Greenhouse Education Sessions Cover Variety of Topics By Jess Schmidt, contributing writer

This year’s Michigan Greenhouse Growers Expo will feature educational sessions running the gamut of Extension research, including cutting-edge scientific studies. The Expo will be Dec. 4-6 in conjunction with the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Plus, this year the EXPO will offer for free the medical questionnaire portion of testing needed for respirator use to workers who handle pesticides.

GPN columnist Erik Runkle of Michigan State University Extension sat down to share some of his favorites on the education docket for greenhouse growers.

“Visitors can expect a good variety of topics on production, pest management and marketing. Pest management will include both insects and diseases. Marketing will be presented by Bridget Behe and growers, who will share trends they’re seeing. The MSU greenhouse research update, short presentations on a variety of topics and a few others, such as new effective alternative substrates available on the market,” Runkle said.

As co-coordinator for the greenhouse education sessions, Runkle works hard to ensure that all topics are relevant to growers. Last year’s most popular session, Greenhouse Trends and Challenges, returns on Wednesday afternoon. The Extension educators will share observations and insights with data as the basis (rather than sponsors).

Runkle will present his insights and new developments on how growers can use the right lamp for each application. “Sometimes we see that does not happen. Growers think they’re trying to increase growth but are using the wrong lamp for an incorrect duration,” Runkle said. He will also discuss how to get the desired results by choosing certain characteristics of the lamp, such as intensity, color or the type of fixture used.

Runkle also mentioned that the session on wood substrates will be important because while wood substrates can have an economic impact for growers, watering will change. Plants will dry out more slowly, so wood substrates can reduce costs but add challenges to the growing process.

Wednesday is the day Runkle recommends those who focus on marketing or who run a retail garden centers attend, and Tuesday is ideal for those who are interested in attaining pesticide credits.

A few other highlights include North Carolina State University’s Brian Jackson and his expertise and enthusiasm on pH and EC. “He is inspiring, for lack of a better word. He keeps your attention and is excited about research,” Runkle said. He also recommends Fred Whitford of Purdue University, who will discuss the size of spray droplets and pesticides; Runkle believes Whitford will make these topics interesting and that he is an entertaining speaker.

The Latest and Greatest session will feature seven speakers in under an hour with a wide range of topics. If growers can’t attend a large number of sessions, this will be the fast-paced information that will provide small nuggets of great information for busy growers.

“From a greenhouse perspective, I don’t know of another show that will have 15 sessions on floriculture or greenhouse crop production. Visitors can also sit in on any of the fruit or veg production sessions! Focus is quite unique and more centered on the greenhouse than any other annual show,” Runkle said.

The good news is that this is not an exhaustive list of the education that GLEXPO is bringing to the show this year. Check out the full schedule at


Registration opened Oct. 1 for this year’s GLEXPO. Register at

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