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...
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More

May 28, 2015 And Assist Consumers With Growing And Finding Plants

The recently launched and websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

May 27, 2015

Cal-Poly Students And Faculty Ask Industry To Help Save Horticulture Facilities

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has released an update to its Master Plan that indicates that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites could be repurposed for buildings, including residential, and/or recreational space. According to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head, the proposed changes directly affect the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department. The department is committed to making sure that its facilities remain invaluable teaching environments that enable its students to learn about crop, fruit and horticulture production, food safety and pest protection, in addition to providing sites for externally funded research projects that benefit the industry. Industry members are invited to submit comments to the university. According to Steinmaus, a recent eMail to the Cal-Poly community from the university president indicates that all of the input gathered through the end of May will be studied by the planning […]

Read More
Latest Stories
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

September 16, 2014

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas Facility Provides Gro…

Ball FloraPlant’s Las Limas farm in Esteli, Nicaragua, is one year away from full production, but sales and quality from the two-year-old facility are right on track.

Read More
Erysimum 'Cheers' from Darwin Perennials

September 15, 2014

Darwin Perennials Takes Production Offshore In Bogota, …

With its recent purchase of a farm in Colombia, Darwin Perennials is ready to amp up supply of its perennial genetics, to provide growers with tried-and-true varieties and comprehensive production specifications.

Read More

July 23, 2014

Plan Now To Prevent Bract Edge Burn On Poinsettias

Reduce fertilizer and water, and allow your poinsettias to develop slowly during the final four weeks of production to avoid bract edge burn.

Read More

July 11, 2014

Growing Your Crops Above Their Base Temperature

Lowering temperature set points in the greenhouse may help you combat rising heating costs.

Read More

May 1, 2014

Growers Report Nutritional Problems On Geraniums

In recent weeks, several growers have contacted Michigan State University Specialists about leaf discoloration on geraniums, especially the purpling of lower leaves.

Read More

April 22, 2014

How Two Postharvest Care Products Worked On Potted Plan…

What your potted plants look like at retail translates to sales or fails. North Carolina State University researchers report on how two postharvest care products performed.

Read More
Dianthus 'Passion' from Emerald Coast Growers

March 27, 2014

Growing Dianthus Successfully

Here's some advice on transplanting and producing this classic perennial favorite.

Read More
Aquilegia canadensis

March 10, 2014

Tips For Producing Aquilegia

Advice on planting, temperature, vernalization, lighting and more on columbine from Emerald Coast Growers' head grower Josiah Raymer.

Read More