October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: Addressing Peat’s Sustainability

Search far and wide, and you’ll be hard pressed to find North American greenhouse operations that do not rely on peat moss for at least some production. Peat moss has proven itself over the years to be an effective growing medium that helps regulate air and moisture around plant roots. It is of less weight than other growing mediums and readily available in Canada and parts of the United States. Plus, a range of widely used programs for fertilizer, irrigation and other production essentials have been designed over the years incorporating large percentages of peat moss. The horticultural use of peat moss, however, recently drew criticism at last summer’s Seeley Conference at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where a representative from the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) introduced guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land practices that are critical of peat. Last summer’s Seeley Conference, of course, wasn’t the first time […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: How Producers Harvest

The picture a few people have painted of the peat industry is one that depicts producers as raiders who rapidly strip the earth and abandon peatlands without concern for the ecosystem. Fortunately, that picture isn’t the accurate one here in North America. Peat producers don’t function as miners, and they aren’t exactly farmers either. But, as Sun Gro Horticulture’s Robert Lapointe says, the peat industry functions somewhere in between the two. According to the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA), at least 70 million metric tons of peat accumulate each year in Canada. Over that same year-long span, 1.3 million metric tons are harvested across the country. That means Canadian peat is accumulating at a rate that’s more than 50 times faster than the rate at which it’s being harvested. Considering the percentage (0.02 percent) of Canadian peatlands that are being harvested for horticultural use, plus the rate at which […]

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October 21, 2010

The Peat Report: A Case Against Canadian Peat Moss

The theme of last summer’s Seeley Conference, floriculture’s environmental footprint, included a discussion on how sustainable peat is as a soil amendment. The discussion stemmed from part of a presentation highlighting the new Sustainable Sites Initiative created by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanical Garden. The three organizations are teaming on the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices. But two recommended requirements of the initiative–using peat-free planting media and avoiding sphagnum peat as a soil conditioner–sparked a debate at the Seeley Conference. To further explain the requirements, as well as the reasons SITES drafted them, Greenhouse Grower tasked the SITES with sharing some perspective. We also asked Mark Elzinga, president of Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouses, to share his reaction to the requirements regarding peat and […]

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August 30, 2010

Is Wood A Viable Media Component?

Peat moss is an absolute necessity for greenhouse growers. The industry simply couldn’t do without it. But the cost of shipping peat across Canada to southern parts of the United States is forcing Southern growers to look for resources that are capable of supplementing their bread-and-butter growing media component. One resource to which growers are slowly turning is wood. Wood, by no means, is a peat replacement. Plus, it’s a resource nursery producers have historically relied on more than greenhouse growers. Still, horticulturists are discovering that wood, when used in the right ratio to peat and for the right crop, is a serviceable growing media component. USDA and university researchers, for example, have grown a wide range of crops–annuals, perennials, tropicals and woody ornamentals–using processed whole pine trees as a growing media component. And the results of this research are enlightening. “Commercially, I think we could switch to 50 percent […]

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August 30, 2010

New Products: Media And Amendments

Berger’s Organic Germinating Mix This mix uses a combination of high-quality, fine Canadian sphagnum peat moss, fine perlite and fine vermiculite. OM2 will provide an ideal root environment for a uniform germination and rapid root development. Jiffy’s Preforma Manufactured from high-quality substrates, Preforma is held together with a unique binding agent. The Preforma plant plug is suitable to work in any highly automated greenhouse environment. Acadian’s New Bale Size Acadian Peat Moss is now offering professional grade sphagnum peat moss in a 110-cubic-foot Acadian Giant bale. The bale is shipped on its own pallet and has the advantage of less packaging.

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August 30, 2010

Fafard’s New Formulations

Since 2008, when the Fafard Research Leader Program launched, interns have been conducting research to help design new growing media formulations at large, commercial greenhouse operations across the United States. Essentially, research projects have examined how different raw materials, soil amendments and additives used in media perform in different greenhouse settings. Fafard, then, has used much of that research to design a pair of growing media options that are now available to growers: Fafard’s Young Plant Mix, a combination of peat, perlite and vermiculite that’s packaged in compressed bales; and mixes that directly incorporate Scotts’ new Osmocote Start controlled-release fertilizer. “We’ve been doing the research and development within the Fafard Research Leader Program the last two years, and it’s been very successful,” says Bruce Adams, Fafard marketing manager for grower products. “With the support of Syngenta, we’ve been able to launch two new products for this past season. Typically, you’d […]

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July 13, 2010

Aero NT

Omni Growing Solutions is offering a new plug product for young plant production, Aero NT. The plug is designed to hold its shape without the use of a wrapper. The product line has been in development in Germany for the last 10-12 years. Plugs are produced in a batch-mix system using a typical growing mix, but a binding agent is added to help the plugs hold together easily. Plugs are pre-dibbled and according to general manager Bill Maartense, plants have shown 20-25 percent shorter rooting time in tests. Omni Growing Solutions, an independent offshoot of Dummen will be opening a production facility in Ontario in November. The plan is to serve primarily Dummen rooting stations next year, and to open things up to the larger grower audience the following year.

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April 16, 2010

Fafard Gains Right To Add Osmocote Start To Mixes

Fafard is part of Spring Trials at Syngenta Flowers in Gilroy again this year, and the company’s latest development is that it now has the rights to incorporate Scotts’ Osmocote Start into its growing mixes. Osmocote Start is a controlled-release fertilizer, and growers interested in Fafard’s Osmocote Start mixes can approach either Fafard or Scotts for technical support. “The great benefit of this product is it reduces the amount of water-soluble fertilizer growers will need–in some cases eliminating it entirely,” says Hugh Poole, director of technical research for Fafard. “It’s another way of getting a fast crop in. it’s going to reduce leaching, groundwater contamination and it’s actually going to reduce the total fertilizer requirements for the grower.” Less algae growth in the greenhouse is another benefit, Poole says, because water-soluble fertilizer won’t be making its way onto greenhouse floors. Osmocote Start is a fully coated N-P-K plus micronutrients controlled-release fertilizer. Its […]

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March 22, 2010

Stone Wool As A Substrate

HortiPro and Saint-Gobain Cultilène, a Netherlands-based substrate company, recently joined forces, making Cultilène’s stone wool substrates more easily available to U.S. growers. Martin Boerema, who’s a senior consultant with HortiPro, is in charge of technical support for Cultilène here in the United States. Propagators, cut flower growers and high-tech vegetable producers are among the growers stone wool substrates make sense, Boerema says. Stone wool products are also among HortiPro’s product offerings, which include cocopeat, bark and other growing media. You can learn more about the two companies at HortiPro.com and Cultilene.com.

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March 16, 2010

2 Jiffy Products Now OMRI Listed

The Jiffy Growbag and Jiffy Growblock were recently certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute, making them available to organic growers. The Growbag and Growblock system form a 100-percent coir-based hydroponic growing alternative to growers looking for a high-quality sustainable option to grow vegetables hydroponically. The Jiffy pot is already OMRI listed. For more on Jiffy visit JiffyGroup.com.

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January 6, 2010

Sun Gro, Hullgro Sign Distributor Agreement

Sun Gro Horticulture has signed an exclusive distributorship with Hullgro Industries to distribute Hullgro rice hulls throughout North America. Hullgro rice hulls are weed free, sustainable and ideally suited for horticultural use. Sun Gro’s grower technical experts are available to educate growers on the differences between growing in traditional mix verses a Hullgro rice hulls based mix. For more information on Sun Gro, visit SunGro.com.

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November 30, 2009

Alternatives To Peat

The American Floral Endowment recognizes that alternatives to peat must be developed to meet environmental concerns pertaining to mining of peat bogs. AFE shares research it funded and Virginia Tech University conducted. Robert Wright and Brian Jackson, both of Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture, wrote this report. Background It is recognized that alternatives to peat must be developed to meet environmental concerns pertaining to mining of peat bogs. Also, peat supplies can be limited by wet weather conditions that restrict harvest during certain times of the year. These concerns, coupled with increasing fuel costs, have led to increased costs of peat substrates. Therefore, there is an increased interest in less expensive and readily available substitutes. Our research has shown that a pine tree substrate (PTS) manufactured by grinding loblolly pine trees with a hammer mill makes an excellent greenhouse container substrate. The trees can be ground to the correct particle […]

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