Evaluating Landscape Trials
As we were finishing upthis second edition ofBig Grower, I made atrip to north Florida tothe landscape trials atUniversity of Florida (UF). The startof the annual performancetrialpilgrimage, the UF trialmarks the first opportunity tosee the 2007 introductions inthe ground at a third-partytrial. (Look for the exclusivereport from the trial coordinatorin the July issue of GPN.)
It was a great trial, despitethe 95¼ F heat. I learned a lotabout the varieties — thingsthat couldn't be seen at PackTrials — and got to visit withpeople I don't see enough.Even at a busy time, the tripwas definitely worthwhile.
I was happy to see some ofFlorida's largest producers at thetrial: You never know if busygrowers, especially large ones, willprioritize landscape trials.
I saw high-level representativesfrom Florida's big two,Hines and Costa; Florida-marketspecialists Riverview FlowerFarm and American Farms; andcaladium powerhouse Bates Sons& Daughters — not to mention allthe small and mid-sized growersin attendance.
There were a lot of people at thetrial. It wasn't like Home Depot onMemorial Day weekend — noroom to stand — but there was agood crowd. I saw people at everybreeder station throughout themorning and lots of note taking Ñand don't forget, all this happeneddespite the brutal heat.
The sheer number of people inattendance would satisfy any trialcoordinator or participatingbreeder. The trial connectedbreeders/marketers with at leastseveral hundred growers/usersinterested enough in their productsto seek them out.
But even with that success, ifyou just count people, you don'thave the whole story. Collectively,the companies in attendance representedthe lion's share of Floridacolor production, and givenFlorida's year-round market andtop-volume ranking, that's alot of product — productthat may not have beenpicked up if it were not seenat the landscape trial.
This does not imply thatbig growers are more importantand small growers less so,just that there are differentways to evaluate success thanjust counting warm bodies.
They're Still Important
The other thing I learnedwas that, when done properly,landscape trials are still veryimportant to the industry. Even ifthe attendance were only 25 percentof what the actual total was.The opportunity to affect thatmuch of a region's productionmakes landscape trials muchmore important than peopleacknowledge.