NEWS on the GROW By Catherine Evans

Ralstonia Shuts Down Shipment

According to a letter from Goldsmith Plants to numerous industry affiliates, the USDA has informed Goldsmith Plants, Inc., that they will not be allowed to ship geranium cuttings to the United States this season. Though USDA did not find any new positive test results after weeks of testing and inspecting, shipment has been stopped.

Another section of the letter states that, "In order to prevent the 200-300 suspect cuttings in the U.S. from being a danger to U.S. agriculture, the USDA has ordered the destruction of more than 1.9 million geraniums. The destruction of these plants is not predicated on inspection or testing of those plants for any sign of disease, and with no provision for compensation by the USDA to the growers who are being forced to destroy their crop."

Based on the above information, it is clear that these actions have left some of the industry asking questions and raising concerns.

When talking with Richard Goldsmith, president of Goldsmith Plants, he expressed his concern for the industry after working with the USDA and the limited risk assessment steps they took. "We, as an industry, have not been well represented by the USDA, and we have rights that are being denied to us. They handled this minor disease for geraniums as if every geranium is going to infect the entire agricultural sector. However, this disease has been documented for nearly a decade as being in the United States through geraniums. It's a known geranium disease, and it has never affected an agriculture crop in the United States." In his letter, Goldsmith stated, "We know of no way for this infection to be transmitted from a geranium to an agricultural field, other than growing another host crop (potatoes or tomatoes, most likely) in an unsanitary greenhouse with an infected geranium crop, and then planting that crop out in the field."

"We need to get this off of the bioterrorism list and create some reasonable laws in regards to risk assessment." Goldsmith has asked the USDA for their risk assessment of this situation and the subsequent justification for their drastic actions and is waiting on a response. "The USDA has not come up with bona fide answers to justify their destructions," said Goldsmith.

"We do not intend to step aside and let this happen to our industry. The growers and brokers involved deserve more and our industry is stronger than that," said Goldsmith.

— Carrie Burns

OFA Marks 75th Anniversary

Floriculture industry professionals from around the world will celebrate "75 years of planting the seeds of knowledge" at the 2004 OFA Short Course July 10-14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Professionals from all segments of floriculture meet to get new ideas, research products and visit with company representatives.This year, the trade show will host nearly 600 exhibitors and more than 1,300 booths showcasing their products.

Archie Griffin, The Ohio State University alumnus and one of the top college-football running backs of all time, will be the keynote speaker on Sunday, July 11 at 6 p.m. Griffin will be discussing "The 3 D's of Success" — desire, dedication and determination.

The 2004 Short Course will also offer educational seminars, hands-on workshops, tours and interactive sessions from several areas of the industry.The sessions for growers will be presented in three areas: greenhouse production basics, greenhouse advanced topics, and disease and pest management. Michigan State University's College of Knowledge Level I and II courses will be offered July 9 and 10. The 2004 grower study tour will visit several locations in the Ohio area.

Garden centers get a one-day workshop on the future of garden retailing presented on Saturday, July 10. Garden center operators and employees will also be able to tour several Ohio garden centers as well as sit in on a number of educational sessions focusing on their garden centers.

Retail florists will get to participate in a design contest sponsored by Teleflora to be held on Sunday, July 11, as well as hands-on workshops that will focus on color, high-style looks at a low cost and gift baskets.

Interior plantscape can attend a technician workshop to discuss media, insect/disease diagnostics, aglaonema varieties and color programs. Another workshop will feature secrets for interiorscapers, questions of growers and wholesalers, safety in the workplace and effective training.

The management and marketing series will feature presentations and idea exchanges on topics such as POS systems, customer relations, leadership skills, time management, increasing profits, maintaining customers and the generation gap.The industry newcomer outreach sessions will include ideas on starting a new business, family business hints and being a good employee/supervisor.

OFA Short Course attendees will also be able to review new products and varieties displays, attend the OFA Short Course reception, visit the OFA showcase, participate in the FIRST fund-raising activities and shop at the OFA bookstore and apparel shop.

Pink Hibiscus Mealybug Detected on Florida's West Coast

Pink hibiscus mealybug (PHM) has been detected on several hibiscus plants at residences in Pinellas Point, Fla., according to Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson. This is the first confirmed report of the insect on the west coast of Florida. PHM was previously detected in Broward and Dade Counties, Florida in 2002.

During a routine USDA Sentinel Survey inspection of a Pinellas Point residential area, the inspector observed an infested hibiscus plant. Samples were shipped to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DOACS), where it was confirmed that the plants were infested with PHM. The DOACS has started an ongoing survey to determine the extent of the PHM infestation. According to the DOACS, infestation appears to be little at this time due to cooler temperatures.

PHM is a serious agricultural pest of fruit trees, vegetables and ornamental plants and occurs in most tropical areas of the world. The insect has a life cycle of 24-30 days and can attack more than 200 plant species, including hibiscus, mango, guava, citrus, avocado, tomato, cucumbers and peppers.

According to the DOACS, PHM is a sap-sucking insect that forms colonies on a host plant, which grows into large cotton-like masses of white, waxy deposits on branches and leaves. As it feeds, it pierces into the soft tissues of the plant, injecting a toxic substance that results in malformed leaf and shoot growth, stunting and possibly death. When fruits are infested, they are covered entirely in the waxy coating of the pest. The fruit will either drop off or remain in a dried, shriveled condition.

In the egg and crawler stages PHM is most easily spread by wind, but it can also be spread by small insects, clothing or an animal's fur. It can be identified by its reddish-brown, smooth body and pink-to-red body fluid. In cooler climates the pest over winters on the host plant, either in the egg stage or as an adult. In warmer climates the insects may stay active and reproduce year round.

Field studies conducted by the DOACS indicate that the best way to handle PHM is by biological control. The DOACS, in cooperation with the USDA, has launched a comprehensive biological-control program involving the release of two parasitic wasp insect species (Anagyrus kamali and Gyranusoidea indica) into the infected areas. Approximately 6,000 insects will initially be released and will continually be released weekly until the PHM population is controlled. Another predator known as the "mealybug destroyer" has already been released in Florida at several residential sites.

The DOACS is advising homeowners and lawn/landscape maintenance companies to not cut or remove suspect plants or use insecticides at this time. The cutting or treating of these infested plants could interfere with the biological control program and may cause further spread of infestation. They are also advising growers to not use pesticides due to the disruption of the natural enemies.

Counterfeit Rose Seizure

During the last few shipping days before Valentine's Day, E.G. Hill Company and Hills Floral Group, the largest floral distributors in the United States, working with the Department of Homeland Security, announced the seizure of counterfeit roses. The illegal shipments were successfully intercepted as they moved from Columbia and Ecuador to the United States via the Miami port. "The roses were illegally grown and illegally shipped to the United States in violation of E.G. Hill Company's nationally and internationally protected property rights," the company said.

E.G. Hill's property rights supporting the seizure are administered by Royalty Administration International (RAI), a company that provides services to plant breeders in the areas of intellectual property rights administration, procurement, management and enforcement. John Dolan, E.G. Hill's general agent, said, "The vast majority of our growers are careful to play by the rules. Here, a few growers didn't."

U.S. Customs confirmed that 79 boxes were seized. With an average of 400 roses per box, more than 30,000 roses were intercepted.

Attorney Jennifer Whitelaw of the Whitelaw Legal Group in Naples, Fla., represented the Hills companies. "The message to illegal growers is counterfeiting does not pay," Whitelaw said. "If you place a counterfeit plant into the stream of commerce, we will make every effort to intercept it."

Plants are protected and encouraged by patent and trademark laws around the world. When a protected plant is grown and sold without permission of the intellectual property owner, the plant is illegal. RAI confirms that seizure operations will continue in the future and illegal growers should expect interception.

Medallion Changes Label

Syngenta Professional Products has reworded the label for Medallion fungicide for use on geraniums.

The label held that Medallion was found safe and recommended for geraniums. According to Syngenta, internal data continues to support the safety of Medallion on this crop, but some growers have voiced concerns regarding its use and safety on geraniums. Claims included stunting on some varieties grown under certain conditions while using the fungicide.

According to Chuck Buffington, lawn and ornamental marketing manager for Syngenta, the label has only been altered so that geraniums are no longer a recommended crop, meaning it's not illegal to use the product on geraniums, just cautioned. Essentially, Syngenta likes to have a certain margin of error built into each product so that if someone over applies, no phyto occurs. Syngenta feels most comfortable with 4x the label rate as its buffer. Testing found that with geraniums and New Guineas, Medallion only has a 2x buffer, and Syngenta doesn't think this is enough to recommend usage.

Further investigation also discovered that growers who had a problem with Medallion on geraniums were using a heavy foliar application method instead of the recommended drench. Syngenta found indications that geraniums exhibit a lower tolerance to misapplication and higher use rates than other ornamental crops.

Syngenta feels that, based on this lower safety factor with geraniums, it is in growers' best interests to understand these issues and possibly utilize other effective compounds for its geranium disease control programs in the future. This will eliminate any potential for growers to experience crop stunting due to over application or incorrect spraying techniques.

The label has been modified to say, "Foliar or drench applications to some geranium varieties may cause stunting or chlorosis at higher rates. Responses may vary depending on environmental conditions. Medallion should be tested on a limited area to evaluate for any possible damage before proceeding with treatment of the entire crop."

Catherine Evans

Catherine Evans is Assistant Editor of GPN.

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