Growing Overseas

Growing Overseas

An aging population, water safety and smaller living spaces are some of the forces driving floriculture in Europe, as well as the United States. The National Floriculture Forum’s trip to Holland and Germany in January looked at how growers, retailers and educators are grappling with these and other industry trends. The trip rounded up with a few days at the IPM Essen show. The National Floriculture Forum brings together academia and industry to discuss floriculture issues and research.

In Holland, the group visited seven growers, who grow a variety of crops, from bulbs to orchids to ferns. Grower highlights included Wesselman Flowers, which grows bulbous crops hydroponically. Producing tulips, lilies and brodiea for grocery chains, Wesselman sells 90 percent of its product between January and April. Its 20 million tulips per year are grown quicker and cleaner in water instead of media.

With impressive packaging automation, pot plant producer Humako Plant has focused on African violets in the last 20 years. High labor costs have sent propagation to Brazil and a price tag at auction of 80 cents per pot (less Aalsmeer’s auction fees) has forced high automation for the crop. The company reports that the monoculture mindset is fading in the pot plant market, with many growers diversifying.

The group saw a gorgeous sea of orchids at Hoogenboom Orchids, and learned a bit about the economics of growing in Europe. Hoogenboom pays about $1 U.S. dollar for each plug and fetches between $7.50 and $10.50 per finished plant. Each plant is grown for 20 weeks and then cools 20 more weeks to bloom.

Cyclamen growing for P.J.J. Vollebregt includes under bench heating and a more open design for good air circulation. From seed, the company gets a 80 to 95 percent germination rate in its 100 varieties, 95 percent of which are mixtures. Mini-cyclamen in 6- and 10-centimeter pots are growing in popularity. Six or seven varieties of potted hydrangeas are grown to finish during the winter, but the market is forcing smaller quantities of more varieties for repeat customers.

The mini trend in Europe was carried on in the cut flower industry at Terra Nigra, which is seeing a growing preference in Europe for mini gerbera daisies. They come in a range of colors and growers can produce more stems in the same area compared with regular sizes gerberas. The minis also have no leaves on their stems, making them easier to consolidate into bouquets.

Fern specialist Braam Youngplants produces 160 species through tissue culture and spore production. A pre-inspection growing area for peat-based plants is supervised by USDA-APHIS based in Lisse. The grower uses pasteurized rainwater from the greenhouse gutters for irrigation. 

Breeding–Growing All The Way

In Europe, most breeders have their own production facilities for young and stock plants. Ball Holland is the newest entrant into the market, with a very efficient distribution system that can move product where it needs to go. Trays are sown, germinated and then sent to greenhouses in Europe, including Poland and Italy. The European market is especially intolerant of inconsistencies in product, so plugs are graded during the automation process. The data-intensive operation includes camera-eyes and bar-coded plug trays.

On a tour of the company’s Reinberg, Germany facility, Dömmen president Tobias Dömmen shared the news that the breeder will trial calibrachoa in 2007. The 20-acre facility is the company’s rooting station in Europe, with a 60-person stick line and an output of 3.5 million rooted cuttings per week. Sophisticated packaging automation wowed the crowd. 

Exporting And Educating

Waterdrinker cash and carry allows wholesale customers to buy direct, rather than at auction, at low prices. Buyers from all over Europe are customers of the potted plants and cut flowers, but also of the retail services Waterdrinker offers, including custom-made packaging, arrangements and combination planters. Inspiration for colors, themes and design ideas can all be found in Waterdrinker’s many aisles.

DeGooijer International, another visit on the trip, is also an exporter, taking orders from around Europe and filling the demand at the Aalsmeer auction. Orders come in early in the morning, buyers go to the clocks to make their purchases and shipments are on their way to customers by early afternoon. About 95 percent of DeGooijer’s customers are wholesalers, the rest are retailers.

Fields of research at Wageningen University’s Applied Plant Research Center (www.ppo.wur.nl) include propagation and breeding, cultivation of bulbs, flowers, trees and perennials, logistics and packaging, as well as some recently developing concerns, such as crop protection, soils and fertilizers. As the canals of Amsterdam are also the source for the city’s drinking water, research must be done to find less sensitive cultivars and reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used. 

IPM Impresses

A huge show spanning pot plants, nursery stock, automation and equipment, floristry and retail hardgoods, the IPM show in Essen, Germany, delighted its 57,800 visitors with new color schemes and design ideas. More than 40 nations were represented, including 1,400 exhibitors.

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