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...
The beneficial parasitoid Encarsia formosa feeding on greenhouse whitefly

February 12, 2016

Biological Pest Control Starts With Accounting For Pesticide Compatibility

When pest pressure is high, biological controls alone may not be enough to take care of the problem. Make sure that any pesticides you use won’t harm the beneficials hard at work in your greenhouse.

Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

February 8, 2016

Register Now For Biocontrols USA 2016 Workshop

Biocontrol is becoming a mainstream part of growing plants commercially. Every good program starts with quality products and a good supply chain. Register now to join us from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on March 4, following the conclusion of the education program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA for a special event that will help you improve your biocontrols program. In this informative, real-world workshop led by biocontrols expert Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, owner of Buglady Consulting, you’ll learn: The key players that are producing beneficials How to check product quality once you get them The latest trends and practices growers are using to implement beneficials into their programs Important pitfalls to avoid. A roundup of the current biocontrol research that can help you be more successful in your production practices this season. Wainwright-Evans, a pest management specialist, has been involved in the green industry for more than two […]

Read More
Travis Higginbotham

February 8, 2016

Biocontrols And Next-Generation Production

Biocontrols are becoming much more established in greenhouse production. In some cases, it’s the next generation of growers that’s helping to support the adoption of this next generation of pest control. Travis Higginbotham, R&D Manager for Battlefield Farms, in Rapidan, VA, is a great example. Brought on in 2014, he is helping Battlefield take the next step in product development, as well as become more efficient as a business and adapt to new technologies and demands from their customers with a more proactive approach. Higginbotham will share information on Battlefield’s nematode program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference and Expo, March 3-4, 2016 in Monterey, CA. We asked him about the details involved with building a new biocontrols program, as well as the future of sustainability in greenhouse production. Q: What are the differences in costs involved in using biocontrols? What costs should growers consider, aside from the hard costs […]

Read More
Latest Stories
The beneficial parasitoid Encarsia formosa feeding on greenhouse whitefly

February 12, 2016

Biological Pest Control Starts With Accounting For Pe…

When pest pressure is high, biological controls alone may not be enough to take care of the problem. Make sure that any pesticides you use won’t harm the beneficials hard at work in your greenhouse.

Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

February 8, 2016

Register Now For Biocontrols USA 2016 Workshop

Biocontrol is becoming a mainstream part of growing plants commercially. Every good program starts with quality products and a good supply chain. Register now to join us from 1:00-4:00 p.m. on March 4, following the conclusion of the education program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference & Expo in Monterey, CA for a special event that will help you improve your biocontrols program. In this informative, real-world workshop led by biocontrols expert Suzanne Wainwright-Evans, owner of Buglady Consulting, you’ll learn: The key players that are producing beneficials How to check product quality once you get them The latest trends and practices growers are using to implement beneficials into their programs Important pitfalls to avoid. A roundup of the current biocontrol research that can help you be more successful in your production practices this season. Wainwright-Evans, a pest management specialist, has been involved in the green industry for more than two […]

Read More
Travis Higginbotham

February 8, 2016

Biocontrols And Next-Generation Production

Biocontrols are becoming much more established in greenhouse production. In some cases, it’s the next generation of growers that’s helping to support the adoption of this next generation of pest control. Travis Higginbotham, R&D Manager for Battlefield Farms, in Rapidan, VA, is a great example. Brought on in 2014, he is helping Battlefield take the next step in product development, as well as become more efficient as a business and adapt to new technologies and demands from their customers with a more proactive approach. Higginbotham will share information on Battlefield’s nematode program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference and Expo, March 3-4, 2016 in Monterey, CA. We asked him about the details involved with building a new biocontrols program, as well as the future of sustainability in greenhouse production. Q: What are the differences in costs involved in using biocontrols? What costs should growers consider, aside from the hard costs […]

Read More

January 12, 2016

EPA Releases Preliminary Risk Assessment For Imidaclopr…

The assessment, which will soon be open for public comment, indicates that imidacloprid potentially poses risk to hives when the pesticide comes in contact with certain crops that attract pollinators.

Read More
Vestaron

December 30, 2015

Vestaron’s Spear Bioinsecticide No Longer Carries Bee T…

Following a review that shows it has no detrimental effect on honeybees, EPA has removed the bee toxicity warning statement from Spear.

Read More
Arthij van der Veer Feature image

December 7, 2015

Sustainability Is Key To Your Operation’s Future

During Greenhouse Grower's 2015 Top 100 Growers Breakfast at Cultivate'15, Arthij ven der Veer of MPS (More Profitable Sustainability) discussed crop protection trends in Europe, Latin America, and around the world, and what to expect on the horizon.

Read More
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

November 16, 2015

Real-World Biocontrols Trends From The Buglady

During ,em>Greenhouse Grower's Top 100 Breakfast at Cultivate'15, Suzanne Wainwright-Evans of Buglady Consulting discussed trends in biocontrols, including what she has seen from breeders, growers and even public gardens.

Read More
USDA Whistleblower Case

November 3, 2015

USDA Bee Scientist Alleges He Was Punished For Reportin…

Entomologist Jonathan Lundgren has filed a whistleblower complaint alleging USDA retaliated against him because of his research on the adverse effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees and monarch butterflies.

Read More

October 7, 2015

Ball FloraPlant Eliminates Neonicotinoid Use On Its Off…

Ball FloraPlant has announced its offshore cuttings farms did not use neonicotinoid-based pest management chemicals during its spring crop production last shipping season, and will continue to be neonic free this year. Instead, the company and its greenhouse managers have relied on alternative means to supply insect-free cuttings to its global customer base.

Read More
Nemasys And Millenium Beneficial Nematodes from BASFm_Nematodes

October 7, 2015

How BASF’s UK Biological Production Facility Expa…

BASF has expanded its biologicals production facility in Littlehampton, UK. The new capacity increases the company’s ability to double the production of beneficial nematodes and inoculants.

Read More

September 23, 2015

New Crop Protection Products And Label Updates

Here are some of the most recent products released and label updates for crop protection agents in the greenhouse and nursery market. Fame Fungicides (FMC Corp.) FMC Corp. has introduce Fame fungicides, a family of FRAC 11 group (Strobilurin) products that delivers fast-acting, patented fluoxastrobin protection against major soil and foliar diseases. Rainfast in 15 minutes, Fame fungicides can be used on most greenhouse and nursery plants and provide fast foliar and root uptake. “Proven by university research, Fame fungicides offer fluoxastrobin action, which ensures a high degree of systemic activity to provide very rapid disease protection and stop further growth of established disease,” says Naimur Rahman, strategy and fungicide marketing product manager for FMC. The Fame fungicide family includes: • Fame SC: a suspension concentrate fungicide containing fluoxastrobin that controls major diseases, including anthracnose, downy mildew, powdery mildew, scab and leaf spot. It provides rapid foliar and root uptake […]

Read More
Offshore farm profiles Dummen Orange Las Mercedes Solanaceas GH

September 8, 2015

Dümmen Orange Implementing Consistent Standards On All …

Owning and operating several locations can be a challenge in maintaining consistent quality and cleanliness across the board. This is true of both breeders and growers. But those who do it right have invested in technology and practices that ensure that plant quality matches, no matter where their plants are shipped from. That’s the goal for Dümmen Orange. Now the world’s largest producer of unrooted cuttings, the company has a combined 150 hectares or 370 acres of production space worldwide, dedicated to cuttings production. Recent acquisitions of product portfolios, both this year and in the past few, has raised the company’s cuttings production expectation to more than 1.4 billion, including 350 million in North America. It has farms all over the world (see the 2015 Top Cuttings Producers ranking to see where), and produces cuttings for its own genetics, as well as collaborating with more than 30 third-party breeders across all […]

Read More
Bill Lewis grower manager at Delray Plants

August 31, 2015

Delray Plants Takes Preventative Approach To Pest Contr…

Trying to control pests effectively on a wide variety of crops is a major undertaking. Delray Plants in Venus, Fla., has been using biological controls as a part of its pest control program for more than 10 years. It operates 300 acres, which includes covered structures and 7 acres of outdoor field production.

Read More
Feature image The Aphid Guard Aphid Banker Plant, coming soon to the market, supports beneficial insect populations.

June 21, 2015

The Latest In Crop Protection

Protecting your plants from the latest threats is no easy task, but new product lines promise to safely and effectively eliminate a wide range of pests and diseases, without harming your employees or the environment.

Read More
Bee On Flower

June 18, 2015

Pest Management And Marketing Strategies For Bee-Friend…

Michigan State University Extension shares pest management practices to produce plants that are safe for pollinators and marketing strategies for clearing up confusion about bee-friendly plants.

Read More

June 10, 2015

BASF’s Sultan Miticide Receives California Regist…

BASF Sultan miticide recently received registration in California, giving ornamental growers a new rapid, targeted mode of action for mite control. Sultan miticide, with active ingredient cyflumetofen, offers ornamental growers targeted knockdown of all life stages of tetranychid mites, with long residual control. It has practically no toxicity to beneficial insects, including predatory mites and pollinators. Sultan miticide offers a new mode of action to combat cross-resistance with other commercial miticides, and is compatible with integrated pest management programs (IPM). “The long-awaited California registration of Sultan miticide is exciting news. Greenhouse, nursery and landscape professionals in the state now have a new class of chemistry that gives them fast control over all life stages of plant-damaging mite populations,” says Joe Lara, senior product manager for BASF. “Sultan miticide now provides California growers with a much needed new first choice for miticide resistance management programs that won’t disrupt populations of beneficial […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strat…

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Two-spotted spider mites, adults and eggs

May 18, 2015

Beware Of Spider Mites In Bougainvillea And Mandevilla …

Greenhouse growers need to scout for spider mites on bougainvillea and mandevilla and use appropriate treatments that minimize pesticide resistance.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]