March 15, 2010
The annual Growers Group Short Course provides an opportunity for nursery growers to learn about new research and best practices, while giving attendees a chance to mix, mingle and network with colleagues.

This year, the Short Course was held at the Royal Botanical Gardens on Feb. 10. Over 180 growers turned out, and were well-rewarded with an interesting and informative event that is a testament to the passion and dedication of both the researchers and educators, and the horticulture industry that supports their work.

Among the presentations were research updates on maple tar spot, boxwood blight and spruce needlecast, provided by Tom Hsiang of the University of Guelph. Michael Celetti, from OMAFRA, discussed a fire blight decision support model that was developed at Washington State University. Using weather data and a fire blight risk interpretation chart, growers can decide whether conditions are conducive for fire blight infection, and if they should take preventative action.  In another presentation, Celetti walked growers through the steps to field test for Phytophthora – how to take samples, prepare them effectively and read the test results.

Sean Fox, of the University of Guelph, provided an update on the university’s Arboretum – the collections, research and initiatives. Donna Speranzini presented work on the Great Lakes Water Quality Project that she and Christoph Kessel, both of OMAFRA, are involved in. By partnering with the growers and The Ontario Greenhouse Alliance (TOGA), they are able to conduct demonstration sites and monitor the effectiveness of different ways of managing water runoff from greenhouse operations. Speranzini focused on four different models: vertical flow constructed wetlands, irrigating biofuel crops, creating a biofilter with woodchips and using vegetated filter strips. Her final message to growers was that it’s easier to keep clean water clean, reuse and recycle what they have, and to keep nutrient-rich water under control in order to minimize the amount of water that must be treated.

Youbin Zheng updated the growers on the results of a number of ongoing research projects, including the role of pH in nutrient availability and looking at beneficial micro-organisms in growing mix.

Jason Deveau, of OMAFRA, gave growers some food for thought with his presentation on improving nursery spray applications. See his column on pages 24 and 25.

Dave Cheung, who is developing an extensive digital guide to nursery and landscape pests of Ontario, gave an update on his project. This will be a great tool for green industry members.

Hannah Mathers introduced growers to her work in partnership with the MTO, developing optimum planting processes for long-term highway greening. A major component of this ground-breaking research project is to develop best practices for Ontario growers, as well as show viable production methods within retractable roof greenhouses to help replace imported liners. Research is ongoing, so watch for next year’s update. Mathers’ work is a collaborative process, with a long list of donors and companies contributing to its success.

The Growers Good Ideas session is held at the end of the day, and is a popular presentation, with everyone staying to learn from their peers. Thanks to Jen Llewellyn and the Short Course subcommittee members for their work organizing this event, and many thanks to Plant Products, generous sponsors of the 2010 Growers Short Course.