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OSC Activity C.9

Production of organic cuttings and pot plants

Activity Researchers

Name Affiliation
Blanche Dansereau, Lead Researcher

Professor
Université Laval
Horticulture Research Centre
Saint-Foy, QC G1K 7P4

Martine Dorais, Co-applicant
martine.dorais@agr.gc.ca

Research Scientist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Horticulture Research and Development Centre
Envirotron Pavilion, Room 2120
Quebec City, QC G1K 7P4

Claudine Ménard, Collaborator
claudine.menard@agr.gc.ca
Biologist
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Horticulture Research and Development Centre
Envirotron Pavilion
Quebec City, QC G1K 7P4
Valerie Gravel, Collaborator
valerie.gravel@mcgill.ca

Associate Professor
Department of Plant Science
Université Laval

Jean-Claude Dufour, Collaborator
Jean-Claude.Dufour@
fsaa.ulaval.ca
Professor
Department of Agricultural Economics and Consumer Sciences
Université Laval

Objectives

This project aims to develop a sustainable, 100% organic growing system for greenhouse ornamental cuttings and pot plants through the selection of an adequate growing medium and fertilization schedule with a specific objective of reducing its carbon footprint.  This will include: 

  1. Selecting an appropriate organic container (handling facility, life time, cost, footprint) therefore reducing the use of non biodegradable polymers;
  2. Selecting an optimal organic growing media;
  3. Developing an organic fertilization and irrigation schedule;
  4. Studying the effect of organically acceptable plant growth promoters on growth and plant quality;
  5. Surveying consumer acceptance for organic ornamental pot plants;
  6. Analyzing the environmental footprint and economics of an organic production system compared to a conventional growing system.

Activity Summary

Even though the worldwide production of organic ornamentals is still a very small part of the organic sector, its expansion is important in several European and North American countries (Billmann, 2008; Burnett and Stack, 2009). For example, in Germany and Switzerland, 1% of the total nurseries are producing organically. A big supermarket chain in Switzerland successfully markets organic ornamental products, which encouraged some conventional growers to convert to organic production. In 2001, Organic Bouquet Inc. was founded in California and in 2007 sold more than 25 million stems of organic flowers, while in the Netherlands Florganic, founded in 1999, offers a wide range of organic flower products on a national and international level. Although demand for organic food in Canada has increased by 15 to 25% annually, facts and numbers concerning demand for organic ornamental production is far less well documented. Because consumers consider organic production to be environmentally safer than conventional production, they may be interested in purchasing organic non-edible crops such as cut flowers as well as bedding and potted plants (Burnett and Stack, 2009). This may represent a new market for growers and an opportunity to attract younger consumers who are typically more interested in organic food than older consumers (Thompson, 1998). However, before organically produced plants can be marketed, organic substrate media amendments, pest, and disease management studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of these production methods. Furthermore and congruent to obtaining a leaner carbon footprint, an organic method of production which would use biodegradable containers without hindering production handling would further meet environmentally conscious consumers’ requirements, as well as society preoccupations regarding waste management.

For more than 25 years, Les Serres Frank Zyromski Inc., has been a leader in the production of ornamental plant cuttings. They have acquired an expertise enabling them to successfully produce more than 4 million cuttings per year to be sold either to Canadian or American markets. Demonstrating their leadership, they have for the last several years worked towards the development of new products in order to meet the demand of consumers for environmentally safe organic products. Their investments towards this goal has been through R&D, through the use of alternative energy sources (geothermic and biomass), as well as biological pest and disease management. Their participation in this project would enable them to carry a step further the following objective of producing for the Canadian and American consumer a 100% organically produced product.

The goals of this project are to develop an organic greenhouse production system for ornamental cuttings and pot plants and more specifically to:

  1. Select an appropriate organic containers (handling facility, life time, cost, footprint)
  2. Select or develop optimal organic growing media
  3. Develop an organic fertilization and irrigation schedule
  4. Develop a biological pest control system
  5. Study the effect of organically acceptable plant growth promoters (PGPM) on growth and plant quality
  6. Survey consumer acceptance for organic ornamental pot plants
  7. Analyze the environmental footprint and economics of an organic ornamental production system compared to a conventional growing system.

Experiments will be conducted at the commercial level to insure immediate technology transfer and enable adaptation of our sustainable organic growing system to real life situation. Results from this project will increase the profitability and competitiveness of Canadian enterprises by product diversification, and will reduce risks associated to organic greenhouse production by developing an adapted growing system for ornamental crops. Specifically, this project aims at successfully producing an organic ornamental product which will have no or the least impact on the environment.

Results

Background and Supporting Documents