Get Ready For Runoff Regulation

Get Ready For Runoff Regulation

You can ignore them, but they will not go away, and soon, denial will not be an option. Water regulations are a thing of the near future for greenhouse growers, with some states — California and Florida — already enforcing strict rules.

The horticulture and floriculture industries are working together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toward regulating the amount of nitrates that are used in crop production with the goal of reducing runoff into groundwater. This is why it is ever-important for growers to start practicing fertilizer, water and runoff management now, before the impending regulations and penalties become a reality. With time to adapt growing operations before runoff management evolves from practice into law, becoming good stewards of the environment is a win-win situation, according to Ed Rosenthal, president and CEO of Florikan. Rosenthal has been working with growers for more than 20 years to advance nutrition programs that are environmentally sound.

“Dr. Joanne Burkholder at North Carolina State University conducted a study on nutrients and their effects on harmful algae bloom and her research found that phosphate is directly implicated in algae bloom, which is killing fish in inland estuaries. We’re not talking cursory or maybe, we’re talking definitively,” he emphasizes. “Now it becomes a matter of choice. When do you stop using these nutrients the way you have been? Do you wait for the law or do you do the right thing and make the adjustment?”

Rosenthal and his fertilizer technology team advocate and teach that switching from water soluble or traditional granular fertilizers to controlled release fertilizers (CRFs) is a proactive means for carefully managing nutrition programs, starting with the reduction of inputs and ending with the reduction of run-off or leaching.

“If you want to be a grower of the future, figure out your ppm and start using fertilizer that will not leach as readily,” he says. “I don’t see any other way. You can put in 100 percent retention, but is that affordable for most growers? I don’t think it is.”

Florikan, based in Sarasota, Fla., specializes in helping greenhouse and nursery growers affect beneficial changes in fertilization and production. The company received a Gulf Guardian Award from the EPA in 2005 for its Staged Nutrient Release (SNR) fertilizer products, which enable growers to reduce fertilizer inputs and runoff. Florikan also received ANLA’s prestigious Allied Associate of the Year award in 2004.

“Winning the EPA award and taking environmental stewardship seriously, they mean the same thing to us,” Rosenthal says. “For us, the bottom line is if our growers are successful, we are successful. It is the industry growers deserving these awards, not merely us.” 

The Stakes Are High

Phosphorus and nitrogen are on the list of plant sustenance targeted for reduced or controlled usage. While it will be some time before the practice becomes law in some states, perhaps not for another year or more, Rosenthal suggests the regulations will likely start with the turf industry, quickly followed by nurseries and greenhouses. The regulations will be based on established plantings, of which, naturally, turf has the widest reach.

While the EPA likely will want to enforce zero phosphate in fertilizer formulas, such as 15-0-15, the industry will lobby for something closer to 15-5-15. But in general, whatever compromise the turf industry is able to reach with EPA is one that greenhouse growers will have to live with, Rosenthal surmises.

“Regulatory officials are starting with phosphorus, then going to nitrogen and other nutrients. But we all have to pay attention to phosphates first. We should be reducing the phosphates as best we can in our applications right now, to the lowest possible levels,” cautions Rosenthal.

Greenhouse use of phosphates is potentially even more critical than in turf. Most greenhouses have raised benches and with hanging baskets above them, there is a tremendous amount of leaching with liquid fertilizer. “For those growers using liquid feeds, a good practice is evaluating using something like 8-0-8 or even less,” explains Rosenthal. Florikan created Staged Nutrient Release (SNR), which is coated phosphate fertilizer that releases phosphates over 90 days with minimal leaching, putting and keeping fertilizer into the pot. “This timeframe is probably the way the industry should begin testing phosphate CRF application.” 

Success With CRFs

Florikan’s fertilizer technology team promotes best management practices (BMPs) and is proactively working with a number of its grower customers to find runoff management solutions. These include taking analytical soil and leaf tests, reducing fertilizer applications, using controlled release fertilizers and keeping a 10- to 15-foot border as a mitigation zone from any water body.

Florikan provides soil and leaf testing at its own expense to help growers work toward solutions. “It all starts with partnership between fertilizer companies and growers because growers often need the tools or resources fertilizer companies can provide,” he says.

Soil and leaf tests can ultimately equate to efficient fertilizer usage and help growers know what they need to apply and when. Highland Greenhouses, Venus, Fla., is a very progressive, state-of-the-art operation that utilizes a number of methods to control runoff. The operation has minimized liquid feed and augmented controlled release, built retention ponds around its property and installed concrete aisles in greenhouses. Highland uses low-phosphate SNR fertilizers, as phosphorus is often the highest level of nutrient runoff for greenhouses.

Jerry Kirkland, owner of Jerry’s Gardenias in Apopka, Fla., has also significantly reduced runoff at his woody ornamentals operation by switching to CRFs. “Several years ago, I switched from using a 9-3-6 liquid fertilizer to using Nutricote from Florikan, reducing my liquid feed and my runoff by at least 80 percent, maybe as much as 90 percent,” Kirkland says.

He adds he has found the most effective approach to starting the practice is to be open-minded to using CRFs, as they do not leach nitrates into the water supply. “By using a CRF, I am able to make sure the fertilizer stays in the growing pot instead of having it wash into the soil and waterways,” he says. “It just makes sense. CRFs allow for more control of how the plants receive their nutrients, which ultimately helps us refrain from over-or under-feeding them — and at the same time, we are addressing best management practices.” 

New Formulations

By working with Harman Gilbert, one of Florikan’s technical experts, a few growers are beginning to trial a new fertilizer formulation that not only will help reduce runoff but also solves a production problem. According to Rosenthal, these operations have found that the ammonium phosphate in their liquid feed fertilizers stunt flowering and promote stretch. To provide these greenhouses a fertilizer with zero phosphates and, more importantly, zero ammonia in the form of nitrogen, Gilbert came up with a CRF calcium nitrate formulation in a delayed release.

“This could be the most significant solution-product to growers wanting to get away from problematic ammonium phosphates,” Rosenthal says. “Calcium, which is really important in stem strength, is essential; yet, you have to apply it at just the right time.”

However, while growers can learn from the success these operations have had, they must use their own data and environmental conditions to create a custom program that works, Rosenthal says. “There is no way they can entirely depend on research from County Extension Services or another nursery,” he says. “Their water and timing are going to be different, and they have to do it on their own property, under their own conditions — it’s critical. Convert one greenhouse at a time.”

Leave a Reply

More From Equipment...
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
Growers are looking for low-cost options for temperature control, like circulating fans and exhaust fans.

April 10, 2015

New Ways To Give Growers Control Of The Greenhouse Envi…

From heating systems to circulation fans, manufacturing companies are finding new ways to help growers control the greenhouse environment, save on energy costs and streamline production.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

The Energy Efficient Greenhouse

New coverings technology means today’s films, plastics, shade cloths and climate screens slash heating and cooling costs while improving crop productivity year round. We checked with manufacturers to see what’s new and uncovered some best practices for buttoning up your greenhouse. Here’s what you need to know about the latest trends.

Read More
FormFlex_MTZ Hanging Basket

March 11, 2015

4 New Ways To Automate Your Operation

These new automation products can help streamline labor-intensive tasks, saving time and labor and increasing productivity.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 1, 2015

4 Lighting Products For Your Operation

These new lighting products have been developed for maximum energy efficiency in greenhouse production. Check out the slideshow to see which products are right for your operation.

Read More
LumiGrow

January 30, 2015

LumiGrow Expands Customer Base In 2014

LumiGrow, Inc. is adding more than 125 new commercial, governmental and research customers to its roster of customers, and beyond the new accounts added this year, many existing customers significantly increased the number of LumiGrow products they use and research customers made LumiGrow a part of their efforts to add to the body of knowledge about spectral science.

Read More
harvest automation featured image

January 13, 2015

Harvest Automation Extends Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation's robot rental program proved to be such a success for the company that it is being extended through the spring. The program was unveiled last year as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

January 9, 2015

Innovations In Irrigation

Need help improving your irrigation? Check out these new products.

Read More

December 2, 2014

Hanna Instruments, Inc. Introduces pH Electrode With Bl…

Hanna Instruments recently released HALO, a professional pH probe with Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 4.0) technology that transmits measurement data directly to an Apple iPad running the Hanna Lab App.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Biomass Six Years Later: Would Pleasant View Do It Agai…

Pleasant View gardens installed its first biomass boiler six years ago and has added a second one since. Now it’s reaping the benefits of lower heating costs and dollars saved.

Read More

November 18, 2014

7 New Media And Light Products For Greenhouse Productio…

New media and light products cover a broad sweep of growing conditions.

Read More

October 21, 2014

GreenClocks New Generation City Farm Fitted With Philip…

Osaka Prefectural University’s new city farm, which has been fitted out with Philips LEDs, opened September 19.

Read More

October 1, 2014

Harvest Automation Introduces Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation has unveiled a new introductory robot rental program as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

September 15, 2014

Precision Horticulture: What Piece Of Equipment Or Syst…

Let us know what product you can't live without.

Read More

September 15, 2014

New Products For Precision Growing

Increase efficiency with these new offerings in equipment, automation, structures and software.

Read More

August 12, 2014

LEDs Comparable To High Pressure Sodium Lamps For Cutti…

In his Cultivate'14 presentation on lighting the future of young plants with LEDs, Christopher Currey, Iowa State University, shared recent research on how LED lights stack up against high pressure sodium lamps for liner and plug production.

Read More