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30MHz and Hort Americas join forces to bring smart sensing to North American growers

Leading commercial horticultural suppliers Hort Americas, and smart sensing technology providers 30MHz are pleased to announce that they’ve partnered to bring the power of real-time, crop-level monitoring to growers across Canada, the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico. Hort Americas is the first North American distributor of 30MHz technology.

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Hort Americas looks to be a connector of products and knowledge for the horticulture industry

Whether growers are producing vegetables, ornamentals or other hydroponic crops, Hort Americas is working to provide its customers with the products and knowledge they need to be successful.

When Hort Americas in Bedford, Texas, started operating as a wholesale horticulture distributor in March 2009, the company had no existing customer base.

Continue reading Hort Americas looks to be a connector of products and knowledge for the horticulture industry

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Consider edible greens as an alternative crop

Growers of ornamental plants can use empty greenhouses during winter to produce a variety of edible greens.

By Tina Smith

Ornamental plant growers who close down their greenhouses for the winter may consider using an empty house to produce an alternative crop such as greens during the winter months. Production systems range from high tech hydroponic systems for lettuce to growing mixed greens in ground beds using minimal or no heat. Researchers in the Department of Plant Science at the State University of New York (SUNY)–Cobleskill, are using existing ebb and flow benching for short-term hydroponic raft lettuce production.
One thing that is common to most greens production systems is the use of a greenhouse structure. Since many greenhouses used to grow spring ornamentals are vacant between November and February, greens may be an alternative crop.

Start small
When growing a crop of greens for the first time, especially if new to vegetable production, begin on a small scale. Growers are advised to research the markets including demands for certain types of greens, harvesting techniques, post harvest handling, storage and packaging. Areas with winter farmers markets have seen a high demand for winter greens, though in some cases the market is getting saturated and competition is high.
Resources are available on growing greens in high tunnels that can be adapted to greenhouse production. It may take some trialing to develop a production system that works for your operation.


Greens being grown in ground beds.

Minimum heat production
Greenhouse growers who produce ornamental crops tend to grow greens in soilless mixes or compost in containers on benches. For production systems that use minimal heat, greens are sown from early September through the first week of October and harvested in November and December.

Scheduling
Planting times are one of the most critical factors for winter harvesting of greens. Successful growers develop planting schedules including expected harvest dates and record yields for future use.
Early sowing is necessary because greens achieve most of their growth before short days lengths and cold temperatures occur. The growth rate slows during the winter months due to cold temperatures and low light caused by cloudy weather and shorter day lengths. There is very little or no growth when the day length drops below 10 hours per day, which usually occurs at the end of November through the beginning of February in Massachusetts. If minimum heat is used, winter production of greens relies on the plants making their growth throughout the fall. Recent research at the University of New Hampshire suggests that some species are more sensitive to temperature than to light whereas others such as lettuce are more sensitive to light than to temperature.
One of the keys to success is to plant enough of a crop early in the season to be able to harvest through the cold season. For example, spinach may take several months to grow during colder months. Spinach seed should be sown in September and October so it is nearly full-sized in December and can be harvested through February.


Greens being grown in flats.

Types of greens
There are several types of greens that are grown for winter production, including Asian greens such as mizuna and tasoi, kale, lettuce (red and green leaf, oakleaf and romaine), mustards, gourmet cabbages, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula and claytonia.
If you unfamiliar with some of these greens, taste them first and check out recipes for greens that are new to you. This can help with the best way to market the different greens.
Lettuces are not as cold hardy as some other greens and some lettuce varieties are better adapted to cold weather and short days. Seed catalogs can help with specific growing requirements.
Spinach is very cold hardy. However, during the darkest period of winter, spinach grows very slowly. As the day length becomes longer spinach regrows rapidly and some varieties bolt before the end of winter (February or later).
Crucifers, including mustards, raab and Oriental greens such as pak choi and tatsoi, are good choices for cold-weather production. Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris), which is grown for its large tender leaves and rapid re-growth, is cold hardy and productive.
Growers have found it best to plant different varieties in separate production blocks rather than mixed them together, since growth rates and times of maturity are different. Trial several varieties because they may grow better under various light and temperature regimes. Some varieties are quicker to bolt than others. Mixed packages of greens can be created after they are harvested.

Cultural methods
Containers. Greens can be directly sown in a variety of containers. Open seed flats are popular and fit well on benches. Some growers cover the benches with landscape fabric and fill with medium to create one large bed.

Growing media and fertilization. Soilless media or composts are used for growing greens. Organic production requires growing media that have been approved by an organic certifying agent or have been designated OMRI certified. Plants need less fertilizer as the growth rate slows. Avoid over-fertilizing, which can lead to soft growth and aphid infestations.

Irrigation. Automatic sprinklers or hand watering can be used. Irrigate plants in the morning to allow foliage time to dry before temperatures drop at night, especially as the day length shortens. Under short days growth slows and less water is used. Avoid overwatering, which results in soft growth. Soft plants are less able to withstand cold and have less flavor.



Greens being grown on subirrigation benches.

Temperature. There are many options when it comes to temperature. Temperature affects the growth rate and also the flavor of greens. For example, arugula has a stronger flavor when grown at warm temperatures. Some growers produce a succession of greens harvesting every 14-21 days (micro-greens) at 50°F nights and 55°F days. Other growers provide minimal heat to maintain night temperatures of 37°F. On warm or sunny days, greenhouses are ventilated or the side walls are rolled up to increase air circulation depending on the structure.
Some growers use ground beds without supplemental heat. Some crops such as lettuce and arugula do not grow well without supplemental heat. Growers who are using high tunnels without heat tend to use row covers laid over crops on cold nights. The covers must be removed during the day to allow the plants to receive light. Greens cannot be harvested frozen and must be thawed before harvesting.

Light. Light affects the growth and flavor of greens. Decreased daylight results in slower growth. Increasing the temperature cannot compensate for the reduction in daylight. Greens tend to have a milder flavor under lower light. Mesclun grown under lower light is lighter colored than when grown under high light conditions.

Pests. Some of the pests that may be encountered when growing greens include downy mildew on lettuce and spinach (two different species of downy mildew). Some newer varieties of spinach are promoted as having resistance to many races of downy mildew. However, this resistance may not be for all races of the disease. Powdery mildew is a problem on lettuce under low light and high humidity conditions. Voles can be also be a problem when growing greens.

Harvesting and marketing. Greens can be harvested using a sharp knife, scissors or manually picked with no tools, one leaf at a time. Growers use both short and long blade knives. Greens can be harvested by either removing outer, larger leaves at regular intervals or by cutting the entire plant within an inch above the growing medium allowing the crown to remain. Leafy crops re-grow and can be harvested again.
Once greens are harvested, some growers move the crop to a storage area to bag them for sale. If the greens are dirty, then they need to be double rinsed and spun to remove excess moisture. Spinach tends to grow close to the ground and may need washing. Growing in a soilless medium or compost in containers on benches can eliminate this step.
Two popular markets for greens are winter farmers markets and restaurants. Many community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms are offering winter shares and some may be interested in buying in greens to add to the winter and storage crops they offer.
Tina Smith is with the UMass Extension Greenhouse Crops and Floriculture Program, (413) 545-5306; tsmith@umext.umass.edu.
This article first appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of the UMass Extension Floral Notes Newsletter.

References and Resources
1. Summer Flowers, Winter Greens; http://www.growingmagazine.com/print-7190.aspx
2. Four Season Farm: “Growing Winter Crops in Maine” and “The Winter Harvest Handbook”; http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/books/index.html
3. Cornell High Tunnels website: Cold Hardy Greens; http://www.hort.cornell.edu/hightunnel/crops/vegetables/salad_greens.htm
4. Michigan State University Hoop House website; http://hoophouse.msu.edu

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Solar Panels to Power University Greenhouse

Students and faculty at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., will be studying and doing research in a new solar powered greenhouse.
by David Kuack

When Marietta Power & Water contacted Southern Polytechnic State University about a grant program that could benefit the school, administration officials were eager to listen. The grant program, which was being administered by the power company and Electric Cities of Georgia, would enable the university to install 24 solar panels while paying only 1/3 of the total cost.
Electric Cities of Georgia received the grant as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Investment Act. Marietta Power & Water used a portion of the grant money ($54,000) for the solar panels. The grant allowed for the installation of solar panels that will generate 15 kilowatts of electricity. The electricity generated by the panels is enough to power 225 light bulbs.
“The grant was for 15 kilowatts of solar panels so we divided the installation,” said Steve Kitchen, senior director of facilities management at the university.
Sixteen of the panels were installed on the roof of the Engineering Technology Center and generate 10 kilowatts of electricity. The remaining 5 kilowatts of electricity will be generated by eight solar panels that have been installed next to a new 25- by 35-foot greenhouse constructed adjacent to the ETC. Each of the panels measures about 4 feet wide by 7½ to 8 feet long. Both installations were covered by the grant.
The 5 kilowatts of electricity generated by the panels will be used to support the greenhouse during daylight hours. The electricity will be used to power lights and a heater. The greenhouse will be used primarily for academic and research purposes.
Upgrading the installation
Although the greenhouse is nearly complete, Kitchen said there may be some opportunities available for upgrading the system.
“If it made economic sense, there could be an expansion of the panels on the roof of the ETC building,” he said. “The other change that could occur is finding a means to store the electricity generated by the solar panels so that it could be used at night. The 5 kilowatts of electricity generated by the panels is more than enough to operate the greenhouse during the day. If there was a storage system to store the electricity generated, we could use it to power the greenhouse during the night as well.”
Easily maintained
The university will maintain the panels, which Kitchen said is relatively simple.
“The most frequent activity to maintain the panels is to make sure they are kept clean to operate at maximum efficiency,” he said. “It doesn’t take much more than rinsing them off with water to keep the dust off of them. They are so new right now we’re not sure how often they will have to be cleaned.”
Interest in alternative energy
Kitchen said the university has had limited exposure to working with solar power. Solar panels had been installed on the old engineering building.
“There is a small array of panels on that building, referred to as Building G,” he said. “The students with the support of the faculty have built an electric bicycle recharging station. I personally haven’t seen any electrical bicycles on campus, but we have a recharging station for them.”
Kitchen said that the university does have an alternative energy program and he expects that the faculty involved with that program will be interested in learning more about the solar panels. He said they are always interested in looking at alternative energy sources and would likely be supportive of an expansion of solar panel installation.
Kitchen said any consideration for use of alternative energy sources would probably not occur unless it was associated with a major renovation of one of the university’s buildings.
“There is no other building on campus that is currently using alternative energy sources.” Kitchen said. “Part of it is the faculty and the research they are doing and what they are teaching the students. The other part is the practicality and the cost associated with using alternative energy sources.
“Cost is a major factor. There is always a cost associated with bringing technology to campus. We are looking for projects, like what we did with Marietta Power, that we can team up with and offset the costs.
For more: Steve Kitchen, Southern Polytechnic State University, (678) 915-3939; skitchen@spsu.edu; http://www.spsu.edu.

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Hort Americas is offering a Vertical Growing System

Hort Americas is working to help those interested in Vertical Farming develop their ideas.

One thing needed is a “system” that allows new growers to test their theories.  Hort America’s feels they have come up with an option.

Hort Americas has developed a Vertical Growing cart that allows the grower to set up a germination area and a finished plant area.  The customer can customize the Horticulture LED Grow Lights (referring to light quality and quantity), the planting intensities, the crops and the nutrient selection.

The Vertical Growing Cart is heavy duty and portable, giving the grower the flexibility to try different locations and systems.

For more information on Vertical Farming using these customized carts, please email Hort Americas at infohortamericas@gmail.com.

Photos of the First Cart designed to be shipped from the farm to the market using nutrient film technique, LED grow lights and organic fertilizers.

Heavy Duty and Portable Vertical Growing Carts

This cart using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) 

Stock Tank(s), Germination and Finished Production in one area.

Artificial Lighting Provided by Horticultural LED Grow Lights

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Hort Americas Partners Well Represented at Floriade 2012

Hort America’s Valued Vendor Partners are Important Participants in Floriade

Hort Americas’ partners Philips and Horticoop are participating in this year’s Floriade. Philips lighting has been installed in the Dutch pavilion My Green World. The 49-foot high pavilion forms a landmark in the Education & Innovation part of the exposition.
Within the pavilion is My Green Lab that includes a 16-foot tall structure made up of an eight-layer cultivation system. Each layer is fitted with Philips GreenPower LEDs under which fresh basil is being grown. Other than the LED lighting, the structure is completely dark, showing visitors how plants can be grown without sunlight.

Multilayer Horticultural LED Grow Light Display

Horticultural LED Grow Lights at Floriade 2012

My Green Lab is a futuristic and experimental part of My Green World where visitors can learn more about the challenges facing the planet in terms of energy supply, water conservation and food production. My Green Lab offers insight into a variety of topics including algae cultivation for biofuel production and photosynthesis and cultivation without light.
Also on display in the My Green World pavilion is a trellis carrier, which is marketed by Horticoop. This motorized rail system enables greenhouse workers to access any part of a commercial production facility. Partners in the development of the trellis carrier include TU Delft, Wageningen University, The Hague University and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.

Horticoop participates in My Green World

Horticulture research, interactive game
Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, along with several greenhouse systems suppliers, is presenting research and new techniques for sustainable horticulture at Floriade. The Innovation Cluster is a modern greenhouse where five research themes are discussed: energy and climate, water and emissions, crop quality, crop protection and sustainable cultivation and production.
Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture and TNO are presenting the game My Cool Greenhouse at Floriade. Through an interactive game on a touch table, visitors can experience and see how a perfect greenhouse is created and what is involved in its operation. The game is also available to play online.

University of Wageningen is playing an important educational role

High tech greenhouse video
Be sure to check out the YouTube video Innovatie Cluster Floriade.wmv. During this 2-minute video a group of children explore a high tech tomato greenhouse that has been built to provide sustainable growing. As they discover what happens in the greenhouse, the children learn how growing medium, water, carbon dioxide, air, environmental control, systems integration and research are combined to produce tasty tomatoes.

Floriade Dialogue 2009-2012
Floriade 2012 started a scientific and practical support program in 2009 called Floriade Dialogue 2009-2012  Floriade Dialogue presents discussions on issues of great social importance related to principals of sustainability with impact on the quality of life.
The emphasis of Floriade Dialogue in 2012 is to influence the process of social change needed to deal with the limitation of natural resources that global society will face in the future. Topics to be discussed during the Floriade Dialogue Sessions include:
1. Adequate and safe food production.
2. Responsible use of natural resources.
3. Balancing the built and natural environment.
4. Use of the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.
5. Regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
6. Expand economic growth and job creation through sustainable use of natural resources.
7. Strengthening horticultural and agricultural value chain operation and collaboration.
8. Generating logistic synergy and creating opportunities.
The outcome of the sessions will be published under the title “The Self-Supporting and Livable City”. The publications will be available online in two editions of “Change” magazine.

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Floriade 2012: U.S. greenhouse growers visit and revisit the Netherlands for ideas and inspiration.

Rick Brown of Riverview Flower Farm hunts for consumer-friendly plants at Floriade 2012

Florida industry leader and greenhouse grower Rick Brown visited Floriade in the Netherlands in search of plants that would survive for consumers under Florida’s weather extremes.

By David Kuack

Rick Brown of Riverview Flower Farm in Seffner, Fla., sells Florida Friendly Plants. That may not sound unique or different, but Brown said the horticulture industry needs to do a better job at the regional level of testing, promoting and retailing plants that meet consumers’ expectations.
“One of the problems at retail is there are so many different annuals to choose from,” Brown said. “Every year there is a subtle change, a little difference. But does that change really matter in the long run to the Florida consumer who is coming in for a red flowering plant? In some cases it does, but too often we are selling consumers something that is guaranteed to fail.
“How many consumers buy a universal cook-book combination basket of annuals, take it home and hang it in the sun and watch it quickly decline? They become dissatisfied because they have to water it twice a day and some species in the combination melt quickly in the Florida heat. What they thought they were buying was a pretty flower with growth potential. Unfortunately we are selling failure over and over again.”
Brown said part of the problem is that retailers, whether large chains or independents, want to sell something new and different—the latest and greatest rather than the tried and true. Just like in other parts of the country, there are peak periods in Florida when consumers are coming into the garden centers.
“It is during those times that retailers are going to have all of that “different stuff”, including kangaroo paws, calla lilies and other flowering potted lilies in their stores,” he said. “And that is the time when we are starting to go into hot weather here in Florida. These plants aren’t going to survive for Florida consumers. A customer may take home a combination annual basket and in two days she’s wondering why she bought it.
“New lines of nationally marketed dwarf buddleia or butterfly bush grow to half the size of traditional varieties. The dwarf plants only survive half as long due to the pressures of rust, spider mites and nematodes, which is the reason these buddleia are non-existent in Florida landscapes.”

Rick Brown and Sydney Park Brown at Floriade 2012

Looking for plants that survive
Brown visited Floriade for the first time in 1982. He hadn’t been back to the event in 30 years. Floriade is a horticultural exposition which is held in the Netherlands every 10 years. This year’s Floriade covers 163 acres and is open from April 5 through Oct. 7. It consists of gardens and pavilions including Villa Flora, the largest indoor flower exhibition in Europe.
One of the primary reasons that Brown went to this year’s Floriade was to look for new and different succulents. He has been growing succulents for six years.
“You’ve never seen all of the succulents,” he said. “There is always different ways of growing them to make them look different.”
Brown said succulents are good patio plants in Florida.
“They can sit outside and be neglected, exposed to a wide range of temperatures, light conditions and water conditions. They can take a lot of stress in Florida,” he said. “That’s why people like them so much and the sales are increasing. Succulents have always been available here, but the plants haven’t been promoted.”
Brown said another reason that succulent sales weren’t strong previously was because of their limited availability.
“Now we are offering the plants in more formats, including different sizes and different varieties, and making sure they are regularly available,” he said. “That’s what I was really looking for when I went to Floriade. I was pleasantly surprised by the displays they had there and picked up some ideas that we can possibly use here.”

Bird’s Eye View of Floriade 2012

Offering consumers options
Brown, who sells his products through Home Depot, offers succulent assortments of different species in a nine-count tray. He said the assortments, which can be transplanted into the consumer’s choice of containers, are doing very well. He is also offering sedum assortments in a nine-count tray that is also selling well.
A succulent product that Brown introduced last year is the Classic Living Walls™, which is a nine-count tray that can be hung.
“It’s nine 60-mm Elle pots that stay in their cells because they are rooted so well,” Brown said. “The tray has holes that enable the consumer to hang the plants on a wall. It’s the cheapest vertical garden a consumer can buy. It sells for $15 at retail. Other vertical gardens start at $150 per square foot plus the cost for maintenance. Consumers can hang our living wall on a fence or on the side of their house.
Brown said he built some frames that are used in the stores to show how to use the Classic Living Walls™.
“It kind of has a picture frame effect that is commonly used for living walls,” he said. “It’s part of our store display. We get asked for the frames occasionally, but not often enough to consider making the frames for sale.”
Brown said he isn’t currently looking to expand the living wall concept beyond succulents because many plants have limited application in this format.
“One problem with the living wall system is the plants still have to be watered,” he said. “With succulents, the tray can be taken down, the plants can be watered, and then the tray can be stuck back up. These plants are so forgiving. If other types of plants are used, it’s usually a short-lived event. Then there is maintenance too with other types of plants.”
Plants in the Classic Living Walls™ include different species of sedums, portulaca, senecios and kalanchoes.
“There is quite a selection of succulents that look good for quite a long time,” he said. “But it has been a learning experience over the years to come up with this collection of plants that work.”
Brown said he is looking for plants that have good shelf life in the stores and also good consumer performance.
“We are going back to plants that are easy to care for and last a long time,” he said. “I hear over and over again people tell me, “Those succulents I bought two years ago keep looking great and they multiply.” I rarely hear anyone say that they killed all of their succulents.”

Plants with potential
One plant that Brown saw at Floriade in several displays was rhipsalis or jungle cactus, which is an epiphytic plant.
“The plants looked really good in vertical gardens,” he said. We could start putting some of those in our assortments. And they looked really good in hanging baskets too.”
Another crop that Brown is excited about is the Garvinea line of perennial gerbera from Florist Holland BV. He started a relationship with the breeding company when he went to the Netherlands for the first time in 1982. He began growing gerbera in 1979 but had to discontinue their production because of the heavy disease and pest loads the plants encountered in Florida.
“We started out doing tissue-cultured plants, but they weren’t really adaptable for Florida landscapes,” Brown said. “They were short-lived because the leafminers, powdery mildew and other diseases would take them out. We could keep the plants growing outdoors as long as we kept spraying them for leafminers and diseases. But once the plants got into the homeowners’ hands, they couldn’t control the pests and diseases.”
Brown said the gerbera breeding 30 years later has addressed these problems. He said he has seen some trials with the Garvinea in Florida landscapes and the initial results have been good.
“I have seen the plants in California during multiple years in established plantings and they looked great,” he said.

Cactus and Succulent Display at Floriade 2012

Brown said that numerous kalanchoes were also displayed at Floriade.
“Kalanchoes live in Florida as a perennial,” he said. “I’m familiar with the different breeders and what is being developed among the kalanchoes.”
Euphorbia, including Euphorbia milii (crown of thorns), also does very well in Florida.
“I’m always looking for new euphorbia species,” he said. “I’m looking for new ideas on presentation and how to use them in combinations. I’m trying to make a better product to try and make a happier customer.”

For more: Riverview Flower Farm, http://www.floridafriendlyplants.com./
Photos courtesy of Riverview Flower Farm.

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.

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Horticultural LED Grow Lights – Grower Looks to Increase Efficiency with LEDs

Filip Edstrom at Green Masters Inc. is seeking to quantify the advantages of switching from fluorescent to Horticultural LED Grow Lights in his company’s growth chamber.

By David Kuack

Filip Edstrom has seen the writing on the wall and it says “LEDs”. Edstrom, vice president at Green Masters Inc. in Apopka, Fla., said LED lights are where flat screen TVs and laptop computers were five to six years ago.
“If you look at what the cost of flat screens TVs and laptop computers are now compared to a few years ago. It’s just a matter of time for the volume of LEDs to go up and the cost to come down,” Edstrom said. “LEDs are the next wave in lights. This is something that has been going on in Europe and we are just starting to trial the lights.”

Cyclamen being grown under LEDs in a Germination Chamber

Why LEDs?
Green Masters, which is a flowering pot plant producer, operates a 1,000-square- foot growth chamber equipped with 480 4-foot fluorescent light fixtures. The chamber is air conditioned so that it can be used for seed germination and growing on some crops including cyclamen.
Edstrom considered LEDs because he was looking for lamps that were more energy efficient and generated less heat than the fluorescent lamps.
 “The cyclamen plugs can’t be grown outside during the summer. We have to grow them inside where it is cool,” Edstrom said.  “With nearly 500 fluorescent fixtures there is a considerable amount of heat generated,” he said. “Because it is an air conditioned room, the heat factor plays a big factor in how much air conditioning is needed and how much electricity is used. Energy savings is the primary reason for looking at the LEDs.”

No wasted energy
Working with Hort Americas, Edstrom has set up a trial to compare electricity usage and plant growth under the LEDs and fluorescent lamps.
“We are using the Philips GreenPower LED production module,” he said. The modules provide the dark red and blue wavelengths that the plants use so that we are not wasting energy on light the plants don’t use,” he said. “What we have been told is that by using these certain wavelengths the plants will actually be more compact so that there will be less need for growth regulators. Also by only putting on the light that the plants need we are being better stewards of the environment because we are not wasting energy.”
Edstrom is currently running a trial using one of the benches in the growth chamber that is equipped with the LED modules.
“The fluorescents were state of the art when we installed them in June 2000. There is really nothing in regards to fluorescent fixtures that is more efficient.”
Edstrom said replacing the 4-foot fluorescent lamp fixtures with the 120-centimeter LED modules has been very simple.
“We take out the 4-foot fluorescent fixture and mount the LED module and we’re good to go,” he said. “We didn’t have to make any changes to the height of the shelving. Take the fluorescent fixture out and put the LED module in. It’s that simple.”

Side by side comparison with traditional lighting and LED grow lights

Quantifying the benefits
Edstrom said the feedback on the performance of the LEDs from the grower who oversees the growth chamber has been positive.
“The grower has said the crops under the LEDs are growing just as well, probably a little bit better,” Edstrom said. “The plants that are under the LEDs seem to be a little more compact. The plants once they are out of the growth chamber and transplanted, they are performing just as well or a little bit better. The question is the payback there?”
Edstrom said that during the summer there is not a lot of production occurring in the 8 acres of greenhouses and shade houses. The company produces about 45 different crops, including annuals, perennials and herbs.
“We are trying to determine is there a crop or certain crops that benefit being under the LEDs,” he said. “We are also trying to determine is there a difference between each of the colors or varieties.”
Edstrom said initial light measurements have shown that the LEDs are delivering 5-10 percent more light vs. the fluorescents.
“Also, if we can shave off a week’s crop time in the chamber that is worth something,” he said. “Or if we can produce more compact plants without having to apply a PGR, that’s worth a lot.
“I can determine how much electricity I’m using and how much electricity I’m saving with that fixture. The variable that we don’t know yet and why we are doing this trial is if we can improve plant quality and reduce the crop time in the growth chamber. If we find that certain crops do better under the LEDs, those plants will go under the LEDS. For the others where there isn’t a big difference, those we’ll keep under fluorescent lamps.”
Edstrom said the initial cost of the LED lamps has come down and as the price continues to drop it will make financial sense to replace the old fluorescent fixtures.
“If we were building a brand new growth room today and we had to buy the bulbs and fixtures, we would choose the LEDs even though there is higher investment cost,” he said. “The payback would be much quicker.”

Gerberas being grown under Horticultural LED Grow Lights

For more: Green Masters Inc., (407) 889-2416; www.greenmastersinc.com. Hort Americas, www.hortamericas.com; infohortamericas@gmail.com.
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.

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Cutting Propagation in a Snap!

Ecke Ranch has developed a packaging system for shipping
offshore callus cuttings that can help growers lower input costs and reduce
production time by two weeks.
By David Kuack
Ecke Ranch offsite manager Jon-Paul Williams said the
biggest change that had occurred in the propagation of vegetative cuttings over
the last 25-30 years was when companies supplying domestic growers moved to
offshore production.
“The process of propagating those cuttings really hasn’t
changed,” Williams said. “There have been other advances in propagation
programs such as tissue culture, but in terms of how the cuttings are handled
very few changes have occurred.”
Once Ecke, which is headquartered in Encinitas, Calif.,
began to do offshore propagation, chief operating officer Steve Rinehart began
to ask what the company could do differently in regards to handling vegetative
cuttings.
“Steve had this vision of growers being able to receive
cuttings that were pre-stuck, that could be placed on the bench to root and
have the same results if they stuck the cuttings themselves without having the
labor costs and production input costs,” Williams said. “We have been working
with a company for about eight years to develop different kinds of packing
materials that could be used with offshore cuttings. Two years ago we
introduced the Ecke SNAP System™ (http://www.ecke.com/ecke/?page_id=1042) that
consists of a packing material for offshore callus cuttings that acts as a
rooting medium once the cuttings arrive here in the United States.”
Easy to root
Williams said that when Ecke began working on the SNAP
System the company started by trying to merge packing foam with a growing
medium.
“The company we worked with was familiar with plants,” he
said. “We worked with a number of different iterations of this product to get
to a material that we were satisfied with. The most important factor was once
the cuttings arrived on shore we wanted them to root well. The Ecke SNAP System
provides a really good environment for root development. There is a lot of
porosity, good water-holding capacity, but also good aeration.”
Clean callus
cuttings
Ecke has propagation facilities in Guatemala and Mexico.
Geraniums, poinsettias and spring annuals are stuck in a different medium prior
to being packed in the Ecke SNAP System.
“Cuttings are not callused in the SNAP packing material,”
Williams said. “Each variety has a different callusing time, usually anywhere
from 10 days to two weeks. Once the callus is established the cuttings are
removed from the medium and placed in the SNAP packing material.”
Williams said there are a couple of reasons the cuttings
are callused in a different medium.
“We want to ensure the cuttings do not root in the
packing material offshore,” he said. “We want to make sure we always comply
with all USDA requirements.”
Another reason for callusing the cuttings in a different
medium is to keep them clean.
“We don’t want algae or other organic matter in the
packing material or callus protector as we call it,” Williams said. “We want
the cuttings and packing material to be as clean as possible.”
Advantages of the SNAP
System
Williams said that like unrooted cuttings processing the
callus cuttings offshore is a quick process. For most customers there is
usually a 36-hour turnover. When a SNAP System order arrives at a customer’s
facility, they receive three strips of 26 cuttings in a tray that holds 78
cuttings.
“The advantages for the customer is that we have put the
first two weeks of production on in Guatemala or Mexico,” Williams said. “The
most challenging part of propagation for many growers is the first two weeks
typically for most crops. During this time they require the most heat, the most
intensive care. With the SNAP System that part is done offshore. Growers save
two weeks of propagation and the inputs that they would require during those
two weeks.”
When the cuttings arrive they are already in a pre-stuck
tray.
“It’s not a medium, it’s a packing material that doubles
as a medium,” Williams said. “When the cuttings arrive growers don’t need to
buy a tray or a rooting medium so they are saving on their inputs.”
Another advantage is the reduction in labor costs
involved with sticking cuttings.
“A typical grower sticks about 1,000 cuttings an hour,”
he said. “Depending on the variety it could be more or it could be less. So the
grower doesn’t have to pay someone to stick the cuttings. This helps to reduce
shrink losses on the bench.
“The advantage with the SNAP system is a grower is
handling 26 cuttings at a time. If a grower using the SNAP system can handle
500 trays in one hour that results in 13,000 cuttings being stuck in an hour
instead of 1,000 unrooted cuttings. That is a significant reduction in the
labor demand.”
Another advantage to the SNAP System is that all of the
grading has been done offshore eliminating the need for growers to grade the
cuttings once they arrive.
“They also don’t have to worry about inconsistent
callusing because that is done offshore,” Williams said. “The cuttings can be
planted, placed in the greenhouse, and then they move right into the next two
weeks of rooting. Typically during the two weeks that the callused cuttings are
rooting there is usually less heat needed, less risk and less labor during the
final rooting stage. We are trying to eliminate as many of the variables as
possible.”
Overcoming
propagation deficiencies
Williams said for those growers who may not have all the
right conditions for handling callus cuttings, the SNAP System may be a little
more forgiving.
“For growers who are doing direct stick the SNAP System
may work very well because sometimes growers have a tendency to over saturate
the medium.” Williams said. “This commonly occurs with poinsettias because
growers are sticking cuttings during the hottest time of the year. The SNAP
System can provide a little more flexibility preventing the area around the
base of the stem from becoming oversaturated. Also, growers who are doing
direct stick with poinsettias can’t afford to fail because they are typically
on a tight schedule.”
Other growers have found the callused cuttings in the
SNAP System to be a better alternative to rooted cuttings.
“We have customers in the Southwest who do a lot of
production in the summer, items like geraniums that require propagation during
a period when the outside temperature is 100°F and very low humidity,” Williams
said. “Unrooted cuttings struggle in this type of environment.”
Williams said growers in the Southeast have a similar
concern.
“We have customers who have issues producing geraniums
because of the high humidity levels during the summer that are needed for fall
orders,” he said. “They have found that the SNAP System is a very flexible
system for them.”
Williams said that other plant species that are
challenging to root any time of the year are easier to callus offshore.
“Some of the aromatic crops like agastache, lavender and
rosemary, these plants can have issues sticking them as unrooted cuttings,” he
said. “We can harvest the cuttings and stick them offshore and once they are
callused they don’t have that same sensitivity to shipping. The SNAP System is
also enabling us to look at some crops that in the past were difficult to root
or ship. With the SNAP System we can look at those crops again because this system
may eliminate some of those issues and allow us to add them to our offerings.
For more: Ecke
Ranch, (760) 753-1134; www.ecke.com.

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Hydroponic Lettuce Production in Phenolic Foam

By
David Kuack and Vijay Rapaka
Inorganic
growing substrate materials that have been used for hydroponic crop production
include rockwool, perlite, vermiculite, expanded clay and pea gravel. Phenolic
foam is a relatively new inorganic substrate that offers many desirable
production properties.
Phenolic foam
cubes
The
Oasis Horticube Growing Medium is a sterile phenolic foam. Like rockwool,
Horticubes have no cation exchange capacity, no
buffering capacity and no initial fertilizer charge.
Horticubes come in a variety of sizes, including: 1-inch Thin-Cut
(276 cubes/sheet), 1-inch (162 cubes/sheet), 1¼-inch (104 cubes/sheet) and 1½-inch
(50 cubes/sheet). All of the sheets measure 10- by 20-inches and fit into
standard 1020 trays. Each sheet is pre-scored on the bottom and top to allow
for easy separation of the cubes at transplant.
The 1-inch Thin-Cut Horticube was developed primarily for
hydroponic lettuce production. This high density configuration accommodates 276
seeds in a standard 1020 tray. Each cube is pre-punched with a dibble hole that
is uniform in depth and has center to center spacing. This allows for the use
of automated seed sowing equipment. Horticubes work equally well with both nutrient
film technique (NFT) and a raft (float) growing system.
Using the North Carolina State University porometer, the 1-inch
Thin-Cut Horticube has a water-holding capacity of 80 percent and air porosity
of 20 percent. A comparable rockwool product, which has grooves at the bottom
of the sheet, has a water-holding capacity of 60 percent and air porosity of 40
percent.
Sowing the seed
Horticubes can be seeded dry and do not need to be watered prior
to sowing the seed. Seed can be sown using a vacuum seeder or manually by
placing the seed in the dibble holes. The specially designed hole is tapered to
ensure the seed sets properly in each cube.
After the seed is sown irrigation can be done manually with a hose
and water breaker (i.e., wide fan nozzle) or automatically by passing the
Horticube sheets through a watering tunnel. The sheets should be thoroughly
saturated.
Water-holding
capacity
A single Horticube sheet holds about 4 liters (1 gallon) of water.
However, it takes more than 4 liters of water to ensure total saturation of the
foam because of water channeling through the dibble holes and grooves on the Horticube
sheet. To ensure thorough saturation about 10 liters (2.6 gallons) should be
applied so that the water pours through the bottom of the sheet. As rule of
thumb, water each sheet for 2 minutes at regular tap water pressure.
If the seedlings are going to be irrigated/fertigated by overhead
irrigation, place the Horticube sheets in solid bottom trays with drain holes. Never
use a solid bottom tray without drain holes. If sub-irrigation is going to be
used, place the Horticube sheets in trays that have solid sides and web bottoms.
Like rockwool, the Horticube sheets can be rewetted. Both of these
media should not be allowed to go completely dry between waterings.
Once the Horticubes are thoroughly saturated, the cubes should
stay moist during the course of germination.
Lettuce seed sown in Horticubes does not have to be topdressed
with vermiculite. The seed also does not require a dark treatment for germination.
The best germination usually occurs when the Horticube temperature is below
70°F. The seed usually germinates in two to three days.
Watering
and fertilizing seedlings
Generally lettuce seedlings in Horticubes do not require misting
or watering during germination. However, on bright hot summer days consider a
brief misting (5 seconds once a day) on Day 2 and Day 3. Apply clear tap water
with no fertilizer.
Once the lettuce seed has germinated the mist frequency needs to
be adjusted. A typical misting program consists of starting from Day 4 to Day
7, three times a day for 10 seconds. From Day 7 to finish, mist four times a
day for 10 seconds. If the seedlings are going to be either hand-watered or on
a sub-irrigation system, irrigate only once a day.
Start fertilizing the seedlings on Day 4. All of the different
nutrient formulations developed for lettuce production will work with
Horticubes. Growers should customize their specific formulations depending on
water supply, lettuce cultivars, production system, climate and season. The
nutrient solution pH should range from 5.5 to 6. The recommended electrical
conductivity during propagation is 1.0 mS/cm. The recommended electrical
conductivity during production is 1.2 to 2.2 mS/cm.
Transplanting
seedlings
Lettuce seedlings should be ready to transplant 10 to 14 days
after sowing depending on seasonal climate conditions. During summer months it
takes about 10 days from sowing to transplant and during winter months it takes
about14 days. The criteria for transplant are development of two true leaves
and root penetration through the bottom of the Horticubes.
At transplant the pre-scored sheets can be easily separated into
individual cubes. The easiest way is to break the individual cubes from the top
down along the scoring.
Production
and harvest
Lettuce seedlings in Horticubes transplanted into a NFT or raft
system perform equally well. During production the recommended electrical
conductivity of the nutrient solution should be 1.2 to 2.2 mS/cm. With a NFT
system the water flow rate should be 1 to 1.2 liters per minute. Analysis of
the nutrient solution should be done on a regular basis in order to make
formulation adjustments.
Hydroponically-grown lettuce produced in Horticubes can be harvested
with the root system intact. Leaving the root system intact can help to extend
the shelf life of the lettuce.
For more: Smithers-Oasis
North America; (800) 321-8286; www.oasisgrower.com or Hort Americas, LLC at +1 469 532 2383.
David
Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, dkuack@gmail.com.
Dr. Vijay Rapaka is Manager—Grower Research, Smithers-Oasis Co., Kent, Ohio, vrapaka@smithersoasis.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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New from the European Greenhouse Industry

 Hort Americas just returned from an excellent visit to The Netherlands and the 2011 HortiFair.

If you get a chance, make sure to visit our Facebook Page and check out our the Photos provided by Dr. Johann Buck and Mr Gerson van’t Wout.  (See alot of interesting photos on the Horticultural LED Grow Lights.)

Also, for those interested in Philips GreenPower LED Grow Lights…click here to see their new Newsletter.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Hort Americas is now Certified to Provide Philips LEDs

Hort Americas recently finished its last round of training on Philips GreenPower Horticultural (Hydroponic) LED Product Portfolio. 

This training not only included intense product training, but it also included training on LED applications for:

1.)  Hydroponic Production of Greenhouse Vegetable Crops like Tomatoes, Peppers and Cucumbers
2.)  Hydroponic Production of Greenhouse Leafy Green and Herb Crops
3.)  Greenhouse Ornamentals
4.)  Seed Production
5.)  Tissue Culture
6.)  Growth Chambers and Grow Rooms
7.)  Needs of Research Facilities and Universities
8.)  Multi-layer Production
9.)  Vertical Farming
10.)  Urban Agriculture in Controlled Environments

Next step will be UL certification for the complete line of Philips GreenPower LEDs which are currently being trialed and commercially used in a wide variety of growing facilities around the world.

PlantLab along with many other forward thinkers is working with LEDs.
Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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NFT Lettuce Production (Hydroponics) using MGS from HortiPlan

Check out this excellent video of Hydroponic Lettuce Production.

This system is called MGS and is from a European company (and vendor partner of Hort Americas) call HortiPlan.

Please contact Hort Americas directly if you have any questions at infohortamericas@gmail.com.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Bioworks and Philips have new products for Hydroponics and Horticulture

Biowork’s Nemashield a great option for Hydroponic Greenhouse Vegetable Growers looking at controling soil-borne insects.

Details:  NemaShield®
Insect Control
Beneficial Nematodes – Soil Drench
Biological Control for Fungus Gnats and Western Flower Thrips
Safe and easy to apply
Exempt from EPA regulations; no re-entry interval
Compatible with many pesticides
Fast, overnight delivery as needed
 
The Philips Research Module LED is now available in the United States.  According to the Utreccht University, the Research Module “obtained very positive results from the test we performed with the GreenPower LED modules.  We can grow our model plant Arabidopsis quickly and easily.”  (Dr. Sjef Smeekens and Dr. Marcel Proveniers)
Utrect University conducted scientific tests in a climate cabinet equiped with GreenPower LED modules.  The modules are specially deisgned to deliver a uniform light distribution at a distance of 50 cm specifally in a climate cabinet.
Make sure to contact us with any comments or questions.
 

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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An opposing view on Vertical Farming

Hort Americas believes that both sides should be heard and looked at when it comes to Hydroponics, Vertical Farming, Urban Agriculture and CEA.

And while we at Hort Americas may believe firmly in new “farming” opportunities, we completely understand the Macro view and their potential limitations.

Please take a minute to read this post from Graham Land at Greenfudge.org and the article by George Monbiot, before you make up your own mind.

In Monday’s Guardian George Monbiot slams the concept of ‘vertical farming’ in a piece, entitled ‘Greens living in ivory towers now want to farm them too’.

His main beef is that a Columbia University parasitologist named Dickson Despommier has been getting a lot of support in the green media for his idea to create skyscraper farms in densely populated urban areas like New York City, which might be a brilliant idea, but it’s a fanciful one as well.

This immediately reminded me of stories about an underground indoor rice farm in Tokyo’s financial district, which turned out to be an expensive publicity experiment.

Monbiot sees vertical farming as a distraction. Water and farmland shortages along with a growing world population bring agriculture and food towards the forefront of environmental issues. Scary stuff in terms of crop failures and resultant starvation for the poor have-nots, but the haves in places like Manhattan are interested in expensive high tech luxury solutions like skyscraper farming?

Despite the impracticality and massive expense the environmental media has been all over it. In a Time magazine article, there is a partial admission of the fault:

“[…] Despommier concedes that it would cost hundreds of millions to build a full-scale skyscraper farm. That’s the main drawback: construction and energy costs would probably make vertically raised food more costly than traditional crops. At least for now.”

Honestly, vertical farming sounds like a cool university project for a designer or architect, but the extent to which it is taken by Despommier seems far from realistic.

I prefer the other kind of urban farming that is happening in Detroit. People move out, abandon houses and land, the remaining folks utilize that land to grow food, which they eat and sell. Brilliant, efficient and not reliant on some expensive high-tech structure in an exorbitantly priced neighborhood. Maybe I’m just completely ignorant, but besides roof gardens, urban gardens or small plots, farming in Manhattan just doesn’t make much sense.

Read about that in this BBC News article:

Urban farming takes root in Detroit

We should be as efficient as we can, but that means behavior suited to the immediate surroundings, not forcing a square peg into a round hole. How about practical solutions like wasting less energy by importing less food? How about growing crops primarily for human consumption rather than wasteful, intensive livestock farming?

Still, if vertical farming happens to work, then fine, knock yourself out.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Hydroponics, Aquaponics and Urban Argriculture Offers Opportunity to Re-Invent Small Industry

Hort Americas recently saw this video from a news station in Tampa Bay, Florida.

However there are times that major turmoil and obstacles can create new and unique opportunities.

Watch this video to see how aquaponics and hydroponics may be an option for those looking for new ventures.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Philips to Introduce LED Technology at OFA Short Course

In recent years there has been quite a bit of hype regarding LED technology and it eventual impact on artificial lighting in the horticulture industry.

And in most cases, that is all that it was…hydpe!

We, at Hort Americas, believe that this may finally be changing.  In 2010 and 2011 we anticipate  there will be studies, data and products released from different sources that will start to make LED’s viable for different segement within the horticultural industry.

During this same time, Philips will be introducing their approach to LED’s in the North American horticulture industry at this years OFA Short Course.

Here is a sneak preview:

LED’s future in horticulture is going to be knowledge and optimal lighting “recipes.”

With a light recipe as a starting point, every crop will be approached differntly and will be optimized using all variables in the greenhouse such irriagation, nutrition and environmnental manipulation (CO2, temperature, humidity, etc.)

Currently these recipes are either under development or have been developed for the following areas:

  1. Research
  2. Storage and Transport
  3. Tissue Culture
  4. Propagation
  5. Multilayer Production (Vertical Farming)
  6. Greenhouse Interlighting

Philips has spent many hours working on:

Gerberas, Chyrsanthemums, Kalanchoes, Greenhouse Grown Strawberries and Greenhouse Grown Tomatoes
The results from test in these areas and on the selected crops are showing:
  1. Faster Growth
  2. Better Quality
  3. Higher Yield
  4. Decreased Temperature Issues, (as well as enegy savings depending on application.)

It is important to know that Philips has a vast amount of knowledge in regards to horticultural lighting (this includes traditional lighting methods as well.)  They are currently working together with growers, breeders and other qualified partners to provide the optimum lighting solutions (measured by improved performance and ultimately lower cost.)

Contact Hort Americas to learn more about Philips and their current offering.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Village Farms information Video

At Hort Americas we do not normally promote our customers businesses, but there are times when our customers do some things we think others should see.

Village Farms created a promotional video that does a good job of show casing and explaning greenhouse vegetable production at a very high level.  (I feel I must say, we are not in anyway trying to imply that they do it better than any of our other customers…they just produced a very nice video to promote their style.)

Enjoy!

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com

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Focus on Water

As recently stated in our website, Hort Americas is focused on helping growers conserve one of their most precious commodities…WATER.

A hot and popular topic with the media (see this months National Geographic), politicians (see Rueters) and with business men (see T. Boone Pickens), water is already heavily debated and will more than likely play a major role in how our industry grows in the years to come.

Since we feel “water” is such an important topic we are going to spend the next few posts focusing in on commonly overlooked or misunderstood areas of irrigation.

The first topic is going to be hydraulic control valves.

Two factors that are important to the irrigation needs for growers are:

1.) Accurate water pressure to promote uniform vegetation growth.
2.) Protection from high pressure spikes (which protect sensitive system components such as irrigation lines, drip lines, equipment, etc. from damage.)

Valves are important part of any irrigation system because, if used and maintained properly, they precisely control the flow of water.

While it could be said that each irrigation system is unique, it is obvious that well built systems have a few things in common.

Quality Components
Plan for Conservation (Reclaiming and Recycling)
Strong Maintenance Program
Room for Expansion

It is important to select hydraulic control valves that consistently deliver fast, accurate pressure regulation for your greenhouse irrigation system.

Ooval available from Hort Americas and provided exclusively in the US and Canada through Amiad Filtration Systems are the fastest responding, most accurate valves in their class. Ooval, in operation since 2003, was started by three founders with over 70 years of experience in drip and greenhouse irrigation in the highly arid Middle Eastern climate of Israel to bring innovative, high-added value valves to the global irrigation marketplace.

Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com