Healthy And Earth Friendly

Healthy And Earth Friendly

The plants in your greenhouse leak carbohydrates through their roots, attracting pathogens and disease. Imagine a first line of defense at the root, organisms that coil around the roots without harming them, keeping bad organisms away. That’s exactly how one class of sustainable disease control works.

Retailers and end consumers are driving demand for organic and sustainable products. In response, there are many new products on the market in fertilizers and pest and disease control that produce healthy plants and greenhouse workers, as well as a healthy planet. 

Pest And Disease Control

Sustainable and even organic products and the way they are marketed have changed a lot over the last decade.

“The problem has been there have been so many bad actors that have come out with products that make grandiose claims of what they can do–grow bigger plants, bigger and better roots,” says John Francis, director of marketing and technical services at BioWorks, supplier of RootShield, PlantShield, BotaniGard, TriCon and NemaShield controls. “Biologicals got the reputation of being snakeoils. They were overpromised and underdelivered.”

Today, biologicals producers are trying to get the right ideas into growers heads about their products and how they work through trials and showing growers the benefits of biologicals.

First off, growers need to apply biologicals before there is a pest problem. “Biologicals are preventative, not curative,” Francis says. “I think in the past some growers have tried them when they had a problem, and that convinced them the products were no good.” If disease pressures get too high, it could be time to apply a chemical to control it.

Many growers using beneficials can go years without doing more than spot sprays of oil or soap now and again, according to Carol Glenister, founder and president of IPM Laboratories. “In the case where a pest does break out, the pests are susceptible to the chemicals because they meet them so rarely,” she says. IPM Laboratories’ products include biological solutions for aphids, fungus gnats, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips and whiteflies. These kinds of controls allow zero re-entry intervals and workers don’t worry about handling chemicals. Many growers report improvements in plant quality.

“Foliage has no chemical residue and no chemical burn,” Glenister says. “Many growers recount how cut flowers jump into the next higher grade because low-level damage caused by pesticides is no longer present.”

While a better plant can be a side effect of a biological program, Francis tells growers there is no silver bullet. While many biological products can produce bigger, stronger plants, they are only meant to control pests and diseases.

“If a grower is really excellent, if he has all his trace elements, macronutrients, growth regulators and everything down pat and the only thing plaguing him is disease, he may not see bigger roots or a bigger plant,” Francis explains. “A grower with subpar production may actually see more response.”

One of BioWorks’ biggest challenges is getting growers to stop applying chemical pest control when using biologicals, Francis says. In many cases, it doesn’t hurt the biologicals, but it is a waste of money.

Glenister says it is a good rule of thumb to review pesticide treatments over the last three months before purchasing natural enemies.

“If there is still some pesticide residual, you may have to wait another crop before starting releases,” she says.

Francis says that growers want to know two things before buying a product: does it work and how much does it cost. He says that while initial applications may cost more, follow up applications are less expensive. The fact that these products are healthy for the environment is just a bonus, in some cases.

Plant Nutrition

Plant fertilizer has come a long way from horse manure, with origins of chicken, fish, worm castings and even other plants. Daniels Professional Plant Food is derived from oilseed extract and interest in the product has grown dramatically in the last five years, says Janet Curry of Daniels.

“Soybeans contain over 130,000 organic compounds, NPK, all of the trace elements, calcium, magnesium, sulfur,” she says. “Everything nature put into a seed to reproduce the species.” Growers are using the product from propagation to finish for herbs, vegetables, perennials, poinsettias, mums and annuals. The fertilizer is also a source of nutrition for beneficial microbes.

Because Daniels Plant Food isn’t made from fertilizer salts, EC in plants will be about 40 percent less compared to water-soluble fertilizers. Lower salt levels mean stronger stems on crops with longer growing periods, like mums and poinsettias. Growers have also reported compact plants and the reduced use of PGRs when using Daniels.

How healthy can plants be if soil isn’t healthy? The goals of products produced by Organica Biotech is to improve soil biology and address the nutritional requirements of plants. The company’s horticultural products feed soil by introducing beneficial microbial species that allow natural growing processes to take place.

“In nature, plants have developed a symbiotic relationship with beneficial microorganisms,” says Robert Knaub of Organica Biotech. “If you remove the beneficial microbes through the sterilization process, you upset the natural balance and problems ensue. Many greenhouse growers are experiencing problems that can only be addressed by improving soil biology.”

Knaub also reports that once initial costs are out of the way, organic and sustainable programs’ costs go down.

“At some point down the road, it is actually cheaper to use sustainable products than traditional products,” he says. “Obviously, it depends on how out of whack and deficient your soil is to begin with. Over the years, we have observed a rather quick turnaround in greenhouse and nursery settings.”

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
Delphinium 'Guardian Lavender' (Kieft Seed)

October 7, 2015

National Garden Bureau Names Four Crops For 2016 “Year Of The” Program

The National Garden Bureau announced four crop selections for its 2016 "Year Of The" program. New this year is the addition of a bulb crop class and a video created especially for the edibles class.

Read More

October 7, 2015

Ball FloraPlant Eliminates Neonicotinoid Use On Its Offshore Cuttings Farms

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 Expansion Affects U.S. Growers

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
Latest Stories

September 20, 2015

Technology Improves Orchid Production At Green Circle G…

Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, has a commitment to using production practices that are efficient and sustainable. The operation has been growing Orchids for nine years, and is entering its second full year with its current system, which entails three camera grades. “The camera grading — first at production into a 5-inch pot, then 12 weeks later and a final grade after the stem and buds have developed — is raising our overall quality,” says Wesley Van Wingerden, director of growing for Green Circle Growers. Greenhouse Grower visited the operation to take a tour of its facilities and learn more about its Orchid production. Read on for more details about the process. The first of the camera grades is incorporated into the transplant process, which involves placing the Orchids from a community tray into 5-inch pots. The plants are separated into three sizes with the smallest returning to the […]

Read More

September 15, 2015

Young Plant Growers Weigh In On Crop Gains, Sales Trend…

Almost 100 young plant producers participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Young Plant Grower Survey, which asked growers questions abot crop categories, sales, order fulfillment and more.

Read More
Top20YPGrowers feature image

September 15, 2015

The State Of The 2015 Young Plant Market

Young plant growers in North America are changing their strategies to stay competitive in today’s market. Here is how 2015 shapes up in trends and statistics.

Read More
Vivero International_Endisch

September 8, 2015

Vivero Internacional Continues To Expand Unrooted Cutti…

The tenth largest cuttings farm in the world, Vivero Internacional was founded in 1991 and began exporting unrooted cuttings in 1993. Based in Tepoztlan, Morelos, just outside of Mexico City, Mexico, the operation opened with 2 hectares or 5 acres. With time and new customers, the farm has experienced rapid growth, now spanning 40 hectares or 99 acres, says Vivero’s Dennis Hitzigrath. “The first 10 years, production was doubling every season,” Hitzigrath says. “In the last three years, it’s been about 20 percent.”     The independent operation grows 100 million cuttings annually for several breeders, serving the North American market. Hitzigrath says consolidation among breeders has brought more of a focus on Vivero Internacional from third-party breeders in recent years. This growing interest is spurring even more growth. “We are planning for a minimum growth of 20 percent,” Hitzigrath says. “We are adding more production space and hope to be […]

Read More

August 19, 2015

Greenhouse Growing Recommendations For Lobularia

Modern-day Lobularias are garden classics with good vigor and long bloom times. These growing recommendations will help keep your crop in prime condition.

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More

June 16, 2015

The Butterfly Effect: Insect’s Wings Key To Azalea Poll…

A researcher from North Carolina State University (NC State) has found that in the case of the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), all pollinators are not created equal. In fact, due to the flower’s unique reproductive structure, butterflies — and specifically, their wings — are the key to pollination. The flame azalea is commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains, ranging from as far north as New York to Georgia in the south. Like most azaleas, the flowers are large, and have an unusual structure: both the anther (male) and stigma (female) parts are very elongated and separated from one another. NC State biologist Mary Jane Epps was interested in how the azalea’s flower structure affected its pollination. “In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator — usually an insect — has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, […]

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 24, 2014

GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile &…

The social garden app GrowIt! takes the Gold Winner award at the design100 2014 Mobile & App Design Awards.

Read More

November 10, 2014

The Perennial Farm Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The Perennial Farm joins the HGTV HOME Plant Collection growers' network for 2015.

Read More

November 4, 2014

AmericanHort Publishes Revised American Standard For Nu…

AmericanHort announces the revised American Standard for Nursery Stock (ANSI Z60.1) is now available for industry use. The Standard reflects the consensus of the industry regarding how nursery stock — living plants other than annuals — should be specified and sold within the trade.

Read More

September 26, 2014

Master The Art Of Watering

Watering is elemental to healthy plants, but one of the hardest concepts for new employees to master in the greenhouse. Recommend these tips to start them off right.

Read More