March 15, 2016
Growers share good ideas
The Nursery Growers’ Short Course also featured some exhibitors and offered networking opportunities during the day.
Members of the growers sector gathered at the Royal Botanical Garden in Burlington, Ont., on Feb. 9 for the annual Nursery Growers’ Short Course — an event where researchers, experts and those working in the field gather to share the latest techniques, technology and ideas.

With a large number of research projects funded in part by Landscape Ontario, various government programs and industry, the event also provides the perfect venue for results to be shared — often one of the requirements of receiving the initial funding.

The event was headlined by keynote speaker Dr. Henry Losing from the German nursery industry, who spoke at length about the many similarities, differences and challenges faced by growers on both sides of the Atlantic. Issues common to both continents include: invasive species, climate change, available labour, water restrictions, pest and diseases, and creating demand for specific varieties and plants. Dr. Losing also showed innovative ideas and techniques used in Germany such as a machine that uses hot water and steam to sterilize soil.

On the Canadian side, Jen Llewellyn from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) gave an update on her continuing research into using switchgrass as an alternative to mulch or coco discs in nursery container production. Llewellyn also has a voluntary, self-assessment on water and fertilizer use in container production for growers that will contribute to the development of best management practices for the industry.

Llewellyn also announced the Crop Protection Guide for Nursery and Landscape Plants has been updated and will be available to order from the OMAFRA web site. The publication contains integrated pest management guidelines and a detailed host plant compendium.

The nursery scout program, started five years ago with assistance by various government agencies, is now continuing with industry support. The program allows growers to be visited on a rotating basis by a scout, who looks for pests and diseases that could present future problems.

Developed out of the nursery scout program, Dr. Jeanine West from Phytoserv (in cooperation with Llewellyn) told growers about a spreadsheet that is now available in electronic format that allows a do-it-yourself nursery scout approach for growers. Based on growing degree days, the spreadsheet includes nursery pest life stages, vulnerable stages and host plants so growers know what to look for, on which plants and when.

Dr. West also shared results of a trial looking at whether the placement of controlled release fertilizer in the top, bottom, or middle of containers had any affect on the amount of leachate in container production. Dr. West is also working on a market impact analysis that is being proactive at identifying any species that could impact sales if placed on the Ministry of the Environment’s invasive species list.

Dr. Youbin Zheng from University of Guelph shared research on nutrient management strategies for containerized flowering shrubs and organic blueberry plant production in order to maximize plant growth and minimize fertilizer usage.

Research on increasing the survivability of newly planted trees continues, with Vineland’s Darby McGrath reporting on various levels of soil amendments for planting trees along major highways. McGrath is also working on developing a handy guide for towns and municipalities to use when planting trees in varied site conditions.

Mike Dixon from the University of Guelph shared results of a study he has been working on at Connon Nurseries NVK involving the use of wireless, automated stem psychrometer that measures the water status of a plant and shows the stress caused by drought conditions.

Alex Verbinnen, Verbinnen Nurseries, shared some trials he has been doing on root pruning which aim to promote the growth of proper lateral main roots using container and plug growing systems. Verbinnen noted that what works for one species may not work for another, but even results vary among different cultivars within the same species.

Many ideas from across the Atlantic were shown in a presentation by Tom Intven from Canadale Nurseries. Intven, along with a group of 25 other industry people had just returned from a visit to production facilities in Germany and The Netherlands. The group saw things like ergonomic pruning workstations, portable potting machines, and attachments for machinery to automate root pruning and trimming.

Many additional innovative tools, techniques and ideas from the trip were also presented in the popular Growers Good Idea session. Everything from specialized machine attachments to easily transport plants, to an inline mulching and watering machine for container plants, to a mechanical staking machine were presented to the group.

All of the presenters thanked the many growers, suppliers, government agencies and programs that continue to fund research in order to improve the industry. Event organizers also wish to acknowledge Plant Products as the platinum sponsor for the event.