With about 10 acres of production under cover and 4 acres of outdoor space, SunBlest Gardens in Crawfordville, Florida, grows Boston ferns, liriope, multiple spring bedding plants, mums and poinsettias.
Because of the Sunshine State’s warm and humid climate, SunBlest grows for 10 to 11 months of the year. Through these extended seasons, head grower Jared Jent and his team require pest and disease control and prevention, as well as compact growth. Over the past several months, they have achieved desired results using a few SePRO products.
Preventing diseases with Obtego
Jent began trialing the SePRO’s Obtego Fungicide and Plant Symbiont on mums and poinsettias in the summer of 2019 to see how it would perform in helping prevent diseases such as Pythium and Phytophthora.
In Crawfordville, temperatures were around 90o to 100o F for much of the summer, Jent says. “Most of my biologicals are really stressed during that time, but Obtego continued to work during the entire time,” he says.
SunBlest Gardens direct-sticks mums in May and June, then moves them into its finished area two to three weeks after propagation. A trial of a one-time, 5 ounces per 100 gallons of water drench of Obtego on 5,000 to 6,000 mums helped keep the crops healthy.
Obtego contains unique strains of Trichoderma asperellum and Trichoderma gamsii, which according to Jent, are two species that attach to plant’s roots and promote root growth. “Plus, there’s beneficial fungi to help pick up the nutrients, water,” he says. “I’d say you just have more root area, and therefore you have a healthier plant.”
As with its mums, SunBlest drenched Obtego on poinsettias after transplant and saw promising results.
“When you come with the biological, then you have this relationship in the soil that’s thriving, so you don’t have to continuously come back with your synthetics every four to five weeks,” Jent says. “We see that as a good thing because if you’re [applying] a one-time drench, your roots are thriving; these Trichodermas are thriving. We can see this relationship in the pot with all the colonization.”
Increasing compactness with Topflor
To control the growth of poinsettias and spring bedding plants, Jent uses SePRO’s Topflor Plant Growth Regulator.
On poinsettias, SunBlest applies a 0.2 parts-per-million (ppm) drench directly after transplant, then about a 0.1 ppm drench in October and a 0.1 to 1 ppm drench in November.
“I always recommend the one right after propagation, and that’s a nice toning [application],” Jent says. “The plants look good after that — it strengthens them. Then October is when you just have to look at your graphical tracking and decide how much you need to increase or decrease on your plant height.”
In Crawfordville, temperatures can still be 80o F as late as November, Jent says. Because of this, SunBlest uses higher PGR rates than growers in other parts of the country.
As with other PGRs, Topflor reduces poinsettia height and improves performance. And while Jent says he has experienced bract size reduction with another PGR, he hasn’t had that experience with Topflor.
“You can [overapply PGRs on] plants, then you get this really kind of crunchy-looking growth just because you have too much PGR on it and it just looks real tight, versus with Topflor we don’t see so much of that tightness,” he says.
SunBlest’s 2020 spring bedding plant production has also benefited from Topflor. “We’re seeing the nice, toned look,” Jent says. “The plants are not stretching.”
Controlling whiteflies and chilli thrips with Rycar
For whitefly and chilli thrips control, Jent rotates Rycar Insecticide from SePRO to prevent insecticide resistance. For both pests, he sprays a rate of 3 ounces per 100 gallons.
Throughout poinsettia production in 2019, Jent says SunBlest made about four to five applications of Rycar and saw whitefly populations decrease.
“If you look at your sticky cards and look at your population, do a spray, check a few poinsettias, you do not see very many after a Rycar spray,” he says.
Jent says Rycar has curative properties that allow growers to cut down a population if it has recently increased.
“Also, you can spray it on bracts, which is pretty big,” he says. “Before ship, we can go and spray [the crop] with Rycar and have no phyto on the bracts and they’re good to ship.”
So far in 2020, SunBlest has seen positive results spraying Rycar on chilli thrips, following the same application rates and timings as it followed when controlling whitefly on poinsettia.
Overall, Jent says his use of SePRO products has been a success. “At the end of the day, when you have to make a choice about what to spray, it’s [about] what you feel the best about spraying,” he says. “I think all those products are good choices. They’re definitely products that you want to put out there. If you’re going to put your time and effort into something, then these are the products that I would choose.”