Enhancing cut flower production and marketing for produce growers: Methods of diversification into proven niches, part II
The number one question growers always ask each other and researchers’ is “What are the best varieties to grow?” The second question is usually “What is new and worth considering adding to my inventory?” Providing information to support these answers has long been the primary driving force behind the Penn State Cooperative Extension / NE SARE Cut Flower Trials Program.
Due to the nature of cut flower growing and the current concerns with preserving and encouraging pollinators, the 2007 program also included identifying pesticides and pest management strategies that fit the description of biorational yet still control the target pest(s). This has the potential to reduce pesticide exposure while still securing the successful harvest of quality flowers. We are developing recommendations for growers to use in controlling several common cut flower diseases as well as provide comparisons between conventional and biorational control methods. These diseases and pests include: powdery mildew on zinnia and dahlia, bacterial and fungal leaf spot on zinnia and sunflower, and Japanese beetle control on many flowers. Preliminary work on biorational recommendations began in the growing season of 2006 with a demonstration powdery mildew control trial on Oklahoma Formula Zinnia using 13 biorational and conventional fungicides. This work continued in the 2007 program with fully replicated trials on zinnia and sunflower. Fungicide and bactericide materials include: Phyton 27, Phostrol / ProPhyte, Armicarb O, Tricon, Milstop, M-Pede, Heritage, Strike, Compass, Actinovate SP, Rhapsody, Eagle, and Daconil. Insecticidal materials include: M-Pede, Pyganic, Stylet Oil, Permethrin, Warrior or Baythroid, Capture, and Aza-Direct. The extremely dry 2007 growing season produced little in the way of foliar diseases, but did provide substantial opportunities to evaluate Japanese beetle control strategies. Unfortunately, the very high beetle pressure in 2007 overwhelmed all of the organic and biorational pesticide options with only Carbaryl (Sevin) providing satisfactory control.
The field days at both SREC and the Franklin Horticulture Center on July 26, July 28, and August 22, 2007allowed over 460 program participants to examine the planting trials discuss pest management, and pick up skills on flower arranging. Also, on August 27, 2007, the Mid-Atlantic ASCFG (cut flower growers association) provided a venue at their annual summer field day in Virginia to discuss the results of this programs alternative pest management strategies trials.
Publications due out in early 2008 based on project results include: Agricultural Alternatives, Cut Flowers (now in final review), Flowers for New Cut Flower Growers (awaiting formatting). Cut Flower Suppliers Guide (awaiting formatting), Biorational and Organic Pest Materials for Cut Flower Growers (draft stage), and Celosia for Cut Flower Growers Report (very rough). As these are completed they will join the other completed cut flower publications at the Regional Horticulture Team Website: http://capitalhort.cas.psu.edu/Factsheets.html
Of the more than 180 cut flower growers that attend the annual Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Conference, cut flower field days and ASCFG regional meetings, at least 50% will utilize cut flower cultivars and pest management practices identified in this program as superior. This same group will increase marketable material per production area by 25% and increase pest management using biorational materials and techniques by 50%.
Of the 20 that begin developing business models, 8 will actually start cut flower-based enterprises in 2008 and 2009.
Milestone: At least 50 participating growers will adopt five or more cut flower cultivars that are demonstrated at field days for the next growing season. This milestone will be replicated each year of the project although the participating growers may shift.
While the specific number of those growers that have adopted superior varieties from this program will remain unknown until the survey is tabulated, preliminary anecdotal information from conversations and emails with growers indicates very high adoption.
Milestone: At least 20 participating growers will adopt biorational pest management methods to gain control of powdery mildew and beetles as demonstrated at project events. This milestone will be replicated each year of the project although the participating growers may shift.
Conversations and emails with growers as well as responses at grower meetings indicates adoption of biorational pest management far in excess of 20 growers. Regular threads of discussion include rates of copper, soaps and Neem oil products to use for maximum benefit.
Milestone: At least 40 clients will attend the new growers’ schools in January 2007 and October 2007. Of those attending, 20 will follow through and begin developing business models based on information gained at the program and in follow up consultations later with the project coordinator.
1) 57 clients participated in the New Growers School at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Conference at Hershey, PA. Several of these clients have started producing cut flowers, but the full impact of this program will remain unknown until the survey currently underway is completed.
2) The October ASCFG National Meeting was held in Raleigh, NC. Participants in that new growers school are included in the current survey effort
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Grower interest in cut flowers continues to increase. Field day and seminar participation at cut flower oriented events has increased steadily as does grower demand for variety trials and pest management information. Existing growers now require very specific crop management information such as planting timing for steady supply by variety, post-harvest recommendations, more demand for cut perennial and woody plant information as well as transplant production guidelines. This programs partnership with ASCFG has greatly increased the access that growers have to program results. That partnership has resulted in a now regular column in the ASCFG quarterly journal on weed control in cut flowers starting in early 2008.
The 2008 program will showcase Lisianthus and Chrysanthemum cultivars due to increasingly heavy grower production on these flowers in addition to the continuing pest management materials trials. Although the 2 participating growers supplied only consultations and advice in cultivar selection in 2007 due to the lateness of the project funds, and construction of new facilities on one of their farms, they will both host satellite trials of all of the program annuals in 2008.
8564 Olde Scotland Rd
Shippensburg, PA 17257
Office Phone: 7175323278
Catoctin Mountain Orchards
15307 Kelbaugh Rd
Thurmont, MD 21788
Office Phone: 2404097491