NEWS on the GROW

June 10, 2003 - 13:24

Darwin Plants Offers New Marketing Program

Darwin Plants introduces a new branding and marketing
program, Distinctly-Different, for new and unusual perennials. Special pot
tags, bencher talkers/cards and posters will be provided to promote the plants,
along with a dedicated Web site that provides customers with extensive
information about plants in the program, including growing tips from the
hybridiser and the opportunity to take part in discussions. The program is
designed to appeal to gardening enthusiasts interested in new and unusual
varieties.

Coming to retail in spring 2004, Distinctly-Different will
initially be comprised of 15 varieties. These will be reviewed annually and
changed according to their suitability to the program. In order to qualify as
Distinctly-Different, plants will have to have at least one unique
characteristic and be available in limited quantities.

The 2004 selections include:

Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Summer Sorbet' style="mso-spacerun: yes"> Heuchera
'Swirling Fantasy'

Delphinium 'Coral Sunset' Hosta
'Christmas Candy'

Delphinium 'Delft Blue' Ligularia
'Laternchen'

Echinacea purpurea 'Razzmatazz' Phlox
'Fancy Feelings'

Echinacea purpurea 'Vintage Wine' Phlox
'Goldmine'

Euphorbia 'Mini Martini' Phlox
'Natural Feelings'

Geranium 'Jolly Bee' Tradescantia
'Pink Chablis'

Geum 'Flames of Passion'

The Web site, www.distinctly-different.com, will be online
in time for the start of the spring 2004 sales period. It will provide
opportunities for browsers to post their own comments to published articles,
and purchasers of Distinctly-Different varieties will be able to register their
plant's serial number, enabling them to be listed on the sight as a
distributor.

New Gene Could Produce Drought-Resistant Plants

Purdue University researchers may have found a gene that
will help with the creation of drought-resistant plants. This gene controls
production of a plant's outermost protective coating. Scientists have cloned
the gene, called WAX2; it was discovered as a fast-wilting mutant of
arabidopsis, a plant used commonly in experimentation.

The gene is directly associated with the synthesis of the
cuticle, protective layer and contained waxes, of the plant. The mutated
arabidopsis gene has a different cuticle structure than is found in the
unmutated gene. Researchers believe that if they can alter the new gene they
might be able to produce a cuticle much thicker and more rigid, making it less
permeable to water loss, allowing plants to be able to survive in drought
conditions.

Currently, the research results are positive. However,
researchers are still in the learning stages, meaning it will take some time
before the results tell whether the gene will be successful or not.

NENA Gets a New President

Jeff Huntington, co-owner of Pleasant View Gardens, Loudon,
N.H., was recently named president of the New England Nursery Association
(NENA). Huntington was first elected as the New Hampshire Representative to the
board of NENA in 1983 and is also the former NENA Treasurer. style="mso-spacerun: yes"> Huntington has also worked on the State
Association Leadership and New England Nursery and Landscape Certification
Council and is the chair of the Summer Expo 2003 committee.

Huntington participates in the New Hampshire Plant Growers
Association (NHPGA) and the ANLA, where he helped bring the annual national
convention to Boston for 2003. He has also been instrumental in serving as a
liaison between the NHPGA and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative
Extension Service.

Huntington and his family are heavily involved in running
the family's greenhouse business, Pleasant View Gardens. Pleasant View Gardens
is a producer of Proven Winners and Proven Selections young plants, as well as
a supplier of finished plants.

Companies Discuss Clean Stock Programs

Members of the Geranium Bacterial Disease Control
Initiative, who represent Ball FloraPlant, Fischer USA, Goldsmith Plants and
Oglevee, recently had a two-day meeting with USDA APHIS to discuss a permanent
clean stock program for their plants. The program would allow inspecting and
certifying geranium cuttings from overseas production sites. This program was
originally initiated in April 2002, but the efforts to develop the program were
delayed by the quarantine and eradication efforts of the recent Ralstonia
infestation. Currently, SAF and ANLA are lobbying members of Congress for
financial assistance for growers that are forced to destroy plant material
affected by diseases.

Agriculture Summary Includes Floriculture

USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service has recently
released the 2002 Floriculture Crops Summary results, stating that the total
crop value for wholesale for growers with $10,000 or more in sales is estimated
at approximately $4.9 billion, which is up 2 percent from 2001.

According to the summary, California is the leading
production state, with crops valued at $962 million ? with a decrease of
4 percent from 2001. However, Florida makes up the 4 percent decline with $877
million in wholesale. Florida and California account for 38 percent of the
total value. Other states in the running are Michigan, Texas and Ohio; along
with California and Florida, they make up approximately $2.6 billion, which is
54 percent of the total value.

The number of growers for 2002 was at 10,216, which is 8
percent less than 2001 at 11,081. The amount of growers with sales of $100,000
or more decreased to 4,612 from 4,738 in 2001. Growing operations with reported
sales of $20,000-49,999 increased while all other-size groups decreased.

The total growing area for 2002 is reported to be at 911 million sq.ft., making it 1 percent
less than 2001. Greenhouse space for 2002 accounts for 58 percent of the total
covered area with 531 million sq.ft., which is close to the same estimates from
the previous year. However, plastic film structures are up 1 percent, to 368
million sq.ft.; fiberglass and other rigid plastic covers are down 5 percent;
and glass greenhouse areas are also down 1 percent compared to 2001. Shade and
temporary cover constitute the remaining 380 million sq.ft. of covered area,
down 3 percent. Open ground totals are 36,906 acres, increasing 4 percent over
the 2001 total.

It should be remembered that these numbers represent only
part of the total U.S. floriculture industry, as surveys are not distributed in
all 50 states.

New Aphid Found in Florida

Lance Osborne, an entomologist at the University of
Florida/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, reports a new Asian
species of aphid discovered on Ficus sp. in March 2003. The aphid is a
Greenidea ficicola Takahashi, Family Aphididae. The new aphid was identified by
Susan Halbert (Division of Plant Industry at the University of Florida).

One of the identifying characteristics of this aphid is long
siphunculi (cornicles), which are the tubular structures on each side of the
abdominal tergum V or VI. Currently, there is not enough information on the
pest to draw any conclusions about its significance in the industry. However,
according to Osborne, with the recent introduction of pink hibiscus mealybug
and a few other insects that are more damaging, preliminary readings on the
aphid do not seem to be a major issue in the industry. For more information, go
to the University of Florida's Pest Alert Web site at: http://extlab7.entnem.ufl.edu/pestalert.

ANLA Heads Up Letter Writing Campaign

More than 80 organizations representing labor-intensive
agriculture operations across the country came together to send a letter to
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), urging his support
for comprehensive and bipartisan reform of the U.S. agricultural labor policy.
People signing the letter represent the U.S. producers of fruits, vegetables,
grain, fiber, poultry and livestock, dairy, nursery and greenhouse, turfgrass
and Christmas tree crops.

Approximately 70 percent of these industries' labor forces
is working in the United States without proper work authorization, according to
Bob Vice, past president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers and
co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR). Vise also
adds, "To make matters worse, the 50-year-old 'H-2A' agricultural guest
worker program is inefficient, unpredictable and unaffordable, which deprives
producers of a functional way to source legal workers when insufficient
domestic workers are available to meet seasonal needs."

A coalition of agricultural groups has been working with
farm worker representatives over the past few years to come up with a
comprehensive bipartisan approach to reforming the Á labor problem. The
coalition is now seeking leadership and cooperation from members of Congress to
enact legislation that would achieve some objectives. Included in the new model
is giving experienced agricultural workers who pose no security threat a
one-time opportunity to become documented and earn permanent resident status
over a period of 3-6 years. This would require workers to commit to future work
in agriculture as a condition to eventual permanent legal status.

Hicks Nurseries Ranks 71

As Hicks Nurseries marks its 150th anniversary this year,
Family Business magazine announced that the Westbury, N.Y., business is the
71st oldest family company in the United States and surpassed by only three
others in the New York metropolitan area. (The others include: Contigroup,
global agribusiness; Henry W. T. Mali and Company, billiards fabrics; and Mager
& Gougelman, manufacturers of artificial eyes and limbs.)

The magazine compiled a list of 102 companies that have
remained owned and operated by the same family since at least 1865, and in some
cases back as far as the early 17th century. All have operated for at least
five generations, and some have a lot more behind them. Hicks Nurseries is in
its sixth generation of family ownership, with Stephen Hicks as the current
vice president of operations.

International Horti Fair Adds to 2003 Show

Extra activities and new pavilions are expected to increase
the attractiveness of the International Horti Fair to be held November 5-8 in
Amsterdam. In 2002, 55,000 people attended the show, and 40 percent of them
came from more than 50 countries.

One of the new activities for 2003 is the International
Congress on Greenhouse Technologies, Horticulture and Floriculture. This
two-day congress aims particularly at foreign entrepreneurs in horticulture.
The first day of the session will be focused on the greenhouse technology
aspect in different climatic zones in the world. The second day will entail two
sessions about floriculture and horticulture with an emphasis on marketing
strategies that are used to put products and services on the market.

Another new project has to do with additions to the House of
Plants. The exhibit will include a number of new plants. On the first day of
the show, there will be an Innovation Award, granted by an international panel,
given to the most promising novelties entered.

The Horti Fair is expecting a strong year for 2003, judging
from the current amount of registrations that have been coming in. A number of
people from the packing companies in ornamental plant cultivation, the
associated supply industry and trade, and the technology sector of the industry
are already showing a strong presence in the registration tallies.

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