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
“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™ ( 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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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;

David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort
Worth, Texas, our corporate website at