Each year, Produce Grower magazine takes the pulse of the industry through our most comprehensive research project - the annual State of the Industry survey. It is time to look at how our industry is shaping up as we prepare for 2022. In additional to the regular questions, you'll find a few regarding how COVID-19 has impacted your operation.
Responses are confidential and may be used in a future issue of Produce Grower magazine. To show our appreciation for your time and insight, you may choose to be entered to win 1 of 3 $100 Visa gift cards by leaving your information at the end of the survey.
Click HERE to take the survey.
If you have any questions, please contact Associate Editor Chris Manning at email@example.com.
Preparations for the 2022 California Spring Trials are underway as the breeder trade event is set to go from Wednesday, March 30 through Sunday, April 3, 2022.
The breeding companies participating in California Spring Trials gathered at the Cultivate'21 show in Columbus, Ohio, last week to discuss the future of the event. Prior to the meeting, a survey was sent to CAST attendees from 2019 and 2021. Survey members were asked their preference on timing as well as the styles of displays, among other things, according to a press release from BlueSkye Creative.
More than half of the surveyed respondents who attended 2019, but did not in 2021, replied that the summer dates did not work for their schedule. And 38% mentioned that COVID-19 precautions kept them from traveling. For those that did attend, 75% preferred the traditional marketing displays, while 25% preferred the newer in-ground displays found at many breeding locations. Overall, 67% of all respondents preferred the traditional spring dates over summer.
A group of 20 companies comprised of breeders and brokers met at the Cultivate show to determine the dates for the next two years, with plenty of space from the Easter holiday.
2022: Wednesday, March 30 – Sunday, April 3
2023: Wednesday, March 29 – Sunday, April 2
Guests who plan to attend the 2022 California Spring Trials need to make their reservations with each site individually. Event contact information including site details will be found at 2022CAST.com.
For more information about the upcoming 2022 California Spring Trials, contact BlueSkye Creative firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fundamental change in how we define photosynthetic active radiation (PAR) is afoot, at least if you believe two researchers who presented at Cultivate’21 this week in Columbus, Ohio.
Utah State University’s Dr. Bruce Bugbee discussed some intriguing findings at Cultivate'21 from ex-graduate student Dr. Shuyang Zhen, a former student of Bugbee’s who is now a researcher in Texas A&M’s ag program.
Her work was recently published in a prominent scientific research report in June 2021, arguing that far red photons should be included in the definition of photosynthetic photons, and that standards should be developed to quantify the amount of those photons being provided by horticultural lighting. Basically, PAR needs a bit of an upgrade.
“This is an enormous paradigm shift in our thinking because we have defined photosynthetic radiation the same way for decades,” Bugbee says, noting that the far-red spectra – which sits at the spectral edge of what the human eye can perceive on its own – is now being discovered to be more useful in plant photosynthesis than once thought.
For decades, according to the two researchers, growers and lighting consultants have measured and quantified spectral lighting on the McCree Curve, which accounted for PAR ranges anywhere between 400-700. The problem with that is that modern PAR meters have basically excluded the far-red spectra, which falls between 700-750 on the prospective McCree Curve.
The researchers are proposing a tweak, so that PAR meters developed in the future (Editor’s Note: Apogee Instruments, a company Bugbee maintains an ownership interest in, has an ePAR meter available today. It is pictured above) will take into account the amount of far-red photons that LED fixtures are outputting. Once growers and lighting consultants can properly measure it, it will be easier to incorporate far-red into lighting recipes and quantify it's effect. This is especially important in CEA leafy green operations, according to Bugbee.
“In lettuce crops far-red by itself does virtually nothing, but when you combine far-red with white spectra Shuyan Zhen’s research shows compelling evidence that far-red photons are indeed photo synthetic, and we should be counting them,” he states.
Zhen also took her research beyond lettuce, evaluating far-red photon treatments combined with other spectra on 17 different crop species. Everything from soybeans, wheat, even ornamentals.
As far as current recommendations go, the duo advise that greenhouse growers should continue to use the 400-700 PAR standard , and then use the new ePAR standard (380-760 nano moles) when “going above 700.” But, they caution, it’s going to take some time.
“Erik Runkle at MSU is using ePAR, and a well-known photo biologist at MSU, Thomas Sharkey, reviewed this research and he said this is really great stuff and we need to change the definition (of PAR),” Bugbee says. “When science changes then eventually the standards will change. It’s an exciting time.”
During a Monday session at Cultivate’21, Peace Tree Farm's Lloyd Traven went in depth on lavender, a perennial crop that has become more prominent in recent years. The session, which was unfortunately cut short due to a fire alarm at the Columbus Convention Center, featured Traven’s insight into a crop he and his team grow at Peace Tree.
“It has changed so much in the last decade,” Traven said. “It’s been an incredible evolution of the crop.” He later noted that, for big-box retailers, lavender has exceeded the 15% sales threshold and is now considered its own category in the broader perennial category. At Home Depot, the only other crop with that distinction is hostas.
Here are a few takeaways.
Lavender can offer green businesses year-round sales.
According to Traven, one of the benefits of lavender is that it can offer year-round income for growers because it is a versatile crop.
For instance, Traven noted that dried lavender can be used to create unique Christmas ornaments. It can also be used for culinary purposes, grown for its oil and many more options. And, while some growers in Montana or Utah grow it outside, it can (and is) also grown in a controlled environment. Traven, for example, operates in the Midwest and uses greenhouse space for his year-round production.
All that said, Traven did note that growers shouldn’t rush into a program in search of more income and just assume lavender will work for them. The first step, he said, is to trial varieties, find the right one(s) and understand what it’s being grown for.
“There’s no reason it can’t work for you year-round,” he said.
Modern lavender is much easier to grow.
Since 2013, Traven says, the lavender genetics market has changed significantly, with breeders like Proven Winners, Pacific Plug & Liner and Dummen Orange embracing lavender and offering high-quality genetics. In his opinion, some current breeding aims are cart shipping (meaning plants that ‘look like little meatballs’ can ship the same as a petunia); an early, annualized bloom; focusing on the lavender aroma; and single use of the plant, but a strong financial return.
According to Traven, growers now can achieve predictable production with lavender and, while it still takes care, it’s now easier to grow. Tied in with that is the availability of clean stock via propagation - something that was not the case until recently. Traven, who does propagate lavender, says that this unlocks some of lavender’s potential because growers can now trust the plants coming to them are healthy.
Know your lavender types.
There are five major types of lavender, Traven said.
Angustifolia - English
Intermedia - French
Stoechas - Spanish
Dentata - Fringed
Novelty - 'Meerlo', Platinum
Angustifolia is the most common option on the market, Traven says, because it has the ‘classic’ lavender fragrance, yields high-quality oil and is best used for culinary purposes.