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...
Harvest Automation HV 100 Feature

May 27, 2016

Harvest Automation Robot Helps You Move Plants Without People

The Harvest Automation HV-100 robot units use lasers and sensors to handle some of the most labor-intensive tasks in the greenhouse.

Read More
HV-100 Robots (Harvest Automation)

May 3, 2016

Harvest Automation Makes Strong Commitment To Greenhouse Production Market

The company recently announced it is selling off its robotic warehouse automation business to focus more on providing robotic materials handling to the greenhouse, vegetable, and fruit markets.

Read More
Priva FS Reader

May 2, 2016

What’s New In Greenhouse Environmental Controls

Growers today are looking for systems that save energy, are easy to use, and can be accessed remotely. New products from leading manufacturers are designed to tap into these needs.

Read More
Latest Stories
Harvest Automation HV 100 Feature

May 27, 2016

Harvest Automation Robot Helps You Move Plants Without …

The Harvest Automation HV-100 robot units use lasers and sensors to handle some of the most labor-intensive tasks in the greenhouse.

Read More
HV-100 Robots (Harvest Automation)

May 3, 2016

Harvest Automation Makes Strong Commitment To Greenhous…

The company recently announced it is selling off its robotic warehouse automation business to focus more on providing robotic materials handling to the greenhouse, vegetable, and fruit markets.

Read More
Priva FS Reader

May 2, 2016

What’s New In Greenhouse Environmental Controls

Growers today are looking for systems that save energy, are easy to use, and can be accessed remotely. New products from leading manufacturers are designed to tap into these needs.

Read More
Sentinel In The Greenhouse Feature

April 13, 2016

Monitor Your Greenhouse Conditions Without A Web Connec…

The Sentinel system from Sensaphone provides 24/7 monitoring of temperatures, power outages, and other potential problems, in locations where connectivity is unavailable.

Read More
Philips LED Lunar Greenhouse

March 29, 2016

Philips Lighting And University Of Arizona Study Shows …

A collaboration between Philips And The University of Arizona found that using energy-efficient LED lighting in a prototype lunar greenhouse resulted in an increased amount of high-quality edible lettuce while dramatically improving operational efficiency and use of resources.

Read More
Priva Tomato Deleafing Robot

March 22, 2016

Priva Developing Deleafing Robot For Tomatoes

The deleafing robot, which is designed to mimic the performance of a human while being economically viable, will be tested and evaluated by Dutch growers later this year.

Read More

February 23, 2016

How Light Diffusion Works In The Greenhouse

Ken Aguilar of SolaWrap Films shares how light diffusion technology offers many benefits for greenhouse crops.

Read More

February 22, 2016

New Greenhouse Transplanters Offering More Versatility

New transplanters on the market offer flexibility in speed, plug tray compatibility, and functionality.

Read More

February 20, 2016

Hydrogel Technology Means Growers And Their Customers C…

Water and nutrient management are critical elements for quality plant production in the greenhouse. Maintaining the right amounts of available moisture and fertilizer at all times can be pretty labor intensive, but there are tools available to help you keep these inputs at optimum levels as efficiently as possible. Recently, we visited Evonik Industries’ North Carolina production plant for to see how one of these products — Stockosorb — is made, how it works, and learn the benefits of incorporating these tools in your own operation. Learn more about Evonik Industries’ Stockosorb hydrogel product on the Stockosorb website.  

Read More
Using cables in place of a solid belt, the Echo-Veyor design doesn’t cast shadows, so plants can be grown underneath

February 19, 2016

Echo-Veyor Has Made Plant Handling Easier For Greenhous…

Growers are creating improvements in a range of functions with customized plant handling systems. Several growers have realized efficiencies through customized conveyor solutions, by working with Cherry Creek Systems, based in Colorado Springs, CO, to install its Echo-Veyor cable-driven transport system. Designed to support multiple different tray types and pot sizes, each system is custom-designed for the individual needs of the operation. It can tie into existing posts or be built into a free-standing system.     The Echo-Veyor system has helped growers like Dallas Johnson Greenhouses and Rockwell Farms increase efficiency of product handling in a variety of functions, ultimately reducing time, labor, and labor costs, and improving job functions for employees working on spacing plants, pulling and processing orders, and shipping. Dallas Johnson Greenhouses in Council Bluffs, IA, reduced labor, saved time, improved its team’s performance, and saw improved plant quality at retail after installing its Echo-Veyor shipping […]

Read More
Metrolina Greenhouses keeps a 4-acre barn filled with wood chips, sourced locally from forestry waste and old pallets. The barn can hold a three- to four-week supply of wood chips

February 18, 2016

Metrolina Greenhouses Has Improved Heating Efficiency W…

Sustainability started to become a keyword in the horticulture industry in the late 2000s, when growers began converting their heating systems to greener options to save on energy costs and reduce their impact on the environment. However, there haven’t been many operations that have invested in sustainable solutions on as large of a scale as Metrolina Greenhouses at its Huntersville, NC, headquarters. Six years later, the operation is still fully committed to its biomass heating system and everything it entails.     Metrolina first fired up its Vynke biomass system from Belgium in 2010. The four wood boilers cover 95% of the operation’s heating needs at its 201-acre main location in Huntersville, NC, and Metrolina still maintains its traditional heating systems for back up and to provide flexibility of resources. Wood chips are sourced locally, with the majority from local forestry activities like wood harvesting companies and developers. The other […]

Read More

January 19, 2016

Tips For Cherry-Picking The Right LED Lighting Solution…

If you want to find the right LED lighting solution for your greenhouse, start with these tips from top lighting manufacturers.

Read More
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

November 28, 2015

15 LED Lighting Solutions For Your Greenhouse

Narrowing in on the right LED lighting product often comes down to considering your specific crop needs and growing requirements to see what works best for your application. Here are 15 LED products to take into account when choosing the right fit for your greenhouse.

Read More

October 27, 2015

How Dallas Johnson Greenhouses Is Simplifying Shipping

Two years ago, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses, a 61-acre operation in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and No. 21 of Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers, was struggling to get its orders out. With its range of potted annuals, there were so many skus that it was impossible to get enough carts into the shipping greenhouse, and the crew couldn’t get orders processed fast enough. As a result, the operation was consistently pulling orders until midnight every night during the busy shipping season, says President and CEO Todd Johnson. So Johnson got together with Arie Van Wingerden at Cherry Creek Systems to discuss his problem, and what they came up with has changed everything, Johnson says. Inside one of Dallas Johnson Greenhouses’ existing structures, the team installed a shipping system made with Echo-Veyors, the popular cable conveyor system designed by Cherry Creek Systems. The system was placed right in the front of the greenhouse, […]

Read More
Tidal Creek Growers

October 24, 2015

Five Tips For Successful Use Of Boom Irrigation Lightin…

Michigan State University Extension shares five tips to help growers use boom irrigation lighting more effectively to accelerate flowering of long-day ornamental crops.

Read More

October 8, 2015

Industry Standards For Greenhouse Lighting On The Horiz…

As the use of LEDs has risen among greenhouse growers, so have concerns about the best way to measure and compare the many LED light products across the market. As a result, the lighting industry is responding to a call for greater transparency and the development of standardized measuring and testing methods.

Read More

September 28, 2015

11 Products For Precision Greenhouse Growing

These new options in equipment, automation, structures, lighting and software are designed to help growers run their operations with efficiency and accuracy and at a lower cost.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

September 25, 2015

Growers Solve Problems With Precision Horticulture

My dad’s hands are covered with sores, nicks, scratches and bruises. It’s the ongoing reward — or drawback — of his ingenuity, as he’s constantly wrenching on equipment or constructing new innovations that will help him get work done more efficiently on the farm. As a kid, I would always marvel at his toughness, and how he would barely notice a new wound, shrugging it off as he kept working, driven to complete his work and bring his idea to fruition. He’s still at it today, and his hands tell the story of the many projects he’s completed over the years. I’m guessing many of you can relate, and your hands look similar to my dad’s. After all, ingenuity is the name of the game in this business, where creative thinking to solve problems often leads to revolutionary solutions that automate production, save labor and cut costs. That’s easy to […]

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]