NEWS on the GROW

February 24, 2004 - 12:57

Ralstonia To-Date

Since the Ralstonia announcement was made about a month ago, there has been so much information floating around about the outbreak that no one really knows what is going on with the disease at this point. Well, we have figured out some of it and are here to tell you the latest information as of publication. We have spoken to Lin Schamle from SAF, Dore Mobley from APHIS and Richard Goldsmith who consulted with his production manager Don Snow about the following information, and everyone seems convinced that the following is true at this time. While the main structure of the following events might already be common knowledge, many of the specifics are just now coming to light.

According to a document from APHIS, the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) Center for Plant Health Science and Technology laboratory in Beltsville, Md., confirmed the presence of Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2 in geraniums from one commercial greenhouse in New York State, in rooted cuttings of ‘Americana Coral’ on December 31, 2003 and in direct-ship material of ‘Americana Bright Red’ on January 2, 2004. The greenhouse had received both varieties of infected propagative material from the Goldsmith Plants, Inc. facilities in Guatemala. The rooted plants (Americana Coral) were received via Glass Corners Greenhouse in Michigan. The third suspect variety, ‘Americana Cherry Rose II’, was implicated and held because it was grown in the same greenhouse with the two other suspect varieties.

Based on the positive findings, Goldsmith Plants had voluntarily quarantined its Guatemalan greenhouses, and suspended shipments of geranium cuttings. On January 6, 2004, APHIS notified Goldsmith Plants that further importations of geranium cuttings from the suspect Guatemala facility would be prohibited until further notice.

During the week of January 5, the PPQ and its state partners began issuing emergency action notices to potentially affected facilities, based on a list that Goldsmith Plants provided, and initiated an eradication program. Eradication efforts began with the four rooting stations: Glass Corner Greenhouse, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Rakers Acres, Litchfield, Mich.; Speedling, Blairsville, Ga.; and Pacific Growers, Blaine, Wash. It is estimated that 400,000 plants were destroyed between the four rooting stations.

During the week of January 12, the PPQ continued to hold potentially infected plants but put a temporary moratorium on their destruction pending the results of a site visit to the suspect production facility in Guatemala. In Guatemala, scientists found wilted plants among two of the three suspect varieties at several locations in one greenhouse. They confirmed the presence of Ralstonia sp. (not Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2) in samples from these plants with two different serologically based tests.

Confirmation of Ralstonia in the Guatemalan samples to the target race and biovar was later received on January 23, 2004, confirming that an Americana Bright Red did in fact have Ralstonia solanacearum race 3 biovar 2.

Based on the findings in Guatemala, PPQ reinstated the destruction order for the three suspect varieties and other potentially exposed plants that were shipped from Guatemala between July 27, 2003 and January 3, 2004. As of January 26, 2004, APHIS estimates that 459 facilities in 41 states have received suspect geraniums; 362 facilities are on hold; 79 control actions have been initiated; 68 facilities have been release; and 529,367 plants have been destroyed. Current estimates are that between 1.5 and 2 million cuttings/plants will be destroyed.

Richard Goldsmith said that APHIS is meeting to discuss the next steps and additional test results if they become final. He said that if all goes well, APHIS may be ready to allow the Goldsmith Plants’ Guatemalan facility to commence with shipping very soon.

USDA is diligently working, with Goldsmith’s cooperation, to develop a water effluent (waste water) testing system to quickly and accurately determine the presence or absence of R. solanacearum in a greenhouse. This system may be available for use in offshore geranium production facilities in the near future, but it will require further testing and development before it can be used in U.S. greenhouses because of different soils/media and watering systems.

According to Lin Schmale, “Beyond the obvious significance, this test is important because the research was funded through the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, from USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service) dollars. The Initiative is an effort that SAF and the American Nursery and Landscape Association have worked on for many years, and the industry has lobbied Congress for dollars to go towards efforts that will benefit the floral and nursery industry. Because of our close working relationship with ARS, we were able to put some of the Initiative money, last year, into a research project by Dr. Caitilyn Allen, University of Wisconsin, which almost immediately came up with several answers to previously unanswered scientific questions — and has led to this water effluent testing protocol.”

Growing practices are very important in a situation like this, commercial growers in the U.S. need to help protect themselves in the event of any disease introduction — but particularly Ralstonia, One thing to remember is that any grower who has Federal Crop Insurance may be covered on this issue (it depends on the state and the particular policy), but you must contact your agent before destruction occurs. Here is a list of sanitation practices that would be beneficial towards keeping your greenhouse disease free:

• Do not use sub-irrigation or shared watering systems;

• Use strict sanitary practices when handling or propagating plants;

• Maintain varieties of geraniums from foreign sources separately;

• Do not hang baskets of geraniums over other crops;

• Do not grow geraniums on the ground or on the kind of plastic sheeting or other surface that would allow water to spread from one pot to another;

• Disinfect water systems and regularly treat irrigation water from any source; and

• Keep greenhouses, areas around greenhouses and irrigation water holding or overflow ponds free of weeds.

This information came from the APHIS Action Guide www.
aphis.usda.gov/ppq/ep/ralstonia/rasltoniaactionplanv4web.pdf.

SAF and ANLA also have a “Quick Guide” that is an informational and precautionary piece for growers about Ralstonia. For a more in-depth look go to www.safnow.org or www.anla.org.

Franks CEO Resigns

In a recent announcement, Bruce Dale has resigned as CEO of Franks Nursery, after nine months at the position, due to rising concerns that the Franks turnaround plan is failing according to the Detroit News. Dale is the company’s third chief executive in three years.

Franks increased its revolving credit line by $25 million and hired a management-consulting firm to help regain its cash flow. The company emerged from Chapter 11 in May 2002 and had to close 87 of its stores.

Within the last several months, Franks has been making the transition from being a nursery and craft chain to a garden specialty store. Analysts saw Dale as a major part of the repositioning plan. The company is saying that Franks is still going forth with its growth plan for the upcoming spring. But according to the Detroit News, many people in the industry are wary as to the fate of Franks.

Frank’s recently announced its entrance into the wholesale nursery business but currently there is no word on whether the news of Dale’s resigning will affect it.

Chrysanthemum White Rust Found in Three States

According to a recent report from the University of Florida, there is an outbreak of chrysanthemum white rust in New Jersey, New York and California.

Within the last 25 years, the disease caused by the fungal pathogen Puccinia horiana, has come into the United States on infected plant material. The disease causes conspicuous and debilitating lesions on all of the green, above-ground parts of florist chrysanthemum and some close relatives. The symptoms appear mostly on the leaves as light yellow chlorotic spots on the upper leaf surface, while corresponding buff-white raised pustules appear eventually on the lower leaf surface. There are only two spore stages in this rust’s life cycle.

The telial stage spores are present in the large, unsightly, protuberant lesions on the leaf underside. These teliospores germinate in place under very high humidity to produce the other airborne or water-splashed spore stage, basidiospores. These basidiospores die when they dry out, so very moist conditions cause chrysanthemum white rust to spread. Basidiospore production from teliospores can occur in as little as three hours after wetness, and two hours of leaf wetness is all that is required for successful infection by dispersed basidiospores. New telial pustules appear in about two to four weeks after infection.

The USDA-APHIS-PPQ policy is to eradicate white rust upon detection. Conscientious survey over several weeks, careful destruction of infected and exposed plants when discovered, and application of appropriate fungicides to nearby plants on a prescribed schedule can very successfully eradicate the disease.

NFF Showcases Learning and Warm Weather

The National Floriculture Forum (NFF) theme for 2004 is “Making the Connection Between the Public and Our Industry” and focuses on improving national communications and touching base with governmental agencies as well as dealing with current national issues.

This year’s topics focus on the image of floriculture across the United States and how this image is impacting the future of our industry. Pressure continues to grow, forcing industry to move away from population centers or go off shore; greenhouses and nurseries are feeling the brunt of water and chemical restrictions. What kind of image does our industry present to the average consumer or to the average legislator?

Some of the highlighted speakers will include Drew Gruenberg, Society of American Florists; John Gaydos, Proven Winners; Mike Williams, Ball Horticulture; and lobbyists and representatives from government, academia and industry.

Sunday morning will include an in-depth look at internships as well. How can we improve them and how can your teaching programs or greenhouse get involved?
There will be a tour held to some of the largest growers in Florida, some of the stops will include Costa Color, Kerry’s Bromeliads & Orchids and USA Bouquet with the Association of Floral Importers of Florida (AFIF).

The event is sponsored by a number of groups and companies, including the American Floral Endowment, American Society of Horticultural Sciences Floriculture Education and Research Working Groups, DeGlas Greenhouses, Fairchild Botanic Gardens, GPN, H.E. Anderson Company, Ludy Greenhouses, Micro-Grow Greenhouse systems, P.L. Light Systems, University of Florida Environmental Horticulture Department and Wadsworth Control Systems.

The event will be held February 20-22, 2004 at the Hampton Inn Dadeland & Fairchild Botanic Gardens, Miami, Fla. For more information, go to http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/nff. For registration information go to the Web site or contact Rick Schoellhorn, University of Florida, at rksch@ufl.edu, or (352) 392-1831 Ext 364.

Energy Crisis 2004

Cold Weather Adds Problems for Gas Supplies

With the extreme dip in temperatures within the last several weeks, weather in the Northeast has forced some natural gas companies to put a hold on deliveries to a number of businesses for a second time to make sure there is enough gas to heat homes, according to Reuters.

Temperatures have dropped down to negative numbers for a number of days at a time, which is causing problems with utility companies, causing them to give very short notice to businesses all over the Northeast during peak times. At this point, growers are getting ready for spring when the heat is needed the most, and they are in danger of not getting the gas they need to grow.

Also according to Reuters, Consolidated Edison Inc., a gas distributor based out of New York who had to cut interruptible customers at one point during the cold, said it would ask them to switch again to back-up fuels. Public Service Electric and Gas Co. was also forced to make cuts.

Due to the shortages, gas prices have almost doubled in New York City during the extreme cold days. There has also been a record amount of gas burned in the New York City area, by approximately 50 percent, according to Reuters.

Gas companies all over the Northeast are scrambling to figure out where and which companies to put on hold or to shut off until the pending cold temperatures climb back up within the coming weeks. Stay tuned to GPN and our newsletter GPN Weekly for the latest information on the current energy crisis.

About The Author

Catherine Evans is Assistant Editor of Greenhouse Product News

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