15th Meadow Croft Festival stays up to the minute!

The 15th Meadow Croft Viola and Pansy Festival opened last week with a Press Day and the welcome return of the evening event, organised by Mike Smith, with a stimulating programme of speakers. The bedding industry is fortunate to have people and companies that are committed to promotion of what they do and the greater involvement of growers with the discussion on the topics of the day!

Mike Smith introduces the speakers.

Mike Smith introduces the speakers.


The Festival trials were laid out in the Grange Nurseries (Woodham Ferrers, Essex) and looked superb, showing off the range of Viola to the full and promising more colourful displays to develop over the coming days as the public display is mounted after Mother’s Day in Meadow Croft Garden Centre running from Saturday 17th March 2018 to Sunday 25th March 2018. You can read more here and view the festival photo gallery: http://www.violaandpansyfestival.co.uk/event-dates.


Benary is 175!

Kicking off the evening event with the talk from Dave Wales on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the breeding company, Benary, founded in 1843 in Erfurt and took the company history and brought it up to date with the story of the recent developments and the ambitious plans for the future which include making their head office in Hann, Munden a world centre for Begonia breeding and selection. In commencing his talk, David congratulated again Mike and the Smith family for staging the trials and festival for Viola and Pansy, in what is acknowledged to be a unique event in UK horticulture and possibly the world! Dave also talked about the development of the company throughout the world and mentioned the cooperation to serve the, China market with a new company, Jinpin, which is building 12Ha in Chengdu which will open in 2019. There is huge potential to develop business in China where there are currently 25 garden centres!! He also commented on the cooperation with Volmary in breeding work on vegetatively propagated subjects. They are introducing two new series in Admire and Inspire which have 19 colours in each for the Viola and Pansy market. http://www.benary.com/en/product/W9224


The future of packaging and plastics.

The future of packaging and plastics.


Future of Plastics

Shaun Herdsman of Modiform gave the meeting a review of the history of plastics in horticulture and the Future for Plastics. Having frightened the audience with statistics confirming that 9.3Bn tonnes of plastic have been produced in total, of which 80% is dumped, Shaun went on to describe the realities of dealing with one way plastics. Much of what we use is recyclable but often not recycled due to the complexities of the management of a MRF (recycling plant) and the operation of the market. He also explained how some of the commonly used plastics are manufactured and what implications that has for the recycling process. Finally, he urged growers to re-use where possible and to consider other options, one of which could be the use of Eco-Expert, compressed paper fibre containers on which Modiform have been working for the last 4 years. https://www.modiform.com/en/custom-solutions/eco-expert-horticulture

Glass coatings & diffuse light.

Diffuse light has been a topical discussion for the last few years as more new glasshouses have been constructed with the facility to diffuse light to produce a better growing environment for plans ( a discussion that we don’t have enough space to develop here). Paul van Gils of Mardenkro took some time to explain to growers how glasshouse coatings can be used to do more than simply shade plants and more accurate control of the transmission and distribution of light can help in climate management as well as offering some control of the light spectrum to produce growth effects such as blue light producing shorter plants. https://www.redusystems.co.uk/en/


After a short but very welcome break to sample some of the lovely catering provided by Meadow Croft Garden Centre and sponsored by Benary, the audience reconvened to hear David Hide of Fargro describing the benefits of bio-pesticides. He began by asking the audience about their experience of using bio-pesticides and was possibly a little disappointed to learn that there was limited enthusiasm for them. It is generally acknowledged that they are the future as chemical means are ‘phased out’ and replaced with biological methods which are more complex to use but will receive much greater attention in the coming years. David spoke about the wide range of biological agents that are available from pheromones and plant extracts to microbial pesticides that are being registered through the MAPP scheme. This is the focus work being done under the AMBER research programme to improve the efficacy of bio-pesticide use. http://fargro.co.uk/products/biologicalcontrol/default.asp


Chris Need explains the goals of the BPOA Technical Committee.

Chris Need explains the goals of the BPOA Technical Committee.

R&D objectives.

Chris Need of Need Consulting clarified how the Technical Committee of the BPOA has been working in collaboration with AHDB Horticulture to plot a course through the current R&D jungle. He described the topical work being done with the Bedding and Pot Plant Centre and the thematic stream of work, such as that on bio-pesticides, which is done with other production sectors i.e. edibles producers. He outlined the range of topics being proposed at present and invited all attendees to offer more ideas for research work that they would like to see. This is ongoing work and the important issue is that the members of the Technical Committee are available to assist the introduction of new projects, so the ball has been set rolling. The next Technical Committee meeting is June 8th.



Mike closed the evening by thanking all the visitors for coming and for the speakers and sponsors of the evening as well as the breeders supplying seed for the Festival exhibits.