BioBee USA and Hort Americas partner to bring growers biologically-based IPM

BioBee Biological Systems, headquartered in Sde Eliyaho, Israel, is at the forefront of implementing biologically-based integrated pest management (IPM) solutions in controlled environment agriculture and open-field production systems. BioBee USA, a subsidiary of BioBee, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., has partnered with horticultural supplier Hort Americas in Bedford, Texas, to work together to educate and provide greenhouse growers, vertical farmers, indoor agriculturalists and hydroponic growers with a wide range of biological control products.

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Growing microgreens with LED grow lights in Sonora, Mexico

(Español abajo.)

Urban grower Karla Garcia is proud to announce the creation of her new company, Microgreens FLN based in Sonora, Mexico. Karla is a recent graduate with honors and a master’s degree in plant science from the University of Arizona. She is proud of her company’s commitment specializing in microgreens production using an indoor vertical farming strategy. Microgreens are an emerging class of specialty leafy greens and herbs. The crops are harvested when the cotyledons are fully developed and in some cases when the young plants have one true leaf.

Continue reading Growing microgreens with LED grow lights in Sonora, Mexico

Substrate trials look to assist hydroponic growers avoid propagation-related issues

Substrate trials in Hort Americas’ research greenhouse are looking at conventional and organic propagation substrates along with different irrigation strategies for producing healthy starter plugs for hydroponic production systems.

Hort Americas has retrofitted a 12,000-square-foot greenhouse in Dallas, Texas, for the purpose of studying edible crop production in a variety of hydroponic production systems. The greenhouse is also being used to demonstrate products offered in the company’s online catalog.

Tyler Baras, who is the company’s special projects manager, is overseeing the trialing of conventional and organic substrates in different production systems.

Tyler Baras, special projects manager at Hort Americas, is overseeing the trialing of leafy greens and herbs propagated in conventional and organic substrates. The seedlings are transplanted into a deep water culture, NFT or vertical tower production system.
Photos courtesy of Tyler Baras, Hort Americas

“The trials I am focusing on are organic substrates vs. conventional substrates,” Baras said. “I’m primarily using stonewool or rockwool as the conventional propagation substrate. I am also starting to trial some loose substrates, including peat and perlite.

“The seedlings are never moved into another substrate. The seed is sown into plugs and then the rooted seedlings are moved into a deep water culture, NFT (nutrient film technique), or vertical tower production system. The plugs are really only useful for the first two weeks in propagation. Then it is really about getting the roots to grow outside the plugs so the roots grow directly in the water.”

For the organic production systems, Baras is working primarily with expandable coco plugs. He has also started working with some organic loose substrates including coco peat and perlite.

For the substrate studies Baras is working with two standard hydroponic crops, basil and lettuce, primarily butterhead lettuce.

“When I’m testing the lettuce I use either raw or pelleted seed,” he said. “With basil it’s all raw seed. Basil tends to germinate relatively easily, whether the seed is planted into a dibbled hole or sown on top of the substrate.”

Focused on irrigation strategies

A primary objective of the substrate trials is to determine the best irrigation strategies for both organic and conventional substrates.

“This is probably more important with some of the organic substrates than the conventional substrates because the organic substrates tend to hold more water,” Baras said. “One of the big challenges that organic hydroponic growers run into is overwatering their plugs because coco holds more water than conventional substrate plugs that growers are used to. Coco plugs hold more water than stonewool, phenolic foam and polymer-based peat plugs. These other plugs dry out faster than coco plugs.”

For the substrate trials, rooted seedling plugs are finished in a deep water culture, NFT (nutrient film technique) or vertical tower production system.

Baras said growers who are moving from conventional to organic production tend to use the same irrigation techniques they employed with their conventional propagation program.
“The growers will continue to irrigate the plugs a couple times per day,” he said. “With a lot of the organic plugs, when the seed is sown, they only need to be irrigated once every three days. If the plugs are overirrigated the roots don’t have an incentive to search out the water when they are planted into the production system. The search for water is what drives the seedling roots down to the bottom and out of the plugs.

“The goal of planting into plugs is to have the seedling roots grow outside of the plugs into the water of the deep water culture or NFT system. If the plugs are overwatered as young seedlings, the roots don’t make it down to the bottom of the plugs so it takes longer to start the seedlings and sometimes they just end up rotting because the plugs remain too wet.”

Type of irrigation system

In addition to looking at the irrigation frequency of plugs during propagation, Baras is studying the impact of different methods of irrigation during propagation, including overhead and subirrigation.

“When deciding whether to use overhead or subirrigation, it depends on whether raw or pelleted seed is being sown,” he said. “If pelleted seed is going to be used, a lot of times it’s advantageous to use overhead irrigation because it helps to dissolve the coating surrounding the seed. This helps to ensure the seed has better contact with the substrate. Sometimes it’s almost a little easier to get good germination with subirrigation if raw seed is used because of the direct contact with the substrate.

Growers need to avoid overwatering young seedling plugs or their roots may not make it down to the bottom of the plugs, which could delay transplanting into the production system.

“Smaller indoor growers often use subirrigation for germination. A lot of the large growers, especially those coming from the ornamental plant side such as bedding plants, usually have overhead irrigation systems installed. These growers have propagation areas set up with overhead irrigation, which can be used to start their hydroponic vegetable crops.”

Baras said most indoor warehouse growers are not going to be using watering wands or overhead irrigation in their operations.

“Most of the warehouse growers will be using subirrigation, such as flood tables,” he said. “For them it is going to be important that they select the right kind of seed to get good germination. They may have to try other techniques like using a deeper dibble or covering the seed with some kind of loose organic substrate such as perlite or vermiculite. Growers using overhead irrigation can usually sow pelleted seed without having to dibble the substrate.

“Many growers tend to have issues when they are using pelleted bibb lettuce seed with subirrigation. We are looking at ways of increasing the germination rate using dibbling with the pelleted seed or increasing the dibble size or covering the seed.”

Baras said growers who are using automation, including mechanized seeders and dibblers, prefer to use pelleted seed.

“With pelleted seed it’s easier to be more precise so that there is only one seed planted per plug cell,” he said. “I have seen automation used with raw basil seed. I have also seen organic production done where automation was used just to dibble the plug trays. Dibbling seems to be one of the biggest factors when it comes to getting good even germination.


Need for good seed-substrate contact

Baras said occasionally with tightly packed coco plugs, if the seed is not pushed down into the plug the emerging radicle may have issues penetrating the substrate.

“This helps push the radicle down so it contacts the substrate and establishes more easily,” he said. “When subirrigation is used it can be advantageous to cover the seed with vermiculite or just brush the top of the coco plug after the seed is planted to get some coverage of the seed.

“What usually affects the way that coco plugs work is the size of the coco particles. There is really fine coco. There is coco fiber, which can be mixed into the plug to help with aeration and increase drainage. We are looking at various plugs with some increased fiber content trying to aerate the plugs in order to speed up the drainage.”

Stonewool or rockwool is the primary conventional propagation substrate in the trials. Other loose substrates, including peat and perlite, are also starting to be trialed.

Baras is also looking at using loose substrates in different ratios in plugs and then transplanting them into deep water culture, NFT, and vertical tower systems.

“One of the issues with hydroponic systems and loose substrates is these substrates can enter the production system and clog up the irrigation lines,” he said. “The trick is trying to avoid having any loose substrate enter the system. We are looking at using loose substrates and allowing the seedlings to establish longer in the plug cell during propagation before transplanting them into the production system. This enables the seedlings to develop a larger root system, which can prevent loose substrate from falling into the system.”


For more: Hort Americas, (469) 532-2383;

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas;


Products being used in greenhouse trials

Expanding Possibilities with e-GRO®

Smart app signals new era in Precision Growing for GRODAN customers

ROERMOND, the Netherlands, − GRODAN, a global leader in stone wool substrate solutions introduces e-Gro: an easy to use, mobile app that gives real-time substrate information. e-Gro is a new service from GRODAN developed to support customers with a GroSens® MultiSensor system. Customers who need to have real-time reporting on their substrate, now have the opportunity to link their GroSens system to the e-Gro app. This new mobile and desktop application provides growers the possibility to get the maximum out of their substrate. It’s easy to use and very accurate. e-Gro is the perfect platform for professional growers interested in expanding their possibilities and keeping control of their growing in real-time. Making Precision Growing accessible from anywhere.


With the introduction of the GroSens MultiSensor system in 2013, GRODAN took the first step to enable Precision Growing by offering a tool that gave professional growers highly accurate and reliable insights into the root zone. “With technology continuously playing a more important role, we recognized the need to add a new, smart dimension to the system to service our customers 24/7 anywhere in the world regarding their irrigation strategy” explains Hub Janssen, Managing Director at GRODAN. “With e-Gro, root zone management is no longer a one-way-traffic activity, it becomes individual, easy to access and intelligent. And this is only the beginning, as we will continuously expand features and functionalities of the app over time. e-Gro is a great new service for our customers”.

What are the benefits of e-Gro?

  • e-Gro is mobile: easy to use at anytime and anywhere on your online smartphone, tablet or desktop
  • e-Gro is interactive: customise and optimise irrigation strategy with alerts and notifications year-round 24/7
  • e-Gro improves decision making to maximize production and fruit quality

e-Gro is available in combination with GRODAN slabs and the GroSens MultiSensor system. The app can be downloaded for free and is available in the Google Play (Android) and App Store (iOS) and can be accessed via smartphone, tablet or desktop. To find out more about e-Gro, visit


About the GRODAN Group

grodanThe GRODAN Group supplies innovative, sustainable stone wool substrate solutions for the professional horticultural sector based on Precision Growing principles. These solutions are used in the cultivation of vegetables and flowers, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, aubergines, roses and gerberas. The Group offers stone wool substrates together with tailor-made advice and tools to support Precision Growing, facilitating the sustainable production of healthy, safe, and tasty fresh produce for consumers. Sustainability plays a prominent role at GRODAN, from the production of stone wool substrates to end-of-life solutions.

Founded in 1969, the GRODAN Group is active in more than sixty countries worldwide. The Group’s head office is in Roermond, the Netherlands.

For more information and images:

Stefanie Wienhoven, Corporate Communications Manager

Tel: + 31 (0) 475 – 353481

email: and

Webinar on “Managing Nutrient Solutions for Hydroponic Leafy Greens and Herbs”

If you missed the e-GRO webinar “Managing Nutrient Solutions for Hydroponic Leafy Greens and Herbs” on Jan. 22, 2016, which was sponsored by Hort Americas, you can still view the webinar on YouTube.

Hydroponic greens and herbs are produced in systems with recirculating nutrient solutions. In order to maintain productive and quality crops, it is important to know how to properly maintain the nutrient solutions. Dr. Chris Currey at Iowa State University and Dr. Neil Mattson at Cornell University discuss strategies for managing pH and EC, formulating nutrient solutions and identifying common nutrient disorders.

Part 1: Common production systems, pH and EC management

Presented by Dr. Chris Currey, Iowa State University


Part 2: Nutrient solution recipes, common nutrient disorders

Present by Dr. Neil Mattson, Cornell University

e-GRO website becoming major information resource

U.S. university floriculture professors and extension
specialists have collaborated to bring the floriculture industry an extensive
and thorough information resource.

By David Kuack

If you aren’t familiar with the e-GRO website,
it is one anyone involved in floriculture should check out. How good is the
website? This summer the American Society for Horticultural Science presented
the website’s developers with its Extension Educational Materials Award.

The American Society for Horticultural Science presented
the developers of the e-GRO website with its Extension
 Educational Materials Award

The two-year-old e-GRO: Electronic Grower Resources
Online website was the brainchild of Brian Krug, extension greenhouse and
horticulture specialist at University of New Hampshire, Brian Whipker, extension
floriculture specialist at North Carolina State University, Roberto Lopez,
floriculture extension specialist at Purdue University, and Nora Catlin, floriculture
specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

“A few years ago Brian Whipker, Roberto Lopez and I were
travelling together,” said Brian Krug. “We were discussing how difficult it was
to prepare an extension newsletter. Roberto had the idea of doing a newsletter
collectively. We invited Nora Catlin, who is a plant pathologist, to join us in
creating the e-GRO Alert newsletter. The newsletter is funded by the American Floral Endowment.

“Rather than doing a traditional monthly or quarterly
newsletter we decided to do a seasonal weekly newsletter based on what we saw
going on in commercial greenhouses. The primary focus is what is happening in
greenhouses during the spring season beginning at the end of January through
May. Sometimes we prepare more than one newsletter during the week depending on
the issues that are occurring in commercial greenhouses.”

Providing growers
a “heads up”

Krug said that although there is a tentative schedule as
to what is going to be written about during a specific week, the topic and
author can change depending on what growers may be dealing with. The
newsletters cover a variety of grower-related issues including disease and pest
management and environmental, physiological and nutritional disorders being
observed in commercial greenhouses.

“At the end of January we may schedule an article on
plant growth regulators written by Brian Whipker, but that will depend on what
he has seen occurring in growers’ greenhouses,” Krug said. “Ours is a very
reactionary industry. With the Alert newsletter we are trying to give the
growers a heads up as to something that they might already have in their
greenhouses or may be something that is coming their way.”

During the second year the team of specialists expanded
to include Cornell University entomologist Dan Gilrein, University of Georgia
floriculture professor Paul Thomas and Virginia Tech horticulture professor and
Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist for greenhouse crops Joyce Latimer.
Joining the group in 2014 will be Kristin Getter, who is the floriculture
outreach specialist at Michigan State University.

“The bulk of the e-GRO Alert subscribers are from the
authors’ respective states,” Krug said. “We have subscribers in 48 states and
over a dozen different countries.”

greenhouse basics

Another part of the website is e-GRO University. This
section was developed by Krug, Whipker, Lopez, Kansas State University
floriculture professor Kim Williams, Kansas State ornamental and horticultural entomologist
Ray Cloyd and Cornell University senior extension associate and plant
pathologist Margery Daughtrey. e-GRO University is the second phase of the
website which includes over 60 videos that cover the basics of greenhouse
production. The videos are divided up into five different sections: greenhouse
management, nutrition management, growth management, insects and mites, and diseases.
e-GRO University has been funded by the Gloeckner Foundation for two years.

 e-GRO University provides a Greenhouse 101 curriculum
that covers basic information for greenhouse management
 and production.

“For e-GRO University we developed a Greenhouse 101
curriculum that provides basic information for greenhouse management and
production,” Krug said. “It is information that would be comparable to a
freshmen and sophomore college course program. Our goal was to provide an
educational resource for people who work in the industry who didn’t receive a
formal education in greenhouse production. If you are grower in a greenhouse without
the formal training or education, this program allows a person to get a handle
on some of the basics on nutrition, insects and diseases. A person can choose
to listen to any of the videos, which run 20 minutes or less. Most of the
information is basic concepts so it is not going to be changing.”

Krug said the e-GRO team is looking to set up a
certificate program for e-GRO University.

“Listening to any of the programs is free,” he said. “The
certificate program will enable interested growers in holding themselves
accountable and will indicate that a person successively completed the
lectures. The certificate will indicate that a person successfully completed
e-GRO University. There will be five different modules and a quiz at the end of
each module. A person will be able to choose how many of the modules they want
to complete.”

Krug said the e-GRO University program can also be used
by growers for new employees who don’t have any experience or limited
experience in different aspects of growing.

“By offering a certificate program to employees, this
enables employees to be held accountable for the modules that they have
completed,” he said. “We’re hoping that employers will use this for their
employees. We wanted to offer something more for the greenhouse employees.”

Krug said the e-GRO University program can also be used
by vocational teachers who have access to a greenhouse and who may need to
familiarize themselves with the basics before they and their students try to
start growing plants in the facility. This could be a continuing education
program for the teachers as well as a learning resource for the students.”


Other resources available to visitors of the e-GRO
website include:

* Webinars.
This is the newest resource being offered by the e-GRO. The series kicks off
with “Poinsettia Troubleshooting,”
a two-hour webinar on Sept. 18 that will focus on troubleshooting poinsettia
problems. Ray Cloyd will discuss key insect identification and control issues.
Brian Whipker will focus on nutrition disorder identification and management. North
Carolina State University plant pathologist Kelly Ivors will cover disease
identification and control.

* Podcasts. About 200 podcasts have been
completed by members of the e-GRO team in cooperation with Greenhouse Grower
magazine over the last three to four years. Krug said linking the podcasts on
e-GRO enables growers to search for the episodes they want to view.

* e-GRO Bookstore. Brian Whipker has created five
electronic books that are available for the iPad. Krug said that Whipker plans
to continue to create new books for the library. Books currently available

1. Selecting and Using Plant Growth Regulators on
Floricultural Crops. This free publication was done in collaboration with Joyce
Latimer at Virginia Tech and Brian Whipker at North Carolina State University.

2. e-GRO Volume One: Poinsettia
3. e-GRO Alert Volume Two
4. e-GRO Volume Three: Primula
5. e-GRO Alert Volume Four: Sclerotinia

* Floriculture InfoSearch. Although this resource is independent of the e-GRO team, the
members felt it was worth adding to the website. John Dole, professor and head
of the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University,
partnered with American Floral Endowment to create the Floriculture InfoSearch
engine. This search engine provides convenient and comprehensive access to
floriculture literature, videos and presentations. Information is available from
scientific literature and trade and association magazines and websites. The
Floriculture InfoSearch website also contains a floriculture archive with
materials dating back to the early-1800s from AFE, North Carolina State,
scientific journals and trade publications.

For more:
Brian Krug, (603) 862-0155;

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas;

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