|Professor Alan Sullivan of the University of Guelph says that “plants native to Canada are, in most cases, ‘low input’ species.”
PHOTO BY NICOLE YADA, SPARK
He and his team of researchers are able to determine whether a native plant is ideal for such things as greenhouse production, cut flower sales, home decoration or in landscaping designs.
Sullivan’s research involves some of the most common species native to Canada – malva, echinacea and trillium.
‘MARKET OPPORTUNITIES ARE BASICALLY WIDE OPEN’
“When we’re working with these native species, we’re always evaluating them to see what their potential would be. Those market opportunities are basically wide open, so it’s up to us to identify them.”
Another benefit to growing Canadian species is that flowers native to Canada are known for being low-maintenance plants.
“Plants native to Canada are, in most cases, ‘low input’ species,” says Sullivan. “They do not require as much water, fertilizer or maintenance compared to some of the non-native species that many growers currently produce.”
Some are naturally hardy to challenging conditions and can flourish in harsh, natural environments. Some of the more popular tropical or semi-tropical non-native species are not as resilient and require more maintenance to thrive.
LOWER WATER, LIGHT, FERTILIZER AND ONGOING MAINTENANCE COSTS
Sullivan says low-input species can significantly reduce costs for growers in terms of water input, light, fertilizer and time spent maintaining the plant. Perennials such as liatris, columbine, aster and lupin are adapted to many of the environmental stresses that occur in Canada. These species are used to experiencing lower maintenance and inputs, and have adapted to these conditions.
Trials for this research take place at the Elora Research Station and the Edmund C. Bovey building greenhouses at the University of Guelph. Collaborator Prof. Praveen Saxena, Department of Plant Agriculture, is a major contributor to this project through his work with in vitro tissue culture methods for propagation.
Funding for this research is provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Flowers Canada (Ontario).
Johnny Roberts is a student writer with the SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) program at the University of Guelph.