POINSETTIA POINTERS FOR THE 2006 SEASON

January 28, 2008
Written by Jack Williams
“During the long, languid days of summer, we try hard to block out thoughts of the coming poinsettia crop and everything it involves, only to be brought back to reality when that call comes that cuttings are on the way! But rather than get in a funk about it, make a vow that 2006 will be the best crop ever. All it takes is putting attention to the details needed to avoid pitfalls commonly experienced with poinsettias. Too often growers treat their crop as the ‘same old’ production from previous years; the reality is, it is not!”
24During the long, languid days of summer, we try hard to block out thoughts of the coming poinsettia crop and everything it involves, only to be brought back to reality when that call comes that cuttings are on the way!

But rather than get in a funk about it, make a vow that 2006 will be the best crop ever. All it takes is putting attention to the details needed to avoid pitfalls commonly experienced with poinsettias. Too often growers treat their crop as the same old production from previous years; the reality is, it is not!

SOME ‘SAME OLDS’ GROWERS SHOULD AVOID
If you are using the same old production schedule for transplanting and pinching, it’s time to take a closer look at your program and adjust for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

For example, growers challenged each year by plants that get too tall should adjust start and pinch dates by about one week to reduce the vegetative growth allowed before flower initiation that often results in excessive growth and increased plant growth regulator treatments. Likewise, if you’re usually having to push the crop in order to meet height specifications, adding time to the schedule will save you energy and make it easier to meet customer expectations. The goal should be to provide the right balance of vegetative growth needed to meet specifications with minimal dependence on chemical retardants.

For one source of help with production scheduling, go to www.ecke.com/tech_help/.com. Shifts in the production schedule shouldn’t vary more than seven to 10 days in any one year to help keep continuity in crop records from past years!

If you are using the same old growing temperatures as previous years, it is time to look at growing the crop at cooler temperatures, especially with current rising fuel costs. Not all varieties can be grown cooler, but fortunately there is a good selection of genetics that can be used. ‘Freedom Early Red,’ the Freedom series, the Enduring series, ‘Autumn Red,’ ‘Red Velveteen,’ and the Jester series are all examples that can all be grown cooler with outstanding results. Do not use mid- to late-season varieties, as they are easily delayed by the colder development temperatures. When faced with forcing the crop during November, the increased energy requirements far exceed any savings from earlier in the season.

Group the crop by temperature needs in separate greenhouses during production to maximize your efficiency and use of energy for production. For more information on some of the facts to consider for growing at lower temperatures, go to www.ecke.com/tech_help/.com.

While on the topic of genetics, are you using the same old varieties based on familiarity with these poinsettias? With so many advancements in plant strength and characteristics, it makes good sense to identify significant production or transportation related problems affecting your crop and then look at poinsettia varieties that address these problems. World wide, stem breakage has been responsible for more losses than any other single problem with this crop. Simply by shifting to poinsettia varieties like Prestige, growers can virtually eliminate stem breakage from happening either during production or during transportation. As an example, consider a grower who is currently  experiencing five per cent in losses due to this disorder. If these losses can be reduced to one per cent through variety selection alone, it is possible to reduce shrink and realize increased sales without making any other changes!  

If you are using the same old fertilizers as the past, now is a great time to review and make adjustments based on your current irrigation water quality. Regardless of your water source the characteristics are likely to change from year to year based on variables such as rainfall levels, temperatures, etc. What worked in past years may not be the right blend and mix based on current irrigation water quality, so test and review prior to the season in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies or toxicities that impact the crop.
While nutritional problems continue to be one of the main challenges experienced each year by growers, testing can help take some of the risk factor out of production at a very reasonable cost!

If you are using the same old plant growth regulator (PGR) programs as the past, now is also a good time to evaluate new techniques proving to be effective on this crop.

Canadian growers face different height management challenges compared to their counterparts deeper into the southern regions of the U.S. Prior to flower initiation, it is feasible to use any of key PGRs with little or no negative impact on the crop, provided rates and application technique are kept within normal parameters. However, differences in temperatures and daylength when compared to the ‘Lower 48’ limit how far into production PGRs can be safely used. Northern growers have a much smaller window of opportunity to treat for height control, making it imperative to track height and evaluate PGR needs closely!

If you are using the same old pest management practices and insecticides, now is definitely the time to review what is in your arsenal. With the identification and confirmation of the new “Q” biotype whitefly, growers need to be on the offensive. This new biotype can not be identified visually; it looks just like the old bemesia that growers have been battling for years. However, this new whitefly is not controlled by many of the most popular pesticides.

Researchers have developed outstanding documentation on the pesticides that provide the efficacy expected when dealing with this whitefly. By using this list and following a good program of rotation (and good application technique), it is possible to prevent build up of this or other insects in the crop. More information on chemical efficacy and control programs for “Q” whitefly is available at www.ecke.com/pdf/BiotypeWhiteFly.pdf. 

Where possible, biological programs can be effective where growers have experience and are familiar with how to properly execute such a pest control program.

And finally, if you are using the same old pricing strategies, are you sure you are making money? With the increased costs of fuel, energy and labour, etc., that make represent important input costs for the poinsettia crop, are you charging enough to pay yourself adequately for your work? If you don’t understand your input costs and how to allocate these moneys specifically to this, or any other crop, how is it possible to assure you are making a profit? Of all the same olds mentioned, this may be one of your most important points to be quantified, validated and adjusted for maximum returns.

Jack Williams is a technical advisor for the Ecke Ranch and Ecke Europe, supporting growers with production information and troubleshooting for poinsettias and other vegetative crops represented by the Ranch. He can be reached by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and by
phone at 760 944-4075.

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