Wednesday, October 31, 2018

2018 PPA includes inside look at Amazon

This past July, the Perennial Plant Symposium was held in the Raleigh, N.C., area for the first time since 1997. During the event, which took place July 30 through Aug. 3, both established professionals and the next generation were recognized, Amazon’s lead horticulturist presented information about the retail giant’s plant-oriented space in downtown Seattle, and attendees toured several prominent local growers and landscape operations.

Amazon believes in the benefits of plants

2018’s Perennial Plant Symposium was a homecoming of sorts for Ron Gagliardo. Before he moved into his current position as Amazon’s senior manager in horticultural services — and Amazon’s first horticulturist — in 2014, he worked for Tony Avent, a local PPA committee member, at Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh.
Primarily, Gagliardo works on The Spheres, the online retail giant’s take on an urban office combined with biophilic design, which means designing spaces that play to humans innate desire to interact with other life forms. He and other members of the Amazon horticulture team sourced plants from botanical gardens, private gardens and universities across the globe. The Spheres are in the heart of downtown Seattle and are accessible to the public. The overall design of the project, he says, was based on research that indicates that being around nature can improve humans’ brain functionality and boost creativity.
The Spheres project took months of planning and research to find the right plants for the facility, according to Gagliardo. The first plant grown for the plant collection was Herrania balaensis, an Ecuadorean cacao species that produces pods that are often used to create high-quality chocolates. The space is divided into several collections, ranging from the vertical gardens of the Canyon Living Wall to a fernery space. A full overview of the plants at the sphere can be found at
But despite the large scale of the facility, pictured above, and the unique plants inhabiting it, the success of The Spheres is founded in traditional greenhouse growing. In order to grow new plants for the facility and to have a safe space for plants that need to be rotated out, Amazon purchased a greenhouse in Woodinville, Wash., about a 50-minute drive from Seattle, to help supplement The Spheres.

Award-winning horticulturists across the age spectrum

In its 21st year, the Perennial Plant Association’s scholarship program offers college students enrolled in a two- or four-year program a $1,000 stipend, full access to the annual symposium and time to network with industry professionals. This year’s winners were as follows:
  • Phyllis Daugherty, Alamance Community College
  • Lynn Lorio, Cincinnati State Technical & Community College
  • Olivia Fiala, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Kayla Goldstein, Community College of Baltimore County
  • David McKinney, Colorado State University
  • Markis Hill, Kansas State University
  • Christian Jay Moore, The Ohio State University
  • Bruce Moore, Kansas State University
Additionally, several industry professionals were recognized. Hoffman Nursery led the way with three different awards. John Hoffman, owner and founder, received the Award of Merit, and John and his wife and co-owner, Jill, were jointly honored with the Grower of the Year award. Their son, David, was also recognized with the Young Professional Award, which honors a student or newcomer “based on their involvement in the PPA, has contributed to the success of their company, and has portrayed a positive image of the perennial plant industry to the public.”
For the full list of PPA award winners, visit

A look inside Metrolina Greenhouses

On the first day of the event, a group of attendees visited Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C. In Huntersville — one of two locations where Metrolina grows annuals, perennials, mums and other crops — the grower has 170 acres of production space in glass greenhouses. And it plans on expanding in the next few years.
According to Mark Yelanich, Metrolina’s director of research, and Ivan Tchakarov, Metrolina’s director of growing, the business is planning on adding 40 acres of production space over the next five to eight years. The plan is to expand five acres at a time until completion.
And each of the five acres will be constructed in the same way. First, concrete is poured and set to establish a solid base for the facilities. Then, the rest of the greenhouse is constructed piece by piece. Once one five-acre section is completed, the process restarts with the next five acres.
According to Tchakarov, this expansion will present some problems that must be strategically solved. Currently, he says Metrolina employs 625 full-time employees and 800 to 1,000 seasonal employees depending on the time of the year. Adding more space will only increase a need for a labor, and Tchakarov is unsure how robust the local labor pool is.
However, both Tchakarov and Yelanich noted that automation will play a big part in managing labor needs. While noting that it can be complex to manage and organize this automation properly, they believe that it leads to increased efficiencies in the greenhouse during the busiest times of the year. If additional labor is not as readily available as Metrolina might need, automation will likely play a big part in solving the problem.

Sustainable, local lilies

Located near several old tobacco farms in Durham, North Carolina, Sarah & Michael’s Farm, operates a bit differently than its neighbors and sells an entirely different crop.
A lily grower primarily selling to Whole Foods, Sarah & Michael’s Farm plants around 5,400 bulbs a day in the spring. Due to the North Carolina heat, owner and head grower Michael Turner says the business specializes in Asiatic and Oriental lilies that can better handle the hot climate. At PPA, Turner also gave a presentation about the business’ use of biological controls instead of chemicals for aphid management in the greenhouse. He says that since he started using biologicals, aphids have not been an issue for his business.
Additionally, when some attendees toured his greenhouses, Turner showcased how he grows differently than his tobacco-growing neighbors by being more environmentally conscious. At Sarah & Michael’s Farm, lilies are grown in coconut coir imported from Sri Lanka. According to Turner, he decided to grow with coir because it is reusable even though shipping it to his facility takes longer than other growing media options.
To re-use the coir, it is steamed to remove any leftover old bulbs or leaves, which are then moved to the compost pile. The steamed coir is then reused, and reused again, until it is no longer useful. Turner says that this process is not only good for the Earth, but is financially responsible.
Additionally, Turner grows bulbs in the same crates they arrive in and steams the crates afterwards to protect against diseases and weeds before being reused. Bulbs, which are only used once because Turner says it is more economical to buy new bulbs since the second flowers from bulbs are often smaller, are perhaps the only item Turner doesn’t find a way to re-use.

Monday, October 15, 2018

2018 Apple Harvest By The Numbers

A new top variety in the United States, dismal production in China and a record harvest in Europe were just a few of the headlines from the U.S. Apple Association’s 2018 Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference.

Nearly 300 people attended the event, held every year in late August in Chicago, where industry leaders from around the globe gather to prognosticate about the upcoming apple season.

Here’s a look at the estimated 2018 crop from the various regions of the world.

United States
A rebound in the Midwest, reasonable weather in the East and a slightly lower than anticipated Washington crop led growers and industry officials to predict a nationwide apple crop of 256.2 million bushels for 2018. If the figure holds, it would be 6 percent lower than last year and 2 percent below the five-year average. When discussing the nationwide crop volume, the apple industry measures in 42-pound bushel equivalents and includes both fresh and processing apples.

However, the variety breakdown might be the biggest news. For the first time in at least 50 years, Red Delicious will not be America’s most popular variety by volume. If the figures hold, the crown will go to Gala.

“This is probably the year that Gala is going to move into first place,” said Mark Seetin, USApple’s director of regulatory and industry affairs.

The apple industry expects to harvest about 52.4 million bushels of Galas, followed by 51.7 million Red Delicious, long the iconic fruit of the entire industry. Granny Smith, Fuji and Honeycrisp round out the rest of the top five.

Also, Honeycrisp — nicknamed Moneycrisp for its high returns — overtook Golden Delicious for the fifth spot for the first time. Seetin expects it may reach third place in a few years.

Each year, the federal government makes a prediction of the U.S. crop in early August, right when harvest begins in most places, followed by the USApple Outlook conference prediction later in the month. Over the years, conference delegates have turned it into a game to see who comes closer to the final tally, Seetin said.

“We have prided ourselves on being able to do a better job than the USDA,” Seetin said. The conference estimate had a winning streak for about five years, but the past two years the federal Department of Agriculture statisticians have come closer, Seetin said.

This year’s estimate from the Outlook conference falls below the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast, mostly because Washington growers lowered their expectations after a couple of weeks of picking, said Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, based in Yakima.

“Some of the reported causes of this were variable crop load on the tree and between trees and variable maturity of the fruit within each orchard, which has complicated harvest,” DeVaney told Good Fruit Grower after the conference.

As usual, Washington is expected to lead the way in America with 155 million bushels, 13 percent lower than the 178.5 million harvested in 2017 and about 5 percent below the five-year average of 163.3 million. The state is expected to produce about 61 percent of the nation’s apples this year.

Overall, the West — Washington, California, Oregon and Idaho — expects to harvest 166 million bushels.

The Midwest expects a crop of 31.6 million bushels, 8 percent above average and a healthy rebound from an unusually low 2017 harvest caused by a late spring frost in Michigan. The 2017 Michigan crop was 20 million bushels, 29 percent below expectations. Besides Michigan, Midwest apple producers are Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.

Led by New York and Pennsylvania, Eastern states expect a 58.4 million-bushel harvest, right in line with the five-year average and almost exactly the same as last year. Eastern growers reported damp weather but little if any hail.

The United States will be hard-pressed to match last season’s economics. Overall, the farm gate value of the United States apple crop was a record $3.55 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, America also set a record for export volume in 2017 with 53 million bushels and nearly a record in export value at $1.1 billion.

Also noteworthy, India edged Canada in 2017 as America’s second-leading export market behind Mexico.

Marketing is going to be more challenging this year due to a bigger crop in Europe and trade disputes, but Seetin saw potential.

“We have very, very good reason to be optimistic,” he said.

Canada expects a crop of 17.9 million bushels in 2018, up 14 percent over last year but down 5 percent from the five-year average, according to the Canadian Horticultural Council. McIntosh will lead the way at 5.1 million bushels, followed by Gala at 2.8 million and Empire at 1.3 million.

The crop in Nova Scotia suffered some damage from a June 4 freeze, but the overall Canadian crop is expected to pick clean at normal timing, said Don Werden of the Norfolk Fruit Growers’ Association in Simcoe, Ontario.

China is in for a rare drop in production this year due to a severe early April frost, where temperatures fell below freezing for six or seven hours during full bloom.

“The crop reduction was so huge, I’ve never seen it in my career,” said Michael Choi, president of the Zhonglu America Corporation, showing photo after photo of orchards nearly void of fruit. Up until this year, China had been setting annual production records.

Choi expects production to drop anywhere from 30 percent to 90 percent depending on location. Some growers had given up on their crop and sought temporary jobs in the cities to help pay the bills.

Overall, he predicted a crop of 32.1 million metric tons, a 28 percent reduction from 2017. However, Choi offered only his best educated guesses based on travels ever since the Chinese government ceased releasing official data in March this year.

European Union
Industry leaders expect Europe to bounce back strong from a low 2017 crop hurt by frost, calling for a 12.56 metric ton harvest in 2018, said Philippe Binard, the secretary general of the World Apple and Pear Association. That figure is a little lower than an estimate from earlier in the month, but still would set a record.

Poland alone, Europe’s largest producer, could be on track for a 4.48 million metric ton crop, 56 percent higher than last year and 26 percent higher than the five-year average. Italy is expected to harvest 2.2 million metric tons, followed by France with 1.42 million metric tons. Some of the smaller European Union producers expect to double or triple their 2017 crop.

South America
South American apple countries — Argentina, Brazil and Chile — should produce between 2.84 million and 3.6 million metric tons, said Rene Alarcon, commercial manager for Döhler North American Fruits and Vegetables.

The lower figure comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the higher one from the World Apple and Pear Association. Alarcon estimates the true answer will fall somewhere in the middle, but none of the three countries provided their own official estimates, he said.

Argentina will produce between 530,000 and 635,000 metric tons, both figures lower than 2017. Brazil is on pace for 1.05 million to 1.19 million metric tons, also lower than 2017. Chile likely will grow to between 1.26 million and 1.76 million tons. The higher World Association number would mark a 5 percent increase.

Also hurt by frost, Mexico is expected to have a down year with 325,000 metric tons, down about 19 percent from the yearly average, said Leighton Romney, chief executive officer for the Paquimé Group in Chihuahua.

Even on a good year in Mexico, stores must meet domestic demand with imports. This year, the expected volume will fall about 58 percent short of the demand, opening the door for a lot of imports. Mexico is typically the United States’ largest apple export market, while the U.S. is Mexico’s greatest import source of apples.

Of course, trade issues cloud the forecast this year. Currently, Mexico tacks a 20 percent tariff on imported U.S. apples and requires fumigation or a 40-day cold storage inspection period.

Meanwhile, inflation has dampened the purchasing power of Mexican shoppers, Romney said. All fresh fruit sales have been down about 30 percent from last year, while apples are expensive on store shelves in Mexico compared to tropical fruits. •

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Trees Contribute To City Wellbeing

More than half of the world’s population live in the cities and the number is undoubtedly rising. The United Nations projects the percentage of the urban population to be around 66% by 2050. The picture is certainly extra distressing for megacities which already host at least 10 million inhabitants. The most disturbing consequence of having too many people in a city is the decline in air quality. How will we be able to breathe?
 Image result for city trees

More than half of the world’s population live in the cities and the number is undoubtedly rising. The United Nations projects the percentage of the urban population to be around 66% by 2050. The picture is certainly extra distressing for megacities which already host at least 10 million inhabitants. Among many other, the most disturbing consequence of having too many people in a city is the decline in air quality. So, how will we be able to breathe?

A new study conducted by researchers from the State University of New York (SUNY) and the Parthenope University of Naples show the incredible benefits of planting trees and creating urban forestry in megacities. The leading author of the article, Prof. Dr. Theodore Endreny of SUNY told Thomson Reuters Foundation: “Greening urban areas is critical. Trees are immeasurably important for human wellbeing and biodiversity, the underpinning of our quality of life.”

The researches have selected 10 megacities distributed in five continents including Buenos Aires, Istanbul and Los Angeles, all representing different biomes. They used i-Tree Canopy, an online tool estimating tree cover and tree benefits for a given area with a random sampling process. Results show that the potential area for additional tree canopy cover range between 15.6% (Cairo) and 24% (Los Angeles). If trees are planted in these areas, the total tree cover would go up to 85% on average, doubling the benefits.

The benefits of planting trees in metropolitan areas are not merely environmental or social but also economical. Air pollution reduction can save the megacity more than $482 million a year. $107,000 of this is elicited through avoided carbon emissions. The study stated: “The median value of half a billion dollars per year of ecosystem services provided by these trees is an accounting of how nature improves human livelihoods.”

The researchers underlined the urgency to focus on greening the cities instead of treating the urban areas as if they were outside the ecosystem. Trees function as the filter of pollutants, cleaning our air, hence improving our quality of life. Although frequently neglected, urban population can make the most of the benefits.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Floriade Dialogues

In the four year run-up to Floriade Expo 2022 we will annually organize a Floriade Dialogue, starting in 2018, together with (inter)national knowledge institutions.

Here knowledge on the central theme of Floriade ‘Growing Green Cities’ will be shared and exchanged. Each year one of the four subthemes will be the leading theme for the conference ‘Greening, Feeding, Healthying and Energizing the city’.

For the organization collaboration is sought with renowned Dutch universities such as AMS, WUR, TU-Delft, Aeres University of applied sciences, VU University Amsterdam and Maastricht University. You are more than welcome to contribute and participate in any or all of these upcoming events.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Floriade 2022 Almere

 World Expo Floriade 2022 Amsterdam Almere

The Floriade is an international garden festival and exhibition that is held every ten years in the Netherlands. The World Expo Floriade Amsterdam Almere is listed by the World Horticultural Expositions, by the International Association of Horticultural Producers and hence recognised by the Bureau International des Expositions.

The Floriade is coordinated by the Dutch Horticultural Council. This council aims to strengthen the image of the Dutch horticulture and to promote exports.

The next Floriade will be held in 2022 and has as theme “Growing Green Cities”. Its location is just outside Amsterdam in the city of Almere. It will be open from springtime until autumn.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Floriade Experience


Floriade Expo 2022 will offer its visitors three different experiences, where they can find a lot of inspiration and information.

Floriade Expo 2022 will feature inspiring exhibitions from cities around the world, communicating their vision of  a green city. These exhibitions will be situated in a unique arboretum, covering the entire site. The arboretum itself will be a catalogue of trees, plants and crops, arranged in alphabetical order, each item
having a demonstrable function in the context of a green city. For example, some will lower a city’s temperature, others will store water, clean the air or create energy.

The green experiences of Floriade Expo 2022 will appeal to the imagination of a broad audience and stimulate repeat visits. Sustainability will, of course, play a key role. These experiences will also become a component of the future residential district after the expo ends, or perhaps find a new location elsewhere in the world.

The inspiring program and great line-up of events and festivities will ensure that Floriade Expo 2022 will be a lively and dynamic event. Each day will bring something new to discover and experience. There will be workshops, pop-ups, art installations, as well as meet-and-greets, cultural events and entertainment -
all contributing to make the Floriade the ultimate green event.

The expo site will be developed as a Green City Arboretum, serving as a model for green structure development in cities. This arboretum will consist of a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, creepers, hydrophytes and flower bulbs, all of which contribute to a green, healthy and sustainable city. Around 3,000 species have been selected that contribute to the green city in terms of biodiversity, air purification, food production and city climate management.

The arboretum will be planted in alphabetical order. Each lot within the grounds will be allocated a letter of the alphabet. A four-meter wide strip around each lot will contain plants and trees, the Latin names of which starts with the letter allocated to the lot. We invite participants to choose planting that bears a relationship to their exhibit, country or city of origin.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Bill Gates To Build Smart City

One of Bill Gates' investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in the far West Valley.

The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah. The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own "smart city."

"Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs," Belmont Partners said in a news release.

Ronald Schott, executive emeritus at the Arizona Technology Council, says the land Gates' company purchased is in a good spot, in part due to the proposed I-11 freeway, which would run right through Belmont and connect to Las Vegas.

"Bill Gates is known for innovation and those kind of things and I think he picked the right place. He's coming to Arizona," Schott said.

According to Belmont Partners, 3,800 acres will go towards office, commercial and retail space. Then, 470 acres will be used for public schools. Plus, there's room for 80,000 residential units.

"Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model," said Belmont Properties.

"Finally Arizona's getting recognized for being a place for innovation," added Schott.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Floriade Dialogues


In the four year run-up to Floriade Expo 2022 we will annually organize a Floriade Dialogue, starting in 2018, together with (inter)national knowledge institutions. Here knowledge on the central theme of Floriade ‘Growing Green Cities’ will be shared and exchanged.

Each year one of the four subthemes will be the leading theme for the conference ‘Greening, Feeding, Healthying and Energizing the city’.

For the organization collaboration is sought with renowned Dutch universities such as AMS, WUR, TU-Delft, Aeres University of applied sciences, VU University Amsterdam and Maastricht University. You are more than welcome to contribute and participate in any or all of these upcoming events.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Floriade 2022 Green Embassy

A Green Embassy will be a permanent structure, designed by high-profile architects on behalf of the participant and developed and built by the Dutch Real Estate consortium. During the expo it can be rented by the participant. Afterwards, the Green Embassy will be transformed into houses or used for other purposes. Sustainability is the goal here. Nothing will be wasted.

By choosing a Green Embassy, participants can contribute to a new urban district with a permanent design, created by an architect of their own choice. This design can showcase the participant’s own positioning, vision and green solution(s) for cities of the future. These Green Embassy designs will receive a  huge amount of international attention while forming part of an exhibition in the run-up to the Floriade Expo 2022.

We have developed three variations to choose from, depending on how much influence you would like to have on the design. For all options applies: we will build it, participants will then rent the pavilions and afterwards the designs will be transformed into houses or buildings for other purposes as envisaged in the original design. They will all be part of the new city district.

1. City-design This is the ultimate Green Embassy, with an architect chosen and appointed by the participant. The Dutch Real Estate consortium will take over after the final design. After completion, the participant will rent the pavilion during the expo. With this option there is maximum influence on the design.

2. Co-creation The participant chooses the architect and requests Floriade Expo 2022 to appoint him. This might be beneficial with regards to tender procedures. After the preliminary design, the Dutch Real Estate consortium will take over. After completion, the participant will rent the pavilion during the expo.

3. Plug & Play Five Green Embassies will be developed by Floriade Expo 2022. These will be designed by Dutch high-profile architects appointed by the expo, representing our vision of the Green city of the future. Participants can choose this option and rent the Green Embassy as its pavilion during the expo. With this option there is no influence on the design.

The participant can be a country or a city, or a combination of both. Because of the time needed for the development of a Green Embassy and the limited number of lots, the choice and designs have to be made before mid-2019. After that, the options will be limited.