” Davidson says.
Spreading the risk beyond spring will help everyone in the supply chain, from breeders to growers to retailers.
Meanwhile, producers are excited about technology coming into the marketplace, like the new robots that will automate the sticking process.
“The automation process of sticking cuttings will change the way we produce cuttings,” Kuiper says. “It will be interesting to see how this will develop.”