2014 Seeley Summit: Thinking Differently About Water

After a two-year hiatus, the Seeley Summit (formerly Seeley Conference) returned this year after re-branding and moving from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to Chicago Il.

The theme of this year’s Seeley Summit was “Water: Horticulture’s Next Game Changer.” The summit provided an opportunity for industry members to learn and develop strategies to tackle the issue of water scarcity.

Speakers at the event challenged industry professionals to think differently about water. Globally, water demand is predicted to outstrip availability by 40 percent in 2030. Changes in distribution, use patterns and price will make conventional use of water unsustainable in the long run.

Implications For Society And Agriculture

Shortages of water have occurred throughout history, but what has changed is consumer attitude. Water has been seen as a commodity that can be taken for granted — but that can no longer be the case. The real challenge is how to manage this change.

Currently, 70 percent of water is used by farmers, and global water usage grew at twice the population rate over the last 100 years. Going forward, growers will be faced with doing more with less as population and demand continue to increase.

Water is thought of as an inalienable right, but drought will only become more common in the U.S., and two-thirds of the world’s population could experience a water shortage by 2030. To keep up, the rules will have to change. Growers won’t be able to accept that it takes 100 lbs. of water to grow 1 lb. of a crop, because the resources are just not there.

Today’s consumers have a desire to conserve. Small is becoming the new big as home and car sizes shrink. Among the millennial generation, there is a demand for more transparency from business operations.

A grower’s prominence in the market will be determined by what he knows. Growers should be prepared in the next five years to know their water footprint and have that information ready for consumers.

Water Scarcity In The U.S.

Featured speakers at the Seeley Summit came from Texas, Florida, Colorado and California to offer their perspectives on how water scarcity affects their regions.

As of 2012, just 4 percent of Texans identified water supply as the state’s most important problem; however, Texas is currently in the seventh year of a very serious drought. The worst inflow year in history was 2011, and the first four months of 2014 were worse than 2011.

As the state’s population grows, there is an increasing competition between rural and urban demand for water. The state uses 270 billion gallons per week, and while agriculture use is the largest use of water, urban use is the second largest. The Colorado River already has a long history of legal action surrounding it, and state and federal dollars have been spent to control and divert waters to agricultural and urban areas.

One solution has been to implement water use restrictions. Thirty-one percent of the residential water use is in the landscape. That percentage goes up to 60 percent in the summer. The state’s response has been to restrict use to a certain day of the week. Some cities, like Austin, have implemented permanent regulations.

In California, there is more water available in the north, but much of the state’s population is in the southern half. That, plus a lack of reservoir capacity, means that drought is a year-to-year issue for the state. One of the speakers, from Paramount Farms, the state’s largest agricultural water-user, presented the company’s experience addressing water scarcity by attempting to secure long-term water availability.

Surface water projects like the State Water Project and Center Valley Project were expected to yield 4.2 million acre-feet of water per year and 2.1 million acre-feet per year, respectively; however, the projects were never completed. Yields have dropped because of political decisions that have reallocated water for environmental use instead.

Part of the reason for reduced exports has been the health of the Delta, in particular certain native fish species. Water was reallocated without any compensation to water contract holders.

California is currently estimated to have an annual overdraft of groundwater of 2.2 million acre-feet. This is due to reduced surface water availability, increased agricultural economy and increased urbanization. This could result in mandatory sustainable groundwater levels within 10 to 20 years, which will lead to a reduction in irrigated acreage in the state.

Florida instituted water management districts in 1961, which had authority over all water in the state. The districts could grant the right to use water if it was reasonable, beneficial and in the public interest.

In the meantime, the state has experienced huge growth, particularly along the coasts. Development in those areas has created problems for the state, due to a lack of water access. The solution has been to restrict water use and educate the public about wasteful use. Water shortages date back to 1973, with the first written water plan in 1984. When the first written plan went into effect, some of the water restrictions were arbitrary and not based on science. Those restrictions had a profound impact from the beginning. Residents stopped planting and retail sales declined 50 percent.

Now, restrictions are science-based, and monitored by local government. Members of the industry in Florida have stayed engaged in a number of ways, such as by establishing relationships with policymakers, helping to write water restrictions, identifying gaps in research, following university-endorsed science and providing funding opportunities.

Managing Change

Since the 1950s, consumers have used plants for fashion versus function. The growth of the middle class led to the development of suburbs, where individuals found a new use for plants: décor. Baby Boomers have grown up in the current marketplace, and have always seen plants as fashion.

In recent years, a return to urban areas, and the implementation of green roofs, rain gardens, branded flowers and plants and outdoor living spaces has led to a need for the integration of fashion and function. Those in the industry can help consumers by formulizing plant selection and purchasing. Some ways to do that include:

  • Clearly identify the functions and requirements of a plant
  • Identify the unit size, as well as the necessary inputs and add-ons
  • Merchandise plants for dimensions of space or purpose

One of the speakers, a large grower in Colorado, discussed his state’s response to a severe drought in 2002. The state had previously had water use restrictions in place since 1977, which allowed residents to water every third day. That policy continued until two years before the next drought hit in 2002. At that point, there was growing concern about water availability in the future, and gardening among consumers was starting to become seen as politically incorrect.

To get ahead of this, multiple industry organizations came together to come up with best management practices and develop a message for the public. It was an opportunity to establish Xeriscape principles, which were:

  • Plan and design practical turf areas
  • Use appropriate plants and zone by watering needs
  • Improve the soil when appropriate, and consider using mulch
  • Irrigate efficiently
  • Maintain the landscape properly.

To support the concept of zoning by watering needs, the X-rated program was implemented. Plants rated X need one inch of water per week, XX need 1/2-inch per week and XXX needed 1/2-inch every other week. The program was promoted by independent garden centers, and served a tool to educate the public.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From ...
Heating Roundup Feature Image

August 1, 2015

5 New Heating Options For The Greenhouse

Five heating systems manufacturers share their latest and greatest products. Tubing And Aluminum Heat Pipes (BioTherm) From Megatube and MicroClimate tubing to DuoFin and StarFin aluminum heat pipe, BioTherm is dedicated to providing heat solutions that can withstand the toughest greenhouse environments. The MegaTube and MicroClimate tubing options are easy to install and ideal for bench or floor heating. The tubing has a conductive heating surface that allows for maximum root-zone heating. The DuoFin and StarFin aluminum pipe options are great for perimeter heating and melting snow trapped in the greenhouse gutter. It can also be useful for bench heating. Both pipe options provide gentle, radiant heat for plants and don’t require welding. TrueLeaf.net Infinite Energy 2 Condensing Boiler (Delta T Solutions) With up to 98 percent efficiency, the IE2 condensing boiler boasts a stainless steel heat exchanger with larger waterways to ensure maximum heat transfer. The product’s design ensures flexibility while […]

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

July 31, 2015

All-America Selections Promotes Garden-Fresh Cooking

All-America Selections (AAS) has stepped forward with another first when promoting AAS Winners, this time in the form of cooking videos using vegetables/edibles that have performed extremely well in the AAS Trials. These days, a love of gardening is directly related to a passion for cooking. Tying the two together is a natural when marketing joys of cooking with fresh vegetables from the garden and farm market. After 82 years of conducting trials where only the best performers are declared AAS Winners, the organization now has more than 325 individual varieties that have been “Tested Nationally & Proven Locally.” It is some of these many varieties that culinary storyteller, entertainer and horticulture industry veteran Jonathan Bardzik will use in a series of five videos demonstrating cooking techniques with AAS Winning herbs and vegetables. “I am excited to partner with All-America Selections to show people across the country that AAS Winners perform […]

Read More
Burpee Home Gardens Brand Adds Flowers

July 31, 2015

4 Reasons Retailers Snub National Brands

Greenhouse Grower’s lead editor, Laura Drotleff, and I got into a debate about why garden retailers, especially independent garden centers, snub marketing efforts from breeders and growers. She was very much on the breeders’ and growers’ side, expressing frustration about how limited retailers’ vision can be on the topic. I’ve reported on the garden retail side of the industry since 1998, about the same length of time Laura has reported on growers. I’ve heard a lot of retailer views on this, so allow me to share the most common reasons why retailers decline free marketing: Costs. While the marketing materials are free, and sometimes advertising, participating in these projects usually requires minimum orders. From a grower’s perspective, the minimum orders are reasonable. If garden stores promote a plant line, they need to have enough supplies to satisfy demand. From a retail perspective, if inventory reports show a plant line can […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Heating Roundup Feature Image

August 1, 2015

5 New Heating Options For The Greenhouse

Five heating systems manufacturers share their latest and greatest products. Tubing And Aluminum Heat Pipes (BioTherm) From Megatube and MicroClimate tubing to DuoFin and StarFin aluminum heat pipe, BioTherm is dedicated to providing heat solutions that can withstand the toughest greenhouse environments. The MegaTube and MicroClimate tubing options are easy to install and ideal for bench or floor heating. The tubing has a conductive heating surface that allows for maximum root-zone heating. The DuoFin and StarFin aluminum pipe options are great for perimeter heating and melting snow trapped in the greenhouse gutter. It can also be useful for bench heating. Both pipe options provide gentle, radiant heat for plants and don’t require welding. TrueLeaf.net Infinite Energy 2 Condensing Boiler (Delta T Solutions) With up to 98 percent efficiency, the IE2 condensing boiler boasts a stainless steel heat exchanger with larger waterways to ensure maximum heat transfer. The product’s design ensures flexibility while […]

Read More
Basil_Persian-AAS2015_620x329

July 31, 2015

All-America Selections Promotes Garden-Fresh Cooking

All-America Selections (AAS) has stepped forward with another first when promoting AAS Winners, this time in the form of cooking videos using vegetables/edibles that have performed extremely well in the AAS Trials. These days, a love of gardening is directly related to a passion for cooking. Tying the two together is a natural when marketing joys of cooking with fresh vegetables from the garden and farm market. After 82 years of conducting trials where only the best performers are declared AAS Winners, the organization now has more than 325 individual varieties that have been “Tested Nationally & Proven Locally.” It is some of these many varieties that culinary storyteller, entertainer and horticulture industry veteran Jonathan Bardzik will use in a series of five videos demonstrating cooking techniques with AAS Winning herbs and vegetables. “I am excited to partner with All-America Selections to show people across the country that AAS Winners perform […]

Read More
Burpee Home Gardens Brand Adds Flowers

July 31, 2015

4 Reasons Retailers Snub National Brands

Greenhouse Grower’s lead editor, Laura Drotleff, and I got into a debate about why garden retailers, especially independent garden centers, snub marketing efforts from breeders and growers. She was very much on the breeders’ and growers’ side, expressing frustration about how limited retailers’ vision can be on the topic. I’ve reported on the garden retail side of the industry since 1998, about the same length of time Laura has reported on growers. I’ve heard a lot of retailer views on this, so allow me to share the most common reasons why retailers decline free marketing: Costs. While the marketing materials are free, and sometimes advertising, participating in these projects usually requires minimum orders. From a grower’s perspective, the minimum orders are reasonable. If garden stores promote a plant line, they need to have enough supplies to satisfy demand. From a retail perspective, if inventory reports show a plant line can […]

Read More
llan Armitage Syngenta Starcluster

July 30, 2015

Let’s Talk About Starflowers. Why Is Pentas Not More Po…

It is good to talk about production techniques, performance results and then to see how our friends garden. Diversity of plant material has always been a strength in American garden centers, and we should never run out of plants to get people excited. However, perhaps people are tired of Petunias or Callas or Geraniums, but we will never run out of options to put in front of them. One plant that is often overlooked is Pentas, a fabulous summer crop for late spring sales. These are heat-tolerant plants, and growing them below 65°F in the greenhouse results in significant delay. Fertility should be at least 150ppm nitrogen, but avoid ammonia in the fertilizer. Plants are best grown at a somewhat higher pH than usual, between 6.4 to 6.8. For best presentation, pinch out the center bud. Side flowers will bloom together, and plants will walk off the shelf. Garden centers […]

Read More

July 30, 2015

Spread Your Risk Beyond Spring Sales [Opinion]

Growers who participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Recap Survey said they have had enough of the uncertainty that the weather brings. They said it’s time to build up sales in other seasons like fall so we’re not so dependent on spring. As a couple of wholesale growers, both from the Southeast, very eloquently stated, our industry has mastered squeezing everything we can out of the spring season. And while this year happened to be a very successful one, thanks to the improving economy and elevated consumer confidence, they said, “now is no time to celebrate.” “Spring is still Christmas in the horticulture industry, but we have done such a good job focusing on spring that we have neglected other seasons,” one grower said. “Having so many eggs in the spring basket is dangerous. Fall will never be what spring is, but having a solid second season is in […]

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

2015 Spring Crops Report: Rain Soaks Spring Sales

Rain, rain and more rain. That was the story this spring for the large majority of growers across the U.S. And where it wasn’t too wet, it was too dry. Drought conditions cut sales in the West and Southwest. But it wasn’t all bad. Eighty-nine percent of respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Crops Survey declared the season a success, despite its challenges. They said beautiful weather in April and excited consumers who were ready to spend got the season going early, but then cool temps and rainy weekends throughout May and June caused confusion over when and how much to plant. Of the 189 respondents to Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Spring Recap Survey, 53 percent identified themselves as grower-retailers, 34 percent were wholesale growers and 13 percent said they were young plant growers. Most responses came from the Midwest (27 percent), Northeast (18 percent) and Southeast (16 percent), but also […]

Read More

July 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Continues To Strengthen Standards With MP…

MPS recognized Dümmen Orange during an unofficial ceremony at Cultivate’15 for its continued dedication to ensuring sustainability in the floriculture industry. Through its deep understanding of environmental impact and the importance of sustainable operations, Dümmen Orange has implemented production best practices within its facilities to meet or exceed MPS standards on environmental and agricultural practices, as well as social responsibility. “Nowadays, consumers are not only interested in the visible and tangible characteristics of the products they buy, they also are concerned with how products are made,” says Carl Kroon, General Manager of the Dümmen Orange farm Las Mercedes in El Salvador. “Dümmen Orange is deeply rooted in our commitment to our people, our values and our planet. The MPS certification helps us to make it visible to our customers that our production methods respect our workers and the environment.” Setting A High Standard Dümmen Orange has taken a wide range […]

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

July 29, 2015

Participants From All Over The World Gather At Cultivat…

Participants from the United States, Canada, Mexico and more than 20 other countries gathered in Columbus, Ohio for Cultivate’15 on July 11-14. The largest all-industry horticulture exposition and convention in North America recently concluded with approximately 10,000 attendees. This year, attendees saw more exhibitors, an expanded collection of business-building programs and the presentation of several industry initiatives. The event gathered professionals from all aspects of the horticulture industry, including garden and floral retailing, greenhouse and nursery production, plant breeding, landscaping, interior plantscaping, research and education and the manufacturers and distributors of products and services. Formerly known as the OFA Short Course, it was the 87th edition of the event that was rebranded last year as “Cultivate.” Michael V. Geary, AmericanHort president and CEO, says the event continues to grow and serve the diverse businesses that comprise the industry. “Cultivate is not just a grower show anymore, and hasn’t been in contemporary […]

Read More
Bob_Peters

July 28, 2015

J.R. Peters’ Founder Dies At 97

J.R. Peters announced that its founder, Robert (Bob) Peters has died. Here is how his family and coworkers honored him: It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Robert (Bob) Peters, 97 years old, founder of the Robert B Peters Company. Our mentor, father and grandfather passed away peacefully surrounded by his family on July 18 in Allentown, Pa. He was a true floriculture chemist who designed and formulated the earliest Peters Fertilizer Products that still carry his name today. Born October 12, 1917 in Hanover, Pennsylvania, he was the oldest of 6 brothers. He made his home in Allentown where he started his first business, Peters Horticultural Services, in his mother’s garage in 1947. Bob was happily married for over 50 years and has 4 children, 13 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren. His passion for plant nutrition began in 1947 after he completed his service in […]

Read More
2016 SHSG covers.indd

July 28, 2015

SHS Griffin Releases 2016 Catalog In Print And Expanded…

SHS Griffin has announced the release of its annual seed and plant catalog for the 2015-16 season. Available in both print and digital formats, the 2016 catalog features more than 400 new and improved varieties from the industry’s leading breeders. The 262-page print catalog covers the company’s full seed portfolio — more than 3,400 cultivars of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, herbs and vegetables. From the SHS Griffin vegetative offering, the complete spring-annual assortment from Syngenta Flowers is featured, alongside new introductions and top sellers from nine top suppliers such as Proven Winners, Dümmen Orange and Suntory. More than 120 vegetative perennials from Syngenta Flowers are also included, including several SHS Griffin exclusives. The SHS Griffin 2016 digital catalog includes all of the product information and photography from the print edition, and more. For the first time, SHS Griffin has added a range of digital-only bonus content: detailed crop culture, quick […]

Read More
Cal-Poly fields

July 28, 2015

Cal-Poly To Preserve Campus Agricultural Land

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo will no longer consider development of nearly 43 acres of prime agricultural land just west of its campus core, as the university proceeds with the two-year process of updating its campus master plan. In May, the university had released an update to its Master Plan that indicated that almost all of its orchards, horticulture facilities and field sites may be repurposed for future development of university housing and other campus infrastructure. Most of the land in question is classified Class 1 farmland. The acreage is used now for lemons, grapevines, mandarin oranges, a deciduous orchard and silage for the university’s livestock. The proposed changes would have directly affected the current orchard plantings and other long term plans for the department, according to a letter from Scott Steinmaus, the horticulture and crop science department head. Steinmaus encouraged industry members to submit their comments to the university. An […]

Read More
Syngenta CAST 2015

July 27, 2015

New App Brings Syngenta Flowers’ Portfolio To Gro…

Syngenta Flowers' newest app allows growers and brokers to quickly access information, descriptions, photos, culture and more on all of Syngenta's varieties.

Read More
Heating Feature image

July 27, 2015

In Hot Pursuit Of Heating Trends For The Greenhouse

From biomass boilers to hydronic-heating systems, growers have a range of options to fit their operation’s unique needs. Here’s what five manufacturers had to say about the latest trends.

Read More
Suzanne McKee

July 27, 2015

ePlantSource’s Suzanne McKee To Hike Grays Peak T…

Just a few years after welcoming their two daughters into the world, Gordon and Kristen Gray are faced with the agonizing diagnosis that their girls, Charlotte and Gwenyth Gray, both have Batten Disease CLN6, a rare neurodegenerative disorder that currently has no cure and is fatal. Children afflicted with this usually do not survive past the age of 12. Since the diagnosis, the friends and family of the Grays, including Suzanne McKee from ePlantSource, have come together to show an enormous amount of support through viral social media campaigns, silent auctions, lemonade stands and various other events and fundraisers. Celebrity support has also come in droves from celebrities such as Ali Larter, Channing and Jenna Dewan Tatum, Drew Barrymore, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Longoria and countless others. The Colorado friends of the Gray family are hiking Grays Peak on August 29 in support of Charlotte and Gwenyth. McKee and Brooke Michaels […]

Read More
Bunching onion warrior

July 27, 2015

All-America Selections Introduces First AAS Winners For…

All-America Selections announced another group of edible AAS Winners for home gardeners, gourmet gardeners, farm-to-table growers, market growers and anyone interested in a unique, delicious addition to their vegetable assortment. These three winners are the first for the 2016 Garden Season. Additional winners will be announced this fall and winter as the 2015 trials conclude and the breeders meet specified criteria. The first group of AAS Winners for 2016 includes: Bunching Onion ‘Warrior’ (Regional Winner) Mizuna ‘Red Kingdom’ F1 (National Winner) Radish ‘Sweet Baby’ F1 (Regional Winner) All-America Selections has had bulb onions as award winners in the past, but ‘Warrior’ is the first bunching (or green) onion. Similarly, there have been green mustard AAS Winners, but never a red Mizuna (or Japanese Mustard). ‘Sweet Baby’ radish joins nine other radishes that are previous AAS Winners adding a violet colored beauty to an assortment of radishes that range from white […]

Read More
Home Factory_Dramm2

July 24, 2015

The Dramm Corporation Will Be Featured On “Home Factory…

The Dramm Corporation, a family-owned manufacturer of watering tools, is in the national spotlight for making an eye-catching product. Dramm’s 30-inch ColorMark Rain Wand will be featured in a segment on July 27 on FYI’s “Home Factory.” The Home Factory production crew shot a segment showing the process of making the Rain Wand from start to finish. “Our grandfather, John G. Dramm, a florist by trade, invented the Water Breaker in the early 1940s to provide an efficient and even flow of water for flower growers,” says Hans Dramm, third generation owner of the Dramm Corporation. “This was the beginning of the Dramm Corporation and the foundation of the beautiful Rain Wands you will see highlighted in our Home Factory segment.” Dramm’s Rain Wands allow you to apply large quantities of water quickly to the plant base, where it soaks deep into the soil. The 30-inch ColorMark Rain Wand is equipped with a […]

Read More
eMailMarketing feature image

July 23, 2015

Is eMail Dead?

Email as a marketing technique may seem outdated, but when done well, it is still an effective way to share content and market your brand.

Read More