Promoting crop diversification and soil health for cut flower production

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2019: $49,999.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2022
Host Institution Award ID: G223-19-W7502
Grant Recipient: Utah State University
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Melanie Stock
Utah State University
Dr. Brent Black
Utah State University
Dr. Daniel Drost
Utah State University
Dr. Larry Rupp
Utah State University


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Crop Production: fertilizers, nutrient management, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: extension, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    Title: Promoting crop diversification and soil health for cut flower production

    Summary: Growing cut flowers as a high-value crop has become popular across Utah in the last five years because of the crop’s unmatched profitability and small space requirements. Yet to date, minimal research and cultivation information exist for Utah, which has resulted in grower adoption of out-of-state materials that are not appropriate for Utah soils or climate conditions. Over-application of fertilizer and use of unsuitable soil amendments have introduced soil health, long-term productivity, and environmental sustainability risks. Therefore, the goal of this project is to answer the following research questions by testing a premium cut flower, Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’:

    1. What nitrogen rates are needed to maximize economic return on yields (stem length, bloom diameter, and total number of blooms per plant) without buildup of nutrients and salts that negatively affect soil heath, productivity, and environmental sustainability?
    2. What are current management practices and market prices being used by cut flower farmers in Utah?
    3. How do native soil conditions and climate impact nutrient management and subsequent yields?

    This project will establish Dahlia trials at the Utah Agriculture Experimental Station – Greenville in North Logan, UT, to test and develop in-state nutrient management plans. Participatory research will also be conducted with growers to document present management practices, subsequent soil test results, yield, and profitability data on ranging soil types and climates in the state. Multiple Extension education outreach activities will be organized through conference presentations, field days, farm tours, and a grower association. Social media and digital resources will be developed to produce accessible in-state references on cultivation and soil health. Creating Utah-specific resources for cut flower cultivation that highlight soil health promotes innovative markets for growers by increasing resource use efficiency, yields, and environmental sustainability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Develop nutrient rate recommendations for Dahlia cultivation through research trials with five nitrogen rates and data that include soil test results (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH, and salinity) and yield (date of first harvestable bloom, stem length, bloom diameter, and total number of blooms per plant) over two growing seasons (2019 and 2020).
    2. Determine baseline production and profitability of Dahlia through a two-year on-farm study of soil test and yield data from six participatory farms (2019 and 2020). The growers span across a 200-mile transect in Utah that represents the diverse soil types and ranging climatic conditions, where the majority of the state’s population resides and manages land (the Wasatch Front).
    3. Raise soil health awareness through in-person outreach events (presentations and field days with needs assessments) and social media documentation of field work that includes live Q&A with the project director during 2019 and 2020.
    4. Produce clear, specific, and publicly available in-state recommendations for Dahlia cultivation to provide a reference for current and future growers, and responsible hobbyists. These Utah-specific grower guides (Fact sheets, bulletins, and video) will be available in 2021.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.