The Spring Conference for BPOA, sponsored by Bulrush and Cambridge HOK, took place last Wednesday (17th January) in the NFU conference centre at Stoneleigh Park. The programme of speakers was a superb mix of technical, business and scientific experts who were fully committed to getting their messages across. All nine presentations were worth the time and attention of the audience who showed their appreciation of the time and effort that had been taken to bring these topics together as a whole. Some of the speakers taking time on the days before the meeting to adjust their talks to fit with the other speakers. We could not be happier with the outcome or more grateful to all the speakers for their efforts.
Our opening address was from Minette Batters, Deputy president of the NFU who said how pleased she was to welcome the BPOA to the NFU Conference Centre and wish us a successful and interesting day. Lyndon Mason of the Cut Flower Centre, was our chairman for the morning session and introduced Albert Grimm, saying that he had seen the powerpoint presentation and that the audience were going to be fascinated to hear about the management of air movement and climate control, two themes that have been much discussed at recent technical meetings.
The first speaker and keynote address was given by Albert Grimm of Jeffery’s Greenhouses of Ontario, Canada. Albert took as his subject ‘Using greenhouse climate to improve shelf life and garden performance’. Over a long career in ornamental plant production including 20 years with Jeffery’s, Albert has been able to develop his techniques of growing to give the markets what they want, well-developed plants that will perform and give good value to the consumer. He has given this guidance previously as 30 hours of classes to students and said that he could only raise points for consideration in the 30 minutes allowed. He confessed that he was not always looking for the cheapest solution in terms of energy saving but using the environment to grow the best quality plants. His method of monitoring the plant temperature and focussing on the plant response contrasted with the idea of environment management using the reference to air temperature. One of the tools which uses and expects his growers to master is the observation of the vapour pressure deficit which is, for him, an analogue of plant activity. (His presentation and the others given during the conference are available for download from the Grower Forum area- login as a member and download.
Peter Kamp of Priva was next to describe his own work over 30 years in the field of environmental management. He also wants to give growers tools to use as steering devices, much of this can be automated but he believes that growers should be able to grow the plants that they want to see. His work is focussing on measuring leaf tissue temperatures to ±0.05ºC using cameras which allows monitoring of plant activity.
Albert Grimm, our speaker from Ontario, gave a second presentation on the affects of Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) on the techniques of production management on their nurseries. As he sees the market today, managing production for a single customer, Home Depot stores in the USA and Canada, VMI and pay by scan has given back to the producer ‘the control of what the consumer sees’. All aspects of the production and supply to the store are negotiated in advance and once the grower has embraced the concept, it has to focus on the availability of the product range and its consistent quality.
Amy Gray of NFU and Sam Zubaidi, Concordia, gave excellent presentations on the current situation in the seasonal labour market and the challenges ahead which include the shortages that are appearing of between 16 and 30% since May 2017.
The afternoon session was chaired by Chris Need who introduced the first speaker, Dr Tim Pettitt, University of Worcester, speaking on his work on testing techniques for water borne pathogens under CP136 and the development of immunodiagnostics to identify them. Followed by Sabatino Urzo of the RHS describing the latest developments in the trialling of varieties from 1860 to the present day and the Award of Garden Merit, promising that he would work together with all parties to improve the understanding of variety testing especially seed raised varieties. Chloe Whiteside, ADAS, who brought up to date the meeting on Year 4 of the current Bedding and Pot Plant Centre project. She reviewed the work done so far on cutting pre-treatments, Verbena chlorosis, evaluation of PGR on bedding and pot plants (including poinsettia), hellebore scheduling and overwintered perennials and noted that the next item of interest in 2018 would be testing of new PGR’s on transplanted plugs. Dr Gerard Clover, RHS Head of Plant Health, described the threat to UK horticulture from the 3 subspecies of Xylella fastidiosa including X.f. multiplex which can be a symptomless infection that is adapted to European conditions. He advised that 359 species of plant are now contained in the list of susceptible plants and that the Defra paper on the measures required in the event of an outbreak is the best reference for growers.
At the AGM meeting and Conference Dinner held at the Stratford Manor Hotel on the previous day, the committees we re-elcted with Kersten Catella of Glendale Horticulture, elected as chair of the management committee and new members joining the committee: Lyndon Mason, Colin Edwards & Ewan MacMillan. Ewan was elected as chair of the technical committee and Graeme Edwards made vice chair.
During the meeting, it was noted that David Fox has retired from his position in the executive office. The meeting thanked him most sincerely for his committment to the Association over many years.
The action plan following the review was discussed at the AGM and further work is required before proposals can be put to a vote of the membership.
Dinner & Awards
Following a very good dinner, Minette Batters gave a short speech and presented two awards to this year’s winners. The Derf Paton- Bright Spark Award was given to Matt Day of Newey Roundsone for his vigorous and enthusiastic approach to his developing career in ornamental horticulture.
In accepting the award, Matt said that he has been interested in a career in horticulture since a young person and that he was passionate about developing the industry.
The second award, the Trumpet Blower, was presented to Simon Davenport for work with the poinsettia promotion last season. Genuinely surprised, Simon expressed his thanks to the Association and to the others working on this project, Colin Edwards and Greg Hill.