Enhancing Crop Protection

Enhancing Crop Protection

Surviving tough economic times is top of mind for Tim Landers (pictured at right), just as it is for many Americans in 2009.

“House plants aren’t something people require to survive,” says Landers, owner of Benchmark Foliage, Inc., in Plymouth, Fla. “People are hunkering down and doing without a lot of frills. Even corporations have cut back on their interiorscaping. So, we’ve reduced production a bit and followed cost-cutting measures, and I believe we’ll come through just fine.”

Still, foliage production has always been a labor of love for Landers. His interest in gardening dates back to eighth grade in his native Alabama, where he began helping his mother tend to her flower and vegetable beds. After receiving a degree in horticulture from Auburn University, he began working in nurseries across the Southeast, and he taught vocational horticulture to high school students for nine years.

Tropical Delights

Landers purchased Benchmark in 1995 and began growing a wide variety of foliage plants, including dieffenbachia, schefflera, ficus, crotons, Neanthe Bella palm, three varieties of peace lilies, 10 varieties of ferns and 20 ivy varieties. “We’re really big in ivy,” he says.

Producing on roughly 10 acres in 500,000 square feet of growing space, Benchmark grows strictly indoor foliage. One of Landers’ shade houses covers three acres, while two others encompass an acre and a quarter each. The company has 14 full-time employees, increasing to 19 or 20 during the height of the season.

“When you come down to it, we’re just farmers,” Landers says. “We don’t broker anything. Everything we sell, we grow. I’m FOB (Free On Board) at my front door. We supply mostly mom-and-pop garden centers and mom-and-pop florists, using brokers from Miami to California.”

Benchmark Foliage starts its crops in several different ways. In the case of dieffenbachia, Landers buys tissue culture plugs, grows them out and uses cuttings so they are always F1 generation. He buys croton cuttings from Costa Rica every week, roots them and grows them out to sell in several sizes.

His quickest turnaround is 3-inch ivy, which he roots and sells within 12 to 14 weeks. On the other hand, he grows Neanthe Bella palm from seed, selling some as 3-inch plants. He then bumps the remaining plants into larger pots to grow into an 8-inch crop, which can take longer than two years to harvest.

Insects & Disease

Perhaps Landers’ biggest challenge is dealing with insects and diseases in hot, humid Central Florida. In addition to spider mites, a problem on almost all of his crops, Landers fights thrips, mealybugs and a plethora of pathogens.

“I have the most headaches with ivy and crotons,” he says. “We spray pesticides year-round, but it’s definitely more concentrated in the spring and summer months.”

Though he rotates a catalog of pesticide products for resistance management, Landers always adds the same foliar surfactant to the tank mix. He started using CapSil spray adjuvant from Aquatrols with systemic pesticides or laminar spreaders to help move the product through the leaves of the plant. “CapSil really helps them spread through the leaves,” Landers says. “I’ve also used it as a spreader-sticker for products that don’t stick well to the leaves.”

In particular, crotons and palms have slick, shiny leaves, and it’s often hard to get a pesticide to stick to them.

“Anything you pour on croton leaves usually runs right off,” Landers says. “But if I add CapSil to the tank, the pesticide sticks to the leaves and spreads nicely for thorough coverage. If a product sticks well, it lasts longer and you don’t have to turn around and apply it again as quickly.

“It also saves water. I’ve seen a marked increase on how long I can go between pesticide sprays with CapSil.”

Gauging Production

Especially during these trying economic times, anything that can help minimize the number of pesticide applications is a welcome addition to Landers’ growing program. After insect and disease control, his second biggest challenge is planning production. He’s seen a decrease in orders in the last few years, so gauging how much to plant is tricky.

“The good news is I haven’t lost any customers,” he says. “But when we are planting in the spring for fall production, it can be a bit of a guessing game. We have reduced production to a certain degree, but we don’t want to cut back too much. I’m basically optimistic things will improve.”

Traditionally, labor has been a problem, but it’s one thing that hasn’t been bad lately, according to Landers. “Some of my people have been here more than 10 years. I’m blessed to have such great group of employees,” he says.

Despite his optimism, Landers does worry about the future of the industry. “Gardening used to be the number one hobby in the United States,” he says. “Now, it’s the Internet. Kids don’t want to sweat and dig in the ground anymore. Where will the foliage industry leaders come from if no one has a love of growing plants?”

Leave a Reply

More From Insect Control...

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Horticulture Priorities

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadlines Approaching

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More
Latest Stories

February 17, 2015

A New Look At Biological Control: Can Plants Affect The…

The success of a biological control program depends on a number of factors including quality of natural enemies, timing of release, release rates and environmental conditions. However, what is typically not taken into consideration is how plants can affect the performance of natural enemies, including attack rate and searching ability. Biological control agents work hard to protect plants, but plants have ways to help themselves, too.

Read More

February 1, 2015

New Pest Control Products For Your Toolbox

Add one of these new insecticides to your IPM program for successful pest control.

Read More

January 29, 2015

IR-4: A Pest Management Resource For Growers

Almost 40 years ago, IR-4 (Interregional Research Project Number 4) began serving the ornamental horticulture industry, helping to facilitate the registration of pest management tools. IR-4 does this primarily by surveying growers about their pest management issues and then hosting workshops to review survey results and set priorities for the coming years. Most recently, IR-4 coordinated a meeting of researchers and industry members on pollinator health and neonicotinoid chemistries to start a discussion on the needed research. The next step will be to get the outcomes from that workshop out to the public.

Read More

January 28, 2015

Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow: Peace Tree…

Lloyd Traven, a speaker at the upcoming Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow, was one of the industry’s early adopters of biocontrols in the greenhouse. Traven, owner of Peace Tree Farm, is evangelical about the technology as an effective tool for resistance management, as well as improved plant quality that contributes to a grower’s bottom line.

Read More

January 22, 2015

Quality Control With Biocontrols

Make sure the shipment of beneficials that just arrived is viable and ready to go to work in your greenhouse, nursery, or field. Here are five steps you can take to ensure success with your biocontrols.

Read More
As directed by EPA, the bee hazard icon appears in the Directions For Use for each application site for specific use restrictions and instructions to protect bee and other pollinators.

December 9, 2014

Fact Sheet: The Value Of Neonicotinoids To Turf And Orn…

An extensive study of the diverse turf and ornamental industry (“The Green Industry”) reveals that neonicotinoids are the top-rated products used by professionals to control their most important pests in greenhouses, landscapes, lawns, nurseries and trees.

Read More
As directed by EPA, the bee hazard icon appears in the Directions For Use for each application site for specific use restrictions and instructions to protect bee and other pollinators.

December 9, 2014

New Study Finds Neonicotinoids Are Top-Rated Products F…

According to results of a survey by AgInfomatics, professionals in the turf and ornamental industries fear the loss of neonicotinoid products would reduce the quality of their plants and services, increase costs and negatively impact their ability to manage pest resistance.

Read More

November 21, 2014

Ramped-Up Predatory Mite Production To Benefit Growers

Biological pest control company Beneficial Insectary is now producing both Amblyseius (=Neoseiulus) cucumeris and Stratiolaelaps scimitus (formerly Hypoaspis miles) at its facility in California. Domestic production in the U.S. is now benefiting growers in North America by reducing the transit time of perishable predatory mites between producer and grower.

Read More

November 14, 2014

Skagit Gardens To Eliminate Use Of Neonicotinoid Pestic…

Skagit Gardens, a wholesale grower located outside Mount Vernon, Wash., will eliminate all use of neonicotinoid pesticides beginning in January 2015.

Read More

November 11, 2014

Clarification: White House Recommends Sourcing Insectic…

UPDATE: The Obama Administration's addendum to the Sustainable Practices for Designed Landscapes applies only to federal agencies “implementing landscaping practices on agency-owned or leased land or space.”

Read More

October 27, 2014

New Insecticides Offer Alternatives For Growers

Chemistry advances in insecticides broaden growers’ pest management options, without compromising control.

Read More

October 14, 2014

Pollinator Legislation Could Help Solve One Piece Of Th…

AmericanHort encourages industry members to contact their members of Congress to support legislation that would require federal agencies to take greater action to deal with parasite and disease factors impacting the health of managed bees, specifically focusing on Varroa mites.

Read More

October 7, 2014

New Jersey Green Industry Council Will Host Pollinator …

The New Jersey Green Industry Council's 2014 Pollinator Summit is an event and issue briefing for everyone who works in the green industry, agriculture, or related industries. The event will take place Nov. 11 at the National Conference Center, East Windsor, N.J.

Read More

September 22, 2014

Seattle City Council To Vote On Citywide Ban Of Neonico…

On September 17, a committee of the Seattle City Council endorsed a ban on the purchase and use of neonicotinoid products on city property. The measure includes supportive language for sales and use bans for all use patterns, including plants, seeds or products containing neonicotinoids in the city, and support for a national moratorium on products.

Read More
Gary Mangum

August 12, 2014

What Bell Nursery Learned From Growing Without Neonicot…

Determined to find out firsthand what a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides would mean for growers, Bell Nursery CEO Gary Mangum challenged his team to grow without them. Read to find out about the lessons he learned.

Read More
As directed by EPA, the bee hazard icon appears in the Directions For Use for each application site for specific use restrictions and instructions to protect bee and other pollinators.

August 5, 2014

Do You Use Neonicotinoids And Systemic Insecticides? [S…

Take this quick industry survey to help gauge the economic impact of these tools, and inform regulators about their value.

Read More

July 21, 2014

Spider Mites: The Summer Scourge

Spider mite resistance is becoming an increasing problem in greenhouse production. Scouting, biocontrols and miticides can help you take back control of spider mites this summer.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 12, 2014

Watch Neonicotinoids: Cutting Through the Clutter Live …

Date: Saturday, July 12 10:45 am – 11:30 am Location: Ballroom 2 Speakers: Joseph Bischoff, PhD, Lin Schmale http://bit.ly/1nhJdQQ Description: Much has been written and is being circulated about the impact that neonicotinoid insecticide use could be having on pollinator populations. Because not all the questions yet have sound scientific answers, too much of what is being written is based on hearsay, innuendo, and fear. Now, some local and a few state bodies are weighing restricting neonicotinoid insecticide use. Joe and Lin will present the facts as research has demonstrated them and how to use the neonics effectively and responsibly with minimal non-target effects. This session is open to all attendees. This session may be eligible for pesticide recertification credit. Tracks: Greenhouse, Hot Topics, Landscape, Nursery Speakers: Joseph Bischoff, PhD, Regulatory & Legislative Affairs Director AmericanHort  

Read More