MNLA field day attracts 130-plus


More than 130 members and CPHers attended the Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association's Summer Field Day June 17 in Davidsonville, Md. They educational updates from the University of Maryland, Maryland Department of Agriculture, American Nursery and Landscape Association and LEAD Maryland, then enjoyed tours of the growing facilities, wholesale yard and retail center at Homestead Gardens.
Dr. Andrew Ristvey told the audience he has been able to do a lot of work funded by small grants, but hasn't had the "critical mass" needed to bring projects to market. With new grant funding and goals, he hopes to be able to commercialize a system of substrate monitoring so growers know when they need to irrigate. Sometimes it's even more important to know when not to irrigate, Ristvey noted.
With new funding from USDA Specialty Crops Initiative, he and Dr. John Lea Cox and others want to develop a monitoring system so an irrigation manager can see what's going on inside the container or field so far as water content, so he can make the right decisions.
Dr. Paula Shrewsbury, University of Maryland entomologist, reported she is working on cover crops for field production nurseries where "beneficial insectory plants" attract natural enemies of crop pests.
Steve Platt said grower representatives from MNLA met recently with representatives of USDA Risk Management Agency, Maryland Department of Agriculture, the University of Maryland and crop insurance agents to discuss concerns about enrolling in the CAT program. Only 20 firms in Maryland participate in crop insurance. A letter documenting the concerns discussed and agreed-upon potential solutions was sent to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and to Maryland Ag Secretary Buddy Hance. The letter addresses issues such as streamlining plant inventory valuation report, changing the policy application away from springtime and creating a claims plan based on a deductible rather than a percentage loss.
Corey Connors, director of legislative relations for ANLA said the 2012 farm bill debate will offer an opportunity for growers to work on crop insurance issues. ANLA talked about crop insurance to federal representatives two years ago, but "they don't get it" even at USDA, Connors said, because the program now is constructed for row crops and animal production, not growers with a variety of crops and wide production practices. Tree farmers and Christmas tree growers were included in the last farm bill; minimum CAT coverage makes them eligible.
Connors' focus for the last 18 to 24 months has been on monetizing the value of landscaping and reauthorization of the tree planting program, which would stimulate job opportunity.
New manuals are in the making, said Extension specialist Stanton Gill, on Total Crop Management and Herbaceous Perennials. He is also doing research on ambrosia beetle "trap trees," potato leaf hopper control and systemic bagworm control.