Cool Heads Prevailed

As Leonardo Academy was getting ready to convene the first meeting of the 58-member committee appointed to reach consensus on developing national sustainable agriculture standards, we had no idea what the outcome would be (see page 12). Challenges were filed by leading agricultural organizations, including USDA and North American Horticultural Supply Association. The table was set. A draft standard was served. Would the meeting be a pleasant meal or a food fight?
We were impressed the group had the wisdom to start over and see what the true market interest is and if there is enough buy-in from affected stakeholders to pursue national sustainable agriculture standards.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), which developed the VeriFlora certification program for cut flowers and potted plants, developed the draft standard and hired Leonardo Academy to facilitate the process. The idea was that it would be easier to begin with a draft than to start from scratch. The draft will continue to serve as a reference but the committee is going to start from scratch.

One fundamental question was whether the standard should be a pathway for continuous improvement or a goal with an end target? We heard organics groups were insisting any sustainable certification program begin with organic production, which would dramatically reduce the number of growers that would or could participate. VeriFlora is a path for continuous improvement with organic production being the end goal.

One thing our Dr. Will Carlson keeps saying related to sustainable recommendations is “show me the science.” Prove these methods are better in achieving sustainable outcomes. This is one reason I like the MPS (Milieu Project Sierteelt) program developed 14 years ago by the Dutch Flower Auctions. It’s based on real data. Every four weeks, more than 4,000 operations in 55 countries enter data on their chemical and energy use, and they receive an environmental scorecard. 
Over a 10-year period, MPS was able to quantify a 23 percent reduction in chemical usage and 25 percent reduction in energy consumption while production of plants and flowers increased 30 percent. These are real results that show each company’s and the collective industry’s movement in the right direction. Isn’t that what we’re really looking for? A path for continuous improvement and recognition for the good we already do?

So far, I know of one grower in the United States trying the MPS system – Doug Cole of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, N.H. “We are sending in our monthly use reports just like any other MPS grower,” he says. “At the end of the year, we will see where we rank. This gives us a starting point to improve ourselves over time. The whole idea is to do better both for us and for our customers. It is not to ‘pass the certification process’ and then move on to other issues. We are now able to see what our pesticide use, water use and energy consumption is in a true quantitative way and then try to improve in these areas, which can then save us money.”
To establish a benchmarking system that makes sense for growers in the United States, more growers need to get on board. “They can always switch (to another program), but we need to get some mass on this project,” Cole says. “We need to get a track record for both systems (MPS and VeriFlora), so that we have something to compare and discuss.”

As sustainable standards committee members review other global certification programs, I hope they take a good look at MPS. It has a proven track record of demonstrating meaningful results and achieving sustainable aims that work for growers.

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

April 23, 2018

Opinion: Why the Floriculture Industry Must Be Willing …

There is potential for our industry to provide talking points for growers to promote sustainable production efforts. It’s not exactly bragging — it’s simply and humbly speaking the truth.

Read More
Griffin-Massachusetts-Cannabis-Workshop

April 23, 2018

Griffin Hosting Cannabis Growers Workshop in May

The half-day program in Colorado will focus on several aspects of crop fertility and nutrition delivery strategies.

Read More
Philips-Lighting-rose-toplighting-recipe

April 22, 2018

New LED Toplighting System From Philips is Optimized fo…

Available for European rose growers, the GreenPower LED system features a light spectrum designed for cut rose cultivation, leading to bigger buds and heavier stems.

Read More
Bloomify Rose lantana cultivar

April 21, 2018

How Researchers are Building Better Lantana Plants

Lantana might be beautiful, but the perennial plant has a tendency to escape confined spaces, spreading beyond control and even cross-pollinating with native species. Coming up with a solution for lantana’s invasive nature has been a passion project for UF/IFAS Plant Scientist Zhanao Deng. His mission was set forth after local industry stakeholders asked if it was possible to breed sterile, non-invasive lantana selections. After more than a decade of research, Deng successfully developed and delivered two new lantana varieties designed to accommodate nursery managers, retailers, and consumers. According to Deng, ‘Bloomify Rose’ and ‘Bloomify Red’ are not only visually appealing, but they also don’t produce fruit and seeds, don’t spread, and don’t cross-pollinate Florida’s native lantana, Lantana depressa. Rick Brown, Owner of Riverview Flower Farm in Riverview, FL, has sold the new varieties for about a year and can attest to their assets. “They are relatively a perpetually bloomer,” […]

Read More
AFE-Flower-Marketing-Videos

April 20, 2018

Your Weekly Chance to Market the Positive Vibes That Fl…

Each week between now and the end of the year, American Floral Endowment will post a new video promoting flowers.

Read More

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAS…

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More

April 18, 2018

Dr. A Weighs in on His CAST Favorites From American Tak…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More
Dummen-Christmas-Decorating

April 17, 2018

Dümmen Orange’s New Gamechanger, Plants for All S…

Greenhouse Grower's California Spring Trials Team headed north on Day 3, with stops at Dümmen Orange in picturesque San Luis Obispo and Floricultura in fertile Salinas.

Read More
Verwer-Dahlias

April 17, 2018

Syngenta Flowers Acquires Netherlands-Based Dahlia Bree…

Syngenta Flowers has reached an agreement with Verwer Dahlia BV to acquire the company’s dahlia assortment and breeding program. Both companies expect to finalize the acquisition in the coming weeks.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Armitage Scholarship Winner Weighs in on Plant Breeding…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says breeders' persistence in making small and large breeding improvements is a testament to their passion and dedication to excellence.

Read More

April 17, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: Stand-Out New Plants fro…

Check out these new plant introductions from the California Spring Trials 2018 trail featuring breeding from Dümmen Orange , Westhoff, Beekenkamp, and Plug Connection.

Read More

April 17, 2018

Allan Armitage’s Noteworthy 2018 Plant Intros fro…

Here are some of the top variety introductions for 2019 that have pleased Dr. A during California Spring Trials 2018.

Read More