Online Only: Three Questions With … Ken Altman and Jim Bethke

GG: Ken, what inspired you to create a grower-focused research center with CFAHR?

Altman: I think there were several reasons. For one, in California we have a really huge industry with very few places to come together. As for research, we’ve had a great experience having John Erwin from the University of Minnesota consult with us. I’ve seen some great results that have come from experimenting he’s helped us with.

I’m on the board of American Floral Endowment and as part of our meetings we visit universities where we’ve funded research. We meet with some of the researchers and seeing what they have accomplished has been pretty motivating. They’re very impressive and they’re always looking for resources. Locally, our UC ag Extension advisor, Jim Bethke, can use some help with resources, too.

Bethke: Due to the lack of convenient research facilities in San Diego County, my colleagues and I in Cooperative Extension have been using our offices and desks for our research. Having a research facility only 10 minutes from our office here in San Marcos, is ideal. I can conduct a variety of research trials that are geared for greenhouse or nursery production. Another advantage to the facility and its location is that it is surrounded by numerous ornamental production facilities of all types, which means that if I need host plant material, I can find just about anything I need, and it’s close.

Altman: All of these things, plus my enjoyment being around people who are thinking about what’s next and advancing the field made me think this would be a great opportunity to bring growers and researchers together, give them a place to connect.

GG: You’ve mentioned this research will really benefit growers in your area. Is it more important to have this as a resource that helps local growers or is it more important just to get good research?

Altman: It’s more important to get good research for the whole industry. It’s a bonus to be able to bring people here together locally as a resource.

For example, part of the center here is a good-sized meeting room. We’ve had a lot of educational meetings so far. Some of have been called “Ask The Expert” and Jim Bethke has been there to answer questions from growers. A couple of weeks ago we had a consultant, Ann Chase, come to talk about disease and pest control. That was very well attended.

CORF, which is California Ornamental Research Federation, has used it to have meetings. And the very first day we were open–as the paint was drying–the Young Plant Group was here to talk about what research is being done and what people would like to see going forward.

GG: What’s your expectation for what the center might achieve if everything could happen the way you hope?

Altman: This is maybe a different way for growers to give to the industry. I think part of the thought was to let people see it and maybe it would stimulate ideas with them.

I probably should have mentioned the McCorkle Center for Applied Nursery Research in Georgia–we stole part of their name. Skeeter McCorkle invited me there and I got to see what they do. That was really helpful and inspiring also. We should give him some credit too.

Bethke: I have conducted several studies there already, including testing root promoters, different types of silicon additives, pesticide and phytotoxicity trials. In addition, we have caged colonies of insect pests and infested plants that we can use for trials, and we use the headhouse for a cage building. And we use the laboratory often for microscopic work, for example identification of pests, recording the results of trials, or drying leaves and roots for shoot and root dry mass.

Altman: My hope is we will be able to do and publish a fair amount of research that would be useful to people. And that we find growers more and more trying to help each other and cooperate with the industry by giving to the researchers and academicians.

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

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
AmericanHort

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