Ontario greenhouse growers produce a variety of festive horticultural crops for the holiday season using precise timing and integrated pest management
By Jackie Clark
During the holiday season we’re often reminded to give thanks to farmers for the food on our tables but we also have Ontario producers to thank for many of our festive decorations.
“There are approximately 190 commercial-sized growers who produce greenhouse ornamentals in Ontario. The majority of growers are located in the Niagara Region,” Chevonne Dayboll, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs’ greenhouse floriculture specialist, told Farms.com.
“Greenhouse floriculture growers produce many different ornamentals year-round. Ontario growers have traditionally produced poinsettias for the holiday season, and these continue to be the main crop. However, other offerings such as Christmas cacti, frosty ferns, cyclamen and kalanchoe in festive colours are also available as potted plants. On the cut flower side, specific varieties of Chrysanthemums and holly for inclusion in bouquets are produced,” Dayboll said.
These traditional ornamentals are joined by a variety of new options for individuals who are decorating their homes.
“Premade Christmas mixed pots are a newer trend with combinations including many different types of crops to appeal to a wide variety of consumers,” she added.
Producers must work backwards from the date plants need to be ready for sale to schedule seeding and set growing conditions.
“A combination of providing the right nutrients, climate, light and water is needed to ensure crops are ready on time,” Dayboll said.
And producers of the popular Christmas poinsettias can face tough pest challenges, said Sarah Jandricic, greenhouse floriculture integrated pest management (IPM) specialist at OMAFRA.
“In poinsettia production, growers mainly have to battle several species of whitefly,” she told Farms.com.
“One of the species, referred to as Bemisia tabaci MED, for its origins in the Mediterranean, easily develops resistance to a wide range of chemical products. Therefore, floriculture growers primarily rely on biological control for their whitefly management, which includes the use of predatory beetles, mites and several parasitic wasps,” she said.
“Growers have also learned to delay pesticide applications until the end of the growing season (i.e. as “clean up” applications only), as a form of resistance management. The exception to this is the use of reduced-risk insecticide products at the very start of the season,” Jandricic explained.
For example, “many growers dip their poinsettia cuttings in a mix of insecticidal soap and the insect-attacking fungus Beauveria bassiana before planting. This use of cutting dips can reduce the starting whitefly population by up to 70 per cent and improve growers’ success with either biological or chemical control,” she said.
This year, while admiring your festive flowers, you can entertain your holiday guests with the knowledge of the responsible pest management practices involved in the centrepieces’ production.
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