Variable growth habits and changeable dispatch dates present a significant challenge for bedding plant producers seeking to meet today’s strict plant uniformity criteria.
Roundstone Nurseries’ growing manager Lynne Seabrook is all too aware of the vagaries of end markets, and is clear on the importance of growth regulation as a tool to meet the challenges.
“Our ability to regulate plant growth is vitally important – a key factor in meeting the specifications set by client B&Q – to which the majority of our pack bedding plants are supplied,” she explains.
“Nutrition, water, temperature and light all affect a plant’s growth and can be used to manipulate its development,” comments Lynne. Although utilising these natural growth manipulating methods, she notes that there are limitations to these practices which don’t allow for the necessary fine-tuning in production.
“At the final stages of production we typically control growth of the finished product by restricting watering up until the dispatch date, when they are then watered up ready to go on display.
“But, if the date for delivery is put back a week, or the client’s requirements change, stopping a freshly watered plant from growing on is impossible. Very quickly and easily they can pass their prime condition and this can be a real problem which risks plant rejection,” she exclaims.
Adopting a little and often programmed approach using daminozide growth regulator B-Nine SG, starting early in the production cycles, is her answer. “We can have complete control,” she says. “That way we aren’t battling with a finished product. We’re able to hold back or advance growth as needed, which is particularly important where the weather is always a great unknown.”
Lynne typically commences with a programme of B-Nine a fortnight after plugs are packed. “That way we can ensure we’re in control throughout – preventing the need for any sharp, reactionary and sometimes damaging measures at the last hurdle.
“As the plants mature it’s often difficult to get feed into them without watering, so a low dose of B-Nine is applied almost in tandem to feed. We then adjust the rate according to the rate of crop development and changing light levels.”
“The warm conditions under glass of late could have proved serious if we didn’t have a growth regulation programme of B-Nine and other PGR’s in place, with plants quite capable of bursting into growth.
“But, as it is, we are achieving fantastic dark green foliage and compact, even plants,” she notes with larger plants within the batch often absorbing more of the active, bringing them in to line with the others, without resulting in a permanently static plant.
“B-Nine is helping achieve a firm, stable strong plant, which is also vital for mechanical transplantation. And because the plants are stronger and more resilient, they’re less vulnerable to disease attack, meaning we can cut down our pesticide use.
“And having no operator re-entry restrictions in place for B-Nine allows us to continue with normal day to day operations which are especially important during busy production periods.”
B-Nine SG has undergone a recent label change meaning it is now the only formulation of daminozide to offer growers a zero re-entry restriction.