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January 28, 2008  By Greenhouse Canada

This year’s recipient was recognized for his dedication to extension efforts, research and teaching. His frequent visits to growers “ensured that he did not forget that they were hungry for applied research projects that addressed the problems they were facing in the greenhouse right now.”

46Ontario growers presented a prestigious award earlier this year to one of the industry’s leading researchers and teachers, who began his association with Ontario growers as an extension specialist.

Dr. Theo Blom received this year’s Award for Research Excellence and Service to the Industry from Flowers Canada Ontario. The presentation was made during the FCO’s fifth annual research symposium held at the Royal Botanical Gardens.


The award, noted the FCO executive director Dr. Irwin Smith, “is a fitting description of Theo’s dedication to improving greenhouse production in Ontario for the past 30 years.”

The symposium featured overviews of about a dozen FCO-supported projects, including work by Dr. Blom who’s studying the effects of high-intensity moving lights on potted campanula. Twenty-one projects, with a total investment of $3.1 million, are currently underway. Most of the studies will run through 2007.

After completing his B.Sc. and M.Sc. at Wageningen in the Netherlands, Dr. Blom graduated with a PhD from the University of Guelph in 1976. He soon began work as the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF) greenhouse floriculture extension specialist at the Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario (HRIO) at Vineland Station.

In 1979, he started the HRIO greenhouse floriculture research program, with Wayne Brown taking over his extension specialist responsibilities.

His early research focused on energy conservation and applied crop production. However, since the late 1980s, the focus moved to irrigation technology and the environment, applied plant physiology relative to non-chemical height control strategies, crop management studies associated with lighting, soil heating, and more recently to disease transmission in recirculating irrigation technologies. “His research has always been collaborative,” said Dr. Smith, “always involving colleagues from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), OMAFRA greenhouse floriculture specialists, and the University of Guelph.”

In 1997, Dr. Blom became associate professor for greenhouse floriculture when the management of HRIO was transferred to the University of Guelph. In 2004, his research program was transferred to the main campus.

“Many in the Vineland area,” quipped Dr. Smith, “miss the familiar silhouette of Theo riding his bike along the North Service Road on his way to HRIO or on his way home for lunch.”   

Dr. Blom helped establish the FCO night school program for growers in 1980. He taught night school at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture for 12 years, and is a guest instructor at Niagara College. He is also a longtime member of the Canadian Greenhouse Conference committee.

“Theo’s frequent visits to growers ensured that he did not forget that they were hungry for applied research projects that addressed the problems they were facing in the greenhouse right now,” noted Dr. Smith.

He added that the results of Dr. Blom’s many projects “leave no doubt” that growers’ needs were being addressed:

•     Cold irrigation water applied to the apical meristem effectively controls the height of Easter lilies.

•     Eliminating twilight with blackout at the end of the day effectively controls plant height of Easter lilies.

•     B-Nine, although more effective than Sumagic at controlling chrysanthemum height, can lead to delayed flowering and flower colour change on the cultivar ‘Pelee.’

•     Cut gerbera respond to short photoperiods with increased flower stem production.

•     Giberellic acid prevents yellowing of the lower leaves of Easter lilies.

•     The severity of Erwinia carotovora soft rot in Calla lilies increases with the presence of phosphorus fertilization.

Dr. Blom currently has three FCO-supported projects underway:

•     High-intensity pulse lighting on potted campanula.

•    High-temperature, PGRs, and photoperiod interactions affecting potted mum height.

•     Development of a grower-friendly immunoassay to quantify Erwinia carotovora ssp carotovora in recirculating nutrient solutions.

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