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...
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
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Let…

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More

June 28, 2015

Keep Your Cool In The Greenhouse

Summer is in full swing, and that means growers need to worry about protecting plants and greenhouse employees from brutal temperatures. No sweat! These product manufacturers have offerings to help beat the heat.

Read More
Greenhouse Electrical System

June 23, 2015

Don’t Let Your Greenhouse Electrical System Come …

The size of a greenhouse operation is one of the biggest factors when determining the type of electrical system to install. Part 2 of "Don't Let Your Electrical System Come Up Short" covers locating electrical wires, meeting electrical load demands and environmental considerations.

Read More
Schaefer-fan

June 23, 2015

Schaefer Ventilation Opens Distribution Center In Atlan…

Schaefer Ventilation Equipment, a manufacturer of ventilation and thermal comfort products, has opened a new distribution center in Atlanta, Ga., to increase efficiency and provide faster services to dealers. Additionally, the company has added a new staff member to its agricultural and horticultural division to help expand markets in Latin America.

Read More
HID Lighting System

June 18, 2015

Talking Shop: Using Lighting To Boost Beneficials

Peace Tree Farm was looking for a way to maintain beneficial insect populations through the winter. It found a potential solution through the use of rotating HID lighting.

Read More

June 17, 2015

Costa Farms Reduces Greenhouse Emissions With Solar Pow…

Costa Farms is seeking to make sustainability a top priority at its headquarters and two other buildings in Miami with the recent construction of new solar panels, which will replace 25 percent of the company's power usage with solar energy.

Read More
aquatrols

June 3, 2015

Aquatrols Renews Cooperative Research And Development A…

Aquatrols Corporation recently announced a new Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Dr. Matt Madsen and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The objective of the new CRADA is to further refine and evaluate surfactant seed coating technologies for use in wildfire rehabilitation, turf and pasture grasses, restoration species and other horticultural and agricultural systems. The three-year agreement renews a CRADA that Aquatrols first signed with the ARS in 2012. The original partnership has resulted in promising field and greenhouse trials, pending patents and initial steps toward commercialization of the surfactant seed coating technology. “We are very encouraged by the work that Dr. Madsen and his team have put together over the past three years,” says Aquatrols’ President and CEO Tracy Jarman. “This innovative technology has shown incredible potential with wide-ranging impacts in multiple industries. Aquatrols’ stated mission is to change the way the world grows and this technology has the […]

Read More
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