Strides In Sustainability

Although this has been a low-key year in terms of hype surrounding sustainable initiatives, a great deal of progress has been made under the radar. More growers have completed certification programs and floriculture industry members have invested a great deal of time to help shape the development of national sustainable standards for agriculture.

In August, Ball Horticultural Co. launched Certified EcoSource–a program that promotes suppliers who have earned independent, third-party environmental certification, such as VeriFlora, USDA Organic and MPS. Certified EcoSource gives Ball customers the option of buying unrooted cuttings, plugs and liners from a special group of certified suppliers who have demonstrated dedication to providing quality plants that are grown using earth-friendly practices. 

“During the past couple of years, several suppliers in North America have become certified, but Ball is the first to offer a complete sustainable supply chain,” says Kevin Roethle, Ball’s senior supply manager. “The Certified EcoSource program allows customers to partner with industry-leading suppliers who share similar sustainable values. As additional Ball vendors earn environmental certifications, we’ll add them to our resource list.”

With more consumers and retailers seeking sustainable products, Ball says increasing numbers of its wholesale grower customers will seek to improve the eco-status of their businesses and production.

Blazing New Trails

In July, D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, N.H., became the first greenhouse in the United States to earn the MPS-ABC environmental certificate. Based in Holland, MPS is a nonprofit organization developed by the Dutch floriculture industry to respond to environmental concerns and has been active in more than 50 countries. Participating growers document their fertilizer, energy and chemical use and waste management and achieve an A, B or C rating on a 100-point scale.

When asked why he chose to pursue MPS certification, the operation’s owner, Doug Cole, says, “A few years ago, sustainability certification became a hot topic. At that time Walmart was considering requiring its vendors to be certified by VeriFlora. I was president of OFA and had a good knowledge of how European growers worked with MPS for the last 15 years. MPS approached me about how they could get involved in the U.S. market. I decided to jump in with our company so we could see how it worked and to be able to compare the process with other certification choices available.”

The first year was spent tailoring the program to U.S. growers, setting up the correct pesticide names and measurement metrics. “We have products they don’t have in Europe and many have different names or forms,” Cole explains. “Most European growers don’t have as many crops as we do, let alone ways to grow crops. We take it for granted that in the same facility, we may grow on benches, on floors, with hand watering and with drip irrigation and ebb-and-flow. We have hanging baskets, outdoor space and we may be a propagator part of the year and a finished plant grower the rest of the year.”

Once the U.S.-friendly parameters and terms were set, Cole and other growers began sending in monthly usage of all pesticides, energy inputs, water and fertilizer. D.S. Cole Growers received a B rating after its first audit and is working toward A. The company is also considering pursuing MPS-GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification, which is more focused on labor and safety issues.

To become firmly established in the United States, more growers need to take on the process. “The more growers get involved, the more meaningful the data base will become,” Cole says. “For example, northern growers use less water than southern growers, but fuel usage will be the opposite for these regions. MPS works best when the system sets up standards based on the needs of growers in specific regions of the world.”

Gaining Momentum

VeriFlora, created by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) in California, has emerged as the leading certification program for our industry in the United States. While it has really gained traction with consumers in fresh cut flowers, 14 potted plant growers are currently certified. In cut flower growing, more than 30 companies have been certified with 10 of them being in the United States and the rest in Central and South America. More than 1 billion stems and 115 million potted plants have been certified to date.

Linda Brown, executive vice president of SCS, has developed certification programs for many industries. She acknowledges sustainable cut flowers have gained a lot more consumer interest than potted plants. Other categories with greater consumer awareness include coffee, chocolate, wood products and Christmas trees. “It seems we’re not seeing the consumer pull-through yet in potted plants but it will play out over time in the horticultural sector,” she says. “Growers are self-initiating the process, becoming more efficient and meeting retailers’ expectations for things to come.”

VeriFlora recently received ISO-IEC 65 certification from the International Organization for Standardization. In addition to certifying growers, VeriFlora has certified floral wholesalers and approved materials manufacturers that supply inputs to growers, including BioWorks, Ellepot USA and Summit Plastics. These approvals are recommendations, not certifications, but VeriFlora is looking at certifying growing media companies to help growers choose more sustainable producers.

Pretty soon, VeriFlora will announce a preferred retailer program. “We want to promote retailers with a sales force that understands the social and economic considerations for growing and handling plants and flowers and share that with consumers,” Brown says.

One retailer we’ll all be watching as sustainable initiatives unfold is Walmart. “Its buyer scorecard/index is evolving and it is at the preliminary stages of delving into product lifecycle issues with its questionnaire for suppliers,” Brown says. “Walmart is a huge driver and can’t help but influence what’s going on.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Dosatron International’s Lela Kelly

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 30, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
Latest Stories
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
Great-spangledFritillary

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
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