It’s time again for The National Poinsettia Trials, sponsored by the poinsettia breeders (Ecke Ranch, Oglevee Ltd., Fischer USA, Selecta First Class and Dummen USA). The trial dates are November 30 at Purdue University; December 2, at North Carolina State University; and December 7, at the University of Florida-Gainesville. Along with the university sites, Joe Stoffregen also conducts trials at Homewood Nursery in Raleigh, N.C.
The trials were established to provide an independent evaluation of the newest poinsettia cultivars being introduced. This makes it easier for growers because there are too many new cultivars out there for growers to adequately evaluate all of them. Individual poinsettia varieties require different production procedures, so these trials are able to accommodate those differences instead of having the growers work around all of their different crops to identify the ones that work best for them. Additionally, adequately judging a cultivar takes up to 2-3 years and uses much of the bench space that could be used for known sellers.
That is where the poinsettia trials come in. The trial sites can have the cultivars on the bench and ready for the growers to judge. It is a great way to pick what will work best in the greenhouse for outstanding sales during the Christmas season.
According to the trial coordinators (Jim Barrett, University of Florida-Gainesville; Allen Hammer, Purdue University; and John Dole, North Carolina State University), “We hope these trials help growers focus on which cultivars might have the best fit in their operation based on their markets and production styles.”
Another benefit of the Poinsettia Trials is the poinsettia height control examples from the University of Florida, Gainesville, which can be found at http://iucncycad.ifas.ufl.edu/floriculture/heightcontrol.htm . The 2004 examples are the world’s only look at height control decisions during a crop. The Web site has examples of crops from the past two years. According to Barrett, growers have found the height control trials useful in the past, so the University of Florida expanded the program this year, which was sponsored by Syngenta.
As far as tools to help you learn more about your poinsettia crops visit the Ecke Ranch poinsettia bulletin board http://eckeranchtechhelp.com/eve/ubb.x;  it is a good place to get answers to questions and learn from other growers’ experiences.
If you can’t make it to the trials look for the trial findings on the Poinsettia Zone on the GPN Web site, www.gpnmag.com , in January 2005 as well as complete trial coverage in the February 2005 issue of GPN. For more information on the trials, go to www.poinsettiatrial.org , where you can find locations, past trial databases and much more.