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SHIFT: Helping Consumers Understand How Plants Grow Jennifer Noble

Your Customer Is Looking For Information Online As consumers we are intimidated by what we don’t know. The steeper our learning curve, the more intimidating something is. The customers you are hoping to attract experience this when they think about what you sell. The SHIFT research uncovered that many new (and even current) customers just don’t understand how plants grow. What this means is that the customers you are hoping to attract and even the ones you currently have, are nervous, unsure, and even intimidated by what to do with their purchases.

One powerful way to reach your customers is through the use of video online. If your customers are fearful of what to do, they are either not going to purchase or purchase less. We have an opportunity in the industry to close the gap, educate the consumer, and empower them to be successful in growing plants. This happens often before they ever visit your business. It’s key to reach them where they are. By doing this, you will find more engaged customers leading to an increase in both store traffic and sales. Connect: An AmericanHort Member Benefit

Your customers and potential customers are going to shop your store before they ever get there. They are going to be looking at your website, your social media, reviews on Yelp, etc. One thing that they are going to be looking for is information on how to care for the product they are considering purchasing. They may even be trying to determine if the project they are thinking of is within their ability to successfully complete. This is your opportunity to showcase the partnership you have to offer and provide meaningful resources to educate them. more on page 10…

What’s Inside: SHIFT: Helping Consumers Understand How Plants Grow


Understanding Recycled Water Quality


By Every Measure, a Successful “Field & Covered” Tour


SANC at Oregon Pride Nurseries


Research Endowment Fund Enables Buckeye Resources to Give Back to the Horticulture Industry


Business Solutions Organized for Your Business Interests The AmericanHort Knowledge Center is your go-to-resource for information you and your employees need. Visit AmericanHort.org/Connect for more business-building solutions.


For simplicity, we will use a naming system that reflects the relative position of individual ponds in a multi-pond water recycling setup. A containment pond directly receives runoff from production areas. A first retention pond receives runoff indirectly through overflow from a containment pond. Likewise, a second retention pond receives overflow from first retention pond.

water to make carbohydrate while releasing oxygen. Consequently, water pH and ODO goes up. This process is expedited with rising temperature. Thus, temperature, pH and ODO fluctuate almost simultaneously. This fluctuation depends upon the nursery location, nutrient load, and the time of year, with the greatest pH difference at 3.5 units across all ponds monitored.


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Understanding Recycled Water Quality

Water quality in containment and first retention ponds is rather dynamic and different from that in streams receiving no runoff water from horticultural production areas. At VA1, water pH in a first retention pond fluctuated dramatically from 6.4 to 9.6 while being flat in an adjacent stream with readings consistently below 6.0. At VA2, water pH fluctuated at a much greater rate and frequency in a containment pond than second retention pond. Similar differences were seen in other water quality parameters such as ODO and ORP. These fluctuations were closely associated with the load of nutrients that nurture algal bloom and cycling.

By Chuan Hong Water is the next game changer in the ornamental horticulture industry. Without water, no plant can be grown, nor can existing plants survive. Capturing and reusing runoff conserves and protects the precious natural water resource, and can benefit savvy horticultural businesses. Before determining if recycled water is the right choice for your business, it’s imperative to understand recycled water quality. Does recycled water quality differ from natural water resources? If so, how? What are the implications for crop health and production?

To answer these important questions, researchers at Virginia Tech initiated a continuous monitoring program in 2005, using a multiprobe Sonde (Figure 1) in select ponds. In 2011, with support from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture – Specialty Crop Research Initiative, the monitoring program was expanded to sites in Maryland and Mississippi. At that time, the monitoring system at two nurseries were upgraded to communicate data real-time from the Sondes to a computer via a telemetry system and Verizon satellites. Water quality data collected include pH, dissolved oxygen (ODO), electrical conductivity (EC), depth at which measurements being taken at the top, and chlorophyll a, blue-green algae, turbidity, temperature (T), and oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) in the bottom. The monitoring program has led to a number of surprise discoveries of practical importance.

Figure 1. A multiprobe Sonde for monitoring and logging water quality data at a pre-set interval

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In this article, we will use a small subset of water pH data collected from two nurseries in eastern (VA1) and central Virginia (VA2), respectively over a 28-day period from April 12 to May 9, 2011 to illustrate three major discoveries. Each discovery is important for growers to understand, as they have major implications on the use of recycled water in plant production.

Figure 2. Real-time water quality readings on a computer screen and a monitoring site photo show a Sonde anchored in the middle of a pond through a yellow buoy and a telemetry system by the pond


Recycled water pH also may fluctuate greatly within a day, bottoming around 6 AM and peaking between 4 and 5 PM. Again, this diurnal fluctuation was closely related to photosynthesis activity in ponds. When the sun rises, algae and other photosynthetically active agents remove carbon dioxide, a weak acid, from

Figure 3. Water pH readings every 15 minutes from first retention pond (Red) and an adjacent stream (dark blue) at VA1, and a containment pond (orange) and second retention pond (light blue) at VA2


Recycled water quality differs greatly at different depths in ponds. This is because the water column was stratified in all monitored ponds with the shallowest depth at 0.75 meters. This thermal stratification prevented water mixing within water column, pushing surface water quality fluctuation to extremity. Understanding the quality of water at varying depths within a single pond is important knowledge for growers. Why do these data matter? Understanding recycled water quality is the first and critical step to productive use of this alternative water resource while minimizing its potential negative impacts. Assuming that the quality of recycled water mimics the quality of a natural water source and not making appropriate changes in production can negatively impact crop health and productivity. For example, according to the Guide for Producing Container-Grown Plants (Southern Nurserymen’s Association), the ideal water pH range for ornamental crops is from 6.5 to 7.0. Water pH above 7.0 could negatively affect crop quality and productivity. Water pH is known to affect pathogen survival in recycling irrigation system, nutrient availability, and performance of many pesticides and chlorination, a commonly-used water treatment. These topics will be discussed in detail in the upcoming issues of Connect. Chuan Hong, Virginia Tech 1444 Diamond Springs Rd Hampton Roads Agr Expt Stn Virginia Beach, VA 23455-3315 chhong2@vt.edu

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SANC at Oregon Pride Nurseries By Chris Ames and Claire Coleman

Here at Oregon Pride Nurseries, we are passionate about plants. We are a wholesale grower, located in the heart of the Willamette Valley in McMinnville, Oregon. Mild weather and beautiful, rich soil make this a suitable place to grow superior plants. For over 25 years, we have focused on producing the highest quality cold hardy plants, offering a wide selection of conifers, ornamental trees, shrubs, evergreens, roses, grasses, and small fruit trees. We strive for consistent quality and stay unwavering to our values when we grow and sell plants to our customers.

At this time, we are finishing our final version of our Systems Approach to Nursery Certification Manual (SANC). The SANC manual will be a guide to dealing proactively with the risks associated with growing nursery stock. We are excited to embark on this new SANC adventure, which will kick off with an audit of our entire system. We were delighted to be asked to participate as one of the initial eight SANC pilot programs. SANC has recently developed new terminology that nurseries across the United States will soon need 4 | AmericanHort.org

program, I realized the project would be a perfect fit for our new Assistant Production Manager and North Dakota State University (NDSU) graduate, Matt Brooke, to take the lead role in developing the manual. Matt studied the GAIP manual and began work on the new SANC Manual immediately. He learned a great deal about our operation while he was writing the manual. The process started by working on a risk assessment, documenting staff responsibilities, a description of our facility, and writing a pest management plan. We had to spend a lot of time reviewing what we do on a day-to-day basis and discussing what changes would need to be made. This was a perfect way to get him up to speed on how our nursery works and what his new job entails. Matt says, “Working with SANC has given me a better foundation of how Oregon Pride is run, and I believe this will be beneficial to our nursery in the future.”

to become familiar with. It was developed to change how we look at inspection of plant material and focuses instead on how plants are produced using Best Management Practices (BMP) and developing Pest Management Plans (PMP). We at Oregon Pride Nurseries have already learned to use some of the terminology because we were a part of a pilot program in 2009 in the state of Oregon called GAIP (Grower Assisted Inspection Program). GAIP was developed to manage Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death or SOD) specifically, which is a nursery systems approach similar to SANC. I wanted to get involved in the GAIP program because it seemed that it would be the best way to be proactive in the prevention of SOD, and it gave our customers confidence that we were taking the disease threat seriously. Even though GAIP was specific to SOD, the SANC program was an easy transition for us because it shares much of the same framework as GAIP. SANC also helps us provide the highest quality plants to our customers by constantly keeping our system in check and making sure all of our plants are free of pests and diseases.

A lot of time and effort has been involved in developing the SANC manual but that time was well-spent assessing risks and developing BMPs and PMPs. Once we agreed to join the SANC pilot

in a more unified front as we work together to continue to grow the highest quality plants. We are eager to see where these pilot programs will go in the future and look forward to see the impacts SANC will have on the nursery industry as a whole. Chris Ames and Claire Coleman Oregon Pride Nurseries 5380 SE Booth Bend Rd McMinnville, OR 97128-8755 OregonPrideNurseries.com

Employee training is a big part of the SANC program. We enlisted the help of Luisa Santamaria from North Willamette Experiment Research and Extension Center of Oregon State University. Luisa teaches bilingual programs in plant health and trained our employees in the past. She began training of the new SANC Manual with our Spanishspeaking employees and helped them get up to speed on current pests and diseases. Through this we’ve been able to reach all of our employees about the importance of being proactive with cleanliness, scouting for pests and diseases, and record keeping. We’ve done some of the training in the past as part of GAIP, but SANC requires us to train and document much more regularly. We find that everyone is very enthusiastic about being a part of the new pilot program because it may have a real impact on the future of the nursery industry. Of course, all of this requires a strong commitment from management. SANC is not possible without the complete support and encouragement from the management here at Oregon Pride Nurseries. It does require us to make some changes, but once everyone understood that it is in the nursery’s best interest, everyone climbed aboard. We are proud to be a part of SANC and look forward to what the future has in store for us. We are sure working with SANC will bring our company and employees 2016:10 | 5

By Every Measure, a Successful “Field & Covered” Tour By Jill Calabro, PhD

Field and Covered, the AmericanHort plant production tour, made a triumphant return in September.

Figure 5. Plant productivity and inventory tracking are important for success at Lucas Greenhouses.

Three stops were included this year: Overdevest Nurseries, Lucas Greenhouses, and Centerton Nursery. AmericanHort members and Horticultural Research Institute donors from all over the country attended, and the tour sold out. Variety is the spice of life. This proverb is exemplified by our hugely diverse and independent industry. And it makes for a great production tour. A key benefit of this event is the opportunity to see diverse production strategies employed by green industry leaders. Despite all being within close proximity to each other, each of the tour stops was unique. However, some common themes emerged at each: water quality, mechanization, and labor issues. Our industry is clearly mindful of the importance of water quality and management, as each operation showcased their water recycling and treatment efforts. Featured water treatment techniques on the tour included chlorine, ozone, and UV light. Participants were full of questions about water treatments’ impact on disease control, algae issues, and overall water quality. Each facility clearly relies on mechanization as a means of ensuring plant uniformity, quality, and consistency, and each prominently featured demonstrations of equipment. One of the newest innovations was the use of robots to move and space pots within a growing area. The greatest amount of discussion centered on labor issues. Nearly everyone expressed frustration with finding an adequate workforce and is nervous about changes in Washington and the resulting impacts on their business. The pilot program known as Systems Approach to Nursery Certification (SANC) was discussed at Lucas Greenhouses, one of eight growers involved in the SANC pilot. We introduced SANC and its objectives, while owner George Lucas shared his perspective about the process so far. Finally, participants were keen for updates on the latest research efforts impacting our industry. Jill Calabro, PhD AmericanHort & Horticultural Research Institute Research & Science Programs Director JillC@AmericanHort.org 6 | AmericanHort.org

Figure 1. A warm welcome was waiting for us at Overdevest Nurseries, our first tour stop.

Figure 6. Trays of newly-planted succulents at Lucas Greenhouses.

Figure 10. Pot-moving robots maximize floor space and ensure precise pot placement at Centerton Nursery.

Figure 2. Wagons (complete with hay bales!) escorted tour participants, and we were spared walking the production blocks at Overdevest Nurseries.

Figure 7. George Lucas updated us on Lucas Greenhouses’ participation in the SANC pilot program and shared his thoughts of the program. A Pennsylvania State plant inspector also attended.

Figure 11. Though not addressed to the group at large, pollinator issues were discussed among participants, especially after cause-related marketing tags were observed at Centerton Nursery.

Figure 3. An in-depth discussion ensued about the water treatment process at Overdevest Nurseries.

Figure 8. Trial Garden in full bloom, displaying many of Lucas Greenhouses’ offerings.

Figure 12. The DIY mantra at Centerton Nurseries was further exemplified through their use of handcarts modified for mechanized pruning in blocks.

Figure 4. Consistency and uniformity are two characteristics used to describe plant material from Overdevest Nurseries. This mobile pruning station is one reason why.

Figure 9. In-house built and designed conveyer system to distribute pots at Centerton Nursery.

Figure 13. At the tour’s conclusion, the group posed for a photo to celebrate a successful event. (Centerton Nursery) 2016:10 | 7

Research Endowment Fund Enables Buckeye Resources to Give Back to the Horticulture Industry By David Kuack grinding it and screening it to a specific particle size for container nursery growers. We ship to growers in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan. Of our total sales, 50 percent is retailers, 25 percent is landscapers and 25 percent is nursery growers.

Committed to Supporting Horticulture Research Buckeye Resources Inc., a mulch production company, has created a $30,000 research endowment fund through Horticultural Research Institute to help improve the horticulture industry. Buckeye Resources Inc. in Springfield, Ohio, has been servicing the horticulture industry since July 1984. Started by its president Dick Posey, the company produces hardwood, pine and whitewood mulch. “Buckeye Resources manufactures mulch, which is sold in bags and in bulk,” Posey said. “We do a variety of colored mulches and natural products.” The company’s primary customers include retailers, landscapers and nursery growers. Its products are shipped to customers in Ohio and surrounding states. “We sell a tremendous amount of bulk pine to nursery growers that use it as a substrate,” Posey said. “We process the mulch,

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Posey has been involved with the Horticultural Research Institute for over 40 years. “In 1974 I started going to the American Nursery & Landscape Association’s Management Clinic in Louisville, Kentucky,” he said. “We have been making donations to HRI for about 30 years. In 2009 we stepped up to the plate and made a $30,000

© Josh Posey Posey said the money for the fund is coming from Buckeye Resources. “Unlike some endowed funds, Buckeye Resources doesn’t have a check off for its customers to contribute to the fund,” he said. “Some companies which have established endowed funds include a check off of 0.025 percent that is included with their invoices. We have chosen not to do that. Most growers understand the value of contributing to an organization like HRI and what it is doing for our industry. “I created the endowment because the nursery industry has been very good to me, my family and my company. I always say “I bleed green, not red.”

Meeting the Demand for Research Funding HRI’s Endowment Fund was created to enable individuals, businesses, associations and foundations to make tax-deductible contributions to support educational and scientific research. The Endowment is now around $12 million, including donations and pledges. By law, the original financial donations are not available to be distributed to fund research. Only the proceeds, including interest, dividends and realized capital gains, can be used to fund research. The annual research funding level varies with the amount of proceeds. “Even though this Endowment is around $12 million, the HRI board of trustees and the organization’s supporters want to make it stronger financially so that more research grants can be awarded. We have more people applying for grants every year.”

© Josh Posey endowment contribution pledge and established the Richard E. Posey—Buckeye Resources Inc. Fund. We are working toward an endowed research fund within HRI. We have about $5,000 left to establish the fund.”

David Kuack Freelance Technical Writer Ft Worth, TX dkuack@gmail.com © Josh Posey

For more: Buckeye Resources Inc., (937) 462-8346; Dick@buckeyeresources.com; buckeyeresources.com.

2016:10 | 9

name—think celebrities and well-known brands); since then they have introduced it into personal pages and business pages.

Don’t overthink it and don’t over script it. You are pre-building the relationship the customer will have with you when they come into your business.

SHIFT: Helping Consumers Understand How Plants Grow…continued from page 1

One powerful way to reach your customers is through the use of video online. When we talk about videos that often frightens businesses because it sounds expensive and perhaps even out of your skill set. That may have been true 10 or 15 years ago, but the good news is that today’s consumer isn’t expecting studio quality productions, they are just looking for information. The same consumer who is looking to you to understand how plants grow is the same consumer utilizing YouTube for instruction on a variety of other topics.

All You Need is a Smart Phone or Tablet and a Couple of Minutes As technology progresses, videos are getting easier and easier to create. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get creative.

SH ORT & SIMPLE Don’t feel you need to cover everything in one video Short and simple is better, Pick something you can cover in 2 minutes or less (1 to 1.5 minutes is ideal) For example, a quick video on hole depth and size for proper planting of hydrangeas or a video on watering tips for container gardens. Keep the topic simple and focused. Remember that the consumer may just be looking for a quick answer to completing just one step.

B E C ONV ER SATIONAL Don’t let the camera scare you. Imagine that you have the viewer in front of you in your store and you are simply answering a question they have. Don’t overthink it and don’t over script it. You are pre-building the relationship the customer will have with you when they come into your business. Introduce yourself—Let them get to know you with a quick introduction that includes your name and the name of your business. Don’t be surprised if the customers start coming in asking for you when they have questions.

Facebook Live puts the video out live to your followers right from a smart phone or tablet. It also gives the viewer the opportunity to type questions that you can answer live on the video. It’s a great way to hold a virtual class or do a Q&A on a topic. You can publicize these ahead of time or do them spur of the moment. The great part is that within seconds or minutes (depending on video length) your video will save to your Facebook page and allow you to save a file of the video to your device so you may use it in other ways. Remember that while a picture may be worth a thousand words, a video is worth much more to you and your customer. Your customer is looking for information and you want to be the one to deliver it.

Are you already using videos in your business? I’d love to see them, so drop me an email at JenN@AmericanHort.org

Jennifer Noble AmericanHort JenN@AmericanHort.org For more information on SHIFT, download the e-book “An Introduction to SHIFT” which contains the nearly 30 insights and recommendations uncovered in the SHIFT research. The e-book is available at AmericanHort.org/SHIFT.


Develop Your Staff

Developing your staff doesn’t stop with the staff meeting. Learn every day of the year with the AmericanHort Knowledge Center. There are 1,149 articles, videos, and webinars for retailers just like you.

GO LIVE Once you feel comfortable with offering videos to your customers, consider going live through social media. If you have a Facebook page, you have the opportunity to do a Facebook Live. Facebook Live is relativity new to the social media world. About a year ago Facebook introduced the function to verified pages (the ones with a blue check by the 10 | AmericanHort.org

Now that’s something to add to the meeting agenda. AmericanHort.org/KC

Kate Terrell, Wallace’s Garden Center, Bettendorf, Iowa


© 2016 AmericanHort. All rights reserved. This material may contain confidential information and it is for the sole use of AmericanHort members. The information contained herein is for general guidance and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. It cannot be distributed, reprinted, retransmitted, or otherwise made public without prior written permission by AmericanHort. Please contact the editor at (614) 487-1117 for permission with acknowledgment.

Editorial Staff Michelle Gaston Laura Kunkle, Editor Jennifer Noble Gina Zirkle

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