Each year, growers strive to raise the highest-quality plants. There are many new technologies available for plants, but Vince Livengood, Technical Services Manager at Kemin Crop Technologies, with his with 20-plus years of diverse experience as a professional horticulturist, is here to share his thoughts on the new trend of improving plant quality through better growing media.
Greenhouse Management: What is the most critical phase in the growing cycle that influences plant quality?
Vince Livengood: Young plants — or seedlings — are the foundation of the entire crop. If a seedling is healthy (free of insects and disease and actively growing), you increase the likelihood of producing high-quality plants. A poor-quality seedling with stunted growth is highly susceptible to pathogens, and requires more care and input later in the growing cycle. Placing greater emphasis on the seedling increases the chances of a successful yield, with less costly maintenance during the plants’ growing cycle.
GM: What are the new technologies available to support healthy plant growth?
VL: Soil conditions such as improper pH level, high-soluble salts and low oxygen content can prevent plants from absorbing the necessary nutrients for optimal growth. To minimize these potential detriments, plant growth technologies such as soil amendments added into the growing media are more favorable options for plant growth. They help create a healthy soil environment, which allows plants to keep actively growing, even under stressful conditions, while maintaining high quality.
GM: What are the advantages observed when including additives in the soil?
VL: Additives incorporated into the soil are typically single applications, resulting in less time and labor being sacrificed for application. In addition, if the growing media has the ideal composition to provide the correct nutrients even before planting, then the seedling will not suffer from soil deficiencies, and continued new growth will be healthy.
GM: What suggestions do you have for incorporating new technology into a nutritional program?
VL: 1) Determine if your plants are facing any growth challenges, such as stunted growth, deformities, nutrient deficiencies or toxicities. 2) Investigate alternative ways to address the identified challenges. Local extension agencies can offer recommendations for corrective measures, and local suppliers may stock products aimed at providing the benefits your plants need. 3) Conduct a trial of the product you will be using to remedy your plants’ affliction. This includes all measurements used to define a healthy, saleable plant. 4) Monitor the improvements and impact that result from applying an additive to the soil. Take weekly pH and E.C. measurements. Track all inputs and the dates on which they were applied. It is helpful to also record weather and environmental conditions. 5) Use the rates, collected data and information available on the product’s label to incorporate the product into your program. Monitor your crop to make sure the product is continuing to perform and yield the desired results. If it is failing to perform, re-evaluate the product’s incorporation process and compare with the trial conditions.