Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Season forecast calls for milder temps, more rain

Phil Volcker of ERF Weather Inc. is expecting that Western Oregon will see a milder winter this year, with above-average rainfall. He shared his thoughts with members of the OAN's Willamette Chapter during their late November meeting in Salem. "I'm confident we're going to see a very good water year this year," he said.

Volcker said he expects a predominant pattern where cold air over the North Pacific Ocean directs the jet stream to flow over the top of Oregon. As a result, the West Coast should experience average temperatures 1.5–3 degrees higher than normal, and rainfall totals that are 105–135 percent of normal. The rain will be particularly welcome in California, which experienced a drought last year due to a lack of cold air support from the ocean, he said.

Although the general forecast is for a milder winter, the Willamette Valley still may experience cold weather events, Volcker said. Additionally, the latter half of the winter could see lower snow levels in the mountains and perhaps less rain in the western half of the state.

OSU receives $3 million grant to study destructive pathogens

Agrobacterium tumefaciens creates
cancer-like galls on the roots of plants such as 

Gaillardia. (Photo by OSU Plant Clinic)
Oregon State University announced plans to use a $3 million grant to study two groups of bacteria that result in millions of dollars in losses annually to the nation’s nursery industry.

According to a press release, OSU researchers will study Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Rhodococcus fascians, which deform hundreds of common landscape plants, including hostas, Shasta daisies, petunias and pansies.

"We are very supportive of Oregon State University and their research initiatives, especially when it comes to nursery production,” OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said. “We work in concert with OSU on issues as P. ramorum research, protecting the health of nursery products, and ensuring pollinator health."

These two bacterial pathogens — the subjects of an article published in the February 2014 issue of Digger magazine — are of particular concern in Oregon, where the greenhouse and nursery industry contributes more than $745 million to the Oregon economy annually. Some growers report losses of up to $100,000 a year to gall-forming bacterial diseases.

“Unfortunately, there is no treatment for either A. tumefaciens or R. fascians at this time," said Melodie Putnam, chief diagnostician at OSU's Plant Clinic. "Therefore, steps must be taken to prevent disease.”

For more than a decade Putnam has been working with Oregon nurseries to correctly identify the bacterial pathogens that are responsible for tumor-like galls and cancer-like leaf growth in infected plants. Correct identification of the bacterial pathogen is a necessary first step to preventing disease, Putnam said.

The four-year grant, from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will help determine how these pathogens are introduced into nurseries and how they establish and persist; develop new approaches to improve detection and control; and help nursery workers recognize and prevent the spread of the pathogens.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Major agricultural lender forecasts improved growth for Oregon nurseries in 2015

Oregon's gross nursery sales look like they will exceed $800 million in 2014, and they could very well go even higher than that in 2015, Bob Boyle told OAN members at the November 21 meeting of the OAN Willamette Chapter, which took place in Salem. "I think I'm as bullish now on the industry as I've been in a long time," he said.

Boyle serves as regional vice president of the commercial lending group at Northwest Farm Credit Services, and is based in Salem. If he is correct about 2014, it would be the highest total since the industry bottomed out at $641 million in sales in 2011. The all-time record is $988 million in 2007.

Boyle said that there are several factors suggesting things will improve for growers:
  • Production shortages. Growers didn't follow their normal replant rotations due to the bad market during the recession, so what they did plant will be in greater demand. "The plant material just isn't out there, in numbers, like we've seen in the past," he said. Growers are able to ask higher prices on preorders, in exchange for the assurance of a reliable product supply.
  • Grower optimism. Boyle and NWFCS surveyed a group of nursery industry borrowers at a meeting earlier in the year, and some 76 percent predicted their sales in 2015 would go up at least 6 percent. This included 38 percent who predicted sales would rise 6–10 percent, 16 percent who predicted a rise of 11–15 percent, and 22 percent who predicted a rise of more than 15 percent.
  • Better lending ratios. Borrowers in all major industry sectors — bare root growers, container/B&B growers, and greenhouse growers — have better ratios of earnings to debt coverage than they did when things bottomed out in 2010.
  • More valuable land. The average value of an irrigated acre peaked at $11,265 in 2008 before plunging to a low of $7,925 in 2010. That has now recovered and exceeded the old high, with a mark of $12,825. This is allowing borrowers to refinance based on the new values, and obtain cash flow relief.

In addition to these factors, consumer confidence is high, homebuilding activity is improving, and there is plenty of room for the housing industry to recover even further. There will be an estimated total of 1 million housing starts in 2014 according to the National Association of Homebuilders, which is an improvement, but still behind historical averages. NAHB forecasts 1.2 million starts in 2015 and 1.5 million in 2015.

The picture isn't entirely rosy, however. Boyle told OAN members that labor availability will only become more difficult, there will be regulatory challenges, and interest rates will probably start to rise again once unemployment drops a little further and the Fed raises its discount rate.

"I'm really optimistic about your industry today," Boyle concluded. "I think we have some hurdles, but I'd rather be on this side of the curve than where we were three years ago."

Four new states come onboard the Plant Something campaign

Florida, California, Montana and Georgia have joined the Plant Something marketing campaign, bringing the total number of participating states to 18. The Arizona Nursery Association created the program, and in 2012, Oregon Association of Nurseries became one of the first state nursery associations to adopt it.

Plant Something was created with one purpose in mind — to inspire novice and experienced gardeners to make plants a bigger part of their lives. It’s hoped this will boost plant sales in retail garden centers and for wholesale nurseries.

Jessica Baron, a fifth-grader at St. Luke Catholic School in Woodburn, Oregon, created the artwork that is featured on the 2014 Plant Something calendar. Her painting of flowers in bloom and buzzing bees was chosen from more than 70 submissions.
As a Plant Something licensee, OAN provides its members an array of Plant Something marketing tools, including logos, button artwork, ads and posters, brochures, and vehicle wraps, among other items. Using these tools, member retailers can create Plant Something promotions in their stores, particularly useful during slower sales seasons.

This past month, OAN posted a Plant Something-themed 2015 e-calendar featuring artwork created by Oregon elementary schoolchildren. OAN members are encouraged to link to the calendar via their Facebook pages and websites to help spread the Plant Something message.

Plant Something participating state associations include:

  • Arizona Nursery Association 
  • Arkansas Green Industry Association 
  • British Columbia Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • California Association of Nurseries & Garden Centers 
  • Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association 
  • Idaho Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • Florida Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association 
  • Georgia Green Industry Association 
  • Long Island Flower Growers Association 
  • Massachusetts Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • Montana Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • Oregon Association of Nurseries 
  • Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association 
  • Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama primetime address to announce next steps on immigration

President Obama plans to announce his next steps on the issue of immigration reform in a live television address tonight. The broadcast will take place at 5 p.m., White House officials announced.

"Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken," the president said in a video released on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. What I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do, with my lawful authority as president, to make the system work better — even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem."

Reports have suggested that the president will direct that enforcement efforts be emphasized against recent illegal immigrants, those with criminal records, and those deemed national security threats. He is expected to permit those who have children with legal status to remain in the country, thus lessening the threat of deportation against some 5 million people. Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. each previously took similar actions, without the involvement of Congress, to keep families from splitting up.

It's unknown which news outlets will be carrying the address live. However, it will be viewable online at whitehouse.gov/immigration-action. This report by USA Today has additional details and analysis.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Edible gardening trend remains strong, surveys says

A majority of consumers (58 percent) plan to grow edible plants next year, according to a report recently published by the Garden Writers Association Foundation (GWAF). The organization’s 2014 October Gardening Trends Research Report goes on to state that, of those not planning to grow edible plants in 2015, over one-third (37 percent) said it is because they simply do not garden.

Nearly one in five Americans (17 percent) reported that they will not grow plants because they moved to a home where gardening is not possible, while 9 percent said it is too much work. Other challenges cited include time, cost, irrigation, and insect, disease and wildlife control.

On the positive side, among the 75 million gardening households in the U.S., this year more than two in five consumers (44 percent) said that they grew edible plants in the ground, while 15 percent used containers. Almost one-third (32 percent) grew edible plants both in the ground and in containers.

While the edible gardening trend remains strong, these survey results show that there is still much room for growth. To help convert non-growers into gardeners, OAN members can use the resources provided by the Plant Something campaign to promote the health and lifestyle benefits of gardening.


Click here for more survey results and to get the report. Copies available to GWAF members at no cost; non-members can order a copy of the full 25-page survey report for a fee of $24.99.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Obama to issue executive order on immigration

As soon as next week, President Obama will issue his long-promised executive order on immigration, according to a report in the New York Times. The order comes after the failure of the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives to act upon bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that was passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013.

It's expected the executive order will be based on the premise that the executive branch can prioritize enforcement efforts. According to the report, the president will direct that such efforts be focused on those who have recently crossed the border illegally, and those who are convicted criminals or threats to national security. Parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents, on the other hand, will be able to obtain legal work documents. Between 2.5 million and 3.3 million people could qualify for this provision, depending on whether the order requires that they have been in the country for 10 years or just five. In all, the order could mean that enforcement is suspended for 5 million people currently in the country illegally, the newspaper reported.

According to Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, the expected order is not to be confused with comprehensive reform. It is not a long-term solution to the current, broken immigration system. However, it is something. "Republicans will be quick to criticize any administrative action by this president," he said. "It doesn't absolve Congress for not acting the past six years on immigration. In the long term, it would be best if Congress would find the courage to pass comprehensive immigration reform."

Stone noted that businesses and others have been waiting a very long time for a comprehensive reform measure that secures the borders while also providing an adequate and willing workforce for the industries that need it, including agriculture and hospitality.

"The last time Congress meaningfully addressed immigration reform was in 1986, and Ronald Reagan, a Republican president, signed the bill," he said. "It was flawed, but it was the best attempt to deal with immigration since the 1950s."

If anyone is to blame for Obama issuing an executive order, he added, it is Speaker of the House John Boehner. "There were votes in this House to pass comprehensive reform, but Speaker Boehner wouldn't let it come to a vote," Stone said. "Absent of Congressional action, a president's going to do what he thinks best. If Congress had acted, we wouldn't have needed the recent discussion on Driver's Cards in Oregon. Now, Oregon has a black mark next to its name, because Congress did not act."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Spotting the spotted lanternfly

Spotted lanternfly. Photograph by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
According to a tip from OSU Extension entomologist Robin Rosetta, a new insect pest — the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) — was recently detected in Berks County, Pennsylvania. In response, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced a quarantine with the intent to restrict the movement of this pest. This is the first detection of spotted lanternfly in the United States.

This planthopper from Asia has been found on a range of hosts including grapes, fruit trees and pines. It often migrates to Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) to overwinter, but can also be found on other host plants — any smooth-trunked tree, stone or smooth, vertical surface can provide a potential host for eggs. Man-made items such as vehicles, yard furniture, farm equipment or any other items stored outside are additional sites for egg laying. Egg laying begins in late September and continues up through the onset of winter.

Click here for more information on this new pest and detection signs to look for.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

OAN is honored for association achievement

The Oregon Society of Association Management (OSAM) announced several awards and honors at its annual conference November 5 in Wilsonville, and the Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN) was among the winners. The association won the Association Achievement Award, which is presented to an association that has done exceptional work in areas such as enhanced member benefits, management practices, new programs, significant staff accomplishments, outstanding member services, services to the general community, fiscal management or membership growth.

OSAM President Geoff Horning, executive director of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon, presented the award. "[OAN] represents everything that this award stands for," he said, "and has become a leader of its industry not just at a state level, but on a national level."

Horning mentioned several issues in which OAN has taken a leadership role, including the USDA's prenotification rule for nursery shipments, which was later modified. He also mentioned OAN's involvement in the driver's card issue, which benefitted not just nurseries but all of agriculture, and other econocmic sectors such as hospitality and construction. "There are many issues that this organization has taken a leadership stance on a national level," he said

He also alluded to the OAN's online and print Nursery Guide as well as its annual Farwest Trade Show. "While taking on state and national legislation that affects its membership, [OAN] is also a national leader in marketing its members across the country, making Oregon the place that landscapers, retail operators and cities across North America look to purchase their plant material," he said.

Accepting the award on behalf of OAN was Jeff Stone, executive director, who was surprised by the honor. "I am honored to receive this prestigious award on behalf of the nursery and greenhouse industry," he said. "We take pride in building coalitions and partnerships to solve the problems that face our industry and agriculture. It is gratifying that OSAM recognizes the commitment that OAN has to its members."

OSAM is comprised of professionals working for trade associations in the state of Oregon. It provides them with valuable resources, educational programs, and networking opportunities.



Sluggy trees aren't coming to town

As reported by KGW-8 (Portland, Oregon), OAN member Christmas tree grower Kirk International Inc. has come up with a novel way to remove hitchhiking slugs from its trees — hot showers. This allows the trees to be shipped to a number of overseas markets that have strict rules about invasive species — places like Hawaii, Guam and Malaysia. Right now, the grower is processing 3,000 to 4,000 trees per day, and so far? No slugs. This could save the company considerable money — perhaps $75,000 per shipping season. Read on for more.