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SAF looks at consumer opportunities, crop challenges


February 28, 2012
By Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery

breakoutFeb. 28, 2012, Orlando – “We plant and flower breeders have the ability to control things that excite people,”  Dr. David G. Clark said at the opening of the Society of American Florist's (SAF) Pest and Production Management Conference in Orlando, Fla., last week.

Feb. 28, 2012, Orlando – “We plant and flower breeders have the ability
to control things that excite people,”  Dr. David G. Clark said at the
opening of the Society of American Florist's (SAF) Pest and Production
Management Conference in Orlando, Fla., last week.

The University of Florida researcher was talking about the market potential for flowers and plant varieties cultivated for key consumers.

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In one example from his research program, which aims at understanding and helping the floral industry target consumer preferences, Clark talked about attracting the upcoming generation of 18-24-year-olds.

“They’re green – they want to be green – but they don’t know how to get there. We have a great opportunity if the industry can show them how to incorporate flowers and plants into their lives," he said.

Clark’s talk was the kickoff to two days of discussion and hands-on information bundled under this year’s conference theme: A World Without Borders. Cutting across a wide swath of topics, sessions addressed the challenges of controlling today’s crop health threats, hands-on pest and disease identification practice sessions (with real plants and bugs), practical ideas for multi-cultural workforce training and much more.

“The presenters were very knowledgeable and easy to follow,” said Lucia Villavicencio, director of the Center for Applied Horticulture Research in Vista, Calif. “It was refreshing to see old subjects presented in a new way with a focus on viable solutions to the problems.”

Founded by Altman Plants, the Center focuses on finding real-world solutions for growers.

 “I like the conference. It’s a good way to find out what’s happening in production as well as pest management…[and] for growers to see other people in the business,” she said.

Other session highlights included:

  • Wayne Dixon, Ph.D., of the Florida Department of Agriculture, on the state’s challenges controlling invasives, noting that greenhouse and nursery products in Florida represent cash receipts of more than $1.9 billion, but millions have been spent to deal with invasive pests and diseases.
  • Growers need to prepare for a number of newly-arrived or recently expanded problems including: Ficus Whitefly in the Palm Beach area, European Pepper Moth in southern California, Downy Mildew in impatiens and Giant African Land Snail in Florida.
  • Tools for greenhouses adding edible crops were another theme, as the boundary between the worlds of vegetable and ornamentals production is disappearing.
  • Carlos Bográn, Ph.D., Texas A&M, noted that as much as 70 per cent of the greenhouse/nursery workforce is Hispanic, and described how cultural and socioeconomic differences may influence worker training.
  • Lance Osborne, Ph.D., University of Florida, discussed biological controls and using “banker plants” to control insects.
  • Terril Nell, Ph.D., and Wayne Mackay, Ph.D., University of Florida, emphasized the need to take down the barriers with legislators and inform them about the continued need for research funding.

Tabletop exhibits gave participants a chance to talk with suppliers about the latest crop production.

breakout  
P&PMC attendees test their skills and learn to identify plant diseases at a hands-on breakout session.  


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