As you go through the 2018 growing season, it’s important to keep quality top of mind. Greenhouse Grower recently asked its two most recent Head Grower Excellence in Quality award winners about the steps they take to improve plant quality. Here’s what they had to say.
On the finished end of our business, we are committed to improving crop readiness. We’ve invested in iPads so our team is able to walk the crops and clearly understand readiness dates, make adjustments sooner, and report back to management on the status of the crop. We’re able to manage by exception this way, focusing only on the items that are not ready to sell. We also monetize the impact of what is ready and what isn’t ready. We feel the dollar impact resonates better with the team.
On the liner end of the business, we’re all about being ready for the next actionable item. This keeps product on course and leads to increased efficiencies in the operation. By narrowing the focus to the next step in the process, we aren’t overwhelmed with the sheer number of tasks that need to be accomplished. Simply put, we put roots on, ready the plant for the next step, which can be a trim or a plant growth regulator, then ready it for the next step, which could be an environmental move or lighting regime. If we keep the product on course for the next actionable item, it leads to consistent quality products that our customers will have success with.
I have two goals in 2018 to help ensure that we maintain and expand on our high standard of quality plant material.
My first goal is that we as growers at Dallas Johnson Greenhouses look to hone our skills in our propagation material. We produce millions of seedlings and cuttings for our own use and finish. Having the ability to program and tone that propagation material the way you want to and control your inputs goes a long ways to a quality finished product.
The grower’s mentality to effectively use plant growth regulators and insect/disease control in the plug stage is money well spent. The cost of control and prevention per square foot increases your margins and profitability on your quality material. Using new chemistries right before propagation material is planted in the finish container is a valuable tool to stop the spread to other ranges and allows growers to finish high-quality material. This is not a cure-all approach, but if you and your growing team are diligent, it is a powerful growing tool.
The second goal is mastering our new media mix. This year, we are switching all annual production to a new soil mix that has only two components, and both are sustainable, renewable, compressed, and less costly to ship.
Gone are the days of recipe growers who say “we have always fed with this and not this.” As growers, we make a lot of decisions on what our gut tells us based on what we see in our crop. I do it all the time. If you can’t read your crop, then you probably won’t be a grower for long.
This new media mix and change lays right in to my hands and the growing team’s. It has different lime requirements to achieve our different media pH requirements. Incorporating different fertilizer types (basic or neutral with iron, etc.) and rates for getting various crops established is required. It is exciting to see what we are producing with this new mix. Walking the crop and using a scientific eye, as well as our gut to grow quality plants, is what we should evolve to. It is not easy, but every year is different.