Industry Partners

Advisory Panel

This Panel represents different segments of the green industry from production to landscape. Panel members are passionate about science and sustainable horticultural practices. They have been instrumental in identifying the research and extension objectives of this project. They will continue playing a crucial role in ensuring this project fulfills the expectations and needs of the green industry. Panel members meet with the project team during annual project meetings and regular web conferences in which they are informed of project progress and provide feedback on future research and extension programming. Some panel members have already used this projects concept to modify the runoff water path on their properties and expand the holding capacity of their sedimentation ponds to prolong the turnover time and minimize crop health risk. These early adoptions will be powerful examples for fellow growers in moving the green industry to greater sustainability and enable them to better compete in global markets. The current panel members are:

Collaborating Nurseries and Greenhouses

The following production facilities are an integral part of this research and extension project. The owners or leadership of these facilities possess two common traits. They are early adopters of science-based practices and they also are forward-thinking. These facilities contain nutrient-rich runoff water in reservoirs to comply with federal, state and local regulations. They also consider these reservoirs an alternative water resource of critical importance to future growth of their businesses in the light of growing global water scarcity. Each facility has a unique recycling irrigation system layout that is set up to prevent pathogens from reaching a pump inlet and mitigate crop health risk. This project will determine their crop health benefits, understand the underlying mechanisms and develop BMP protocols to guide recycling irrigation system design for crop health risk mitigation. The unique features of individual collaborating nurseries and greenhouses and their contributions to this project are outlined below.

Bennett's Creek Nursery (Smithfield, VA) provides a research farm including a 2-acre irrigation pond, a 5-acre pristine water lake and several newly excavated larger reservoirs). The irrigation pond also is a containment facility with the pump house/exit and runoff water entrance located in opposite directions for minimal pathogen intake. This and other ponds are ideal sites for comparative analyses of water quality and beneficial microbes between runoff and pristine water. Growers assist in water quality monitoring and water sampling. They also help set up and maintain field trials and run on-farm demonstration of BMPs developed through this project.

Colesville Nursery (Ashland, VA) supplies five research ponds and on-site assistance as needed. Three of these ponds are purposely set in a chain with the runoff containment pond at the top and irrigation pond at the bottom and water flow by gravity. When the irrigation pond is full, water is pumped to the remaining two reservoirs for storage and emergency backup. These ponds are perfect sites for investigation into how water quality and beneficial microbe diversity and populations may change with decreasing nutrient level at each step of water flow and how both may be related to pathogen decline at every step of water flow. Ongoing research activities include continuous monitoring of water quality and weather conditions and regular water sampling for microbial diversity.

Esbenshade's Greenhouses (Lititz, PA) provides access to seven irrigation reservoirs within a greenhouse complex of over 12 acres. Flood and drain floors and benches and hanging baskets irrigated by drip tubes are used to produce a wide variety of herbaceous plants including poinsettias, Easter lilies, chrysanthemums, geraniums, and numerous bedding plants. Employees assist in the continuous baiting for Pythium in the recycling flood and drain system. Plant material is purchased from other greenhouse operations, started through vegetative propagation by the Esbenshades, or started from seed. The growers monitor crop health and sends plants to Moorman for analysis as needed.

Flowerwood Nursery (Theodore, AL) opens one of its eight production facilities to this project. This facility includes three ponds with one fed with well and rain water only and the remaining receiving irrigation runoff water. This research farm offers opportunities to compare water quality and microbial diversity between well and runoff containment ponds and examine how they may differ from those in runoff water containment facilities in the Mid-Atlantic region. Growers assist in water quality monitoring, and water sampling for determining microbial diversity. They also help set up and maintain field demonstration plots to showcase the BMPs that arise from this project.

GreenForest Nursery (Perkinston, MS) provides an experimental farm and on-site support as required. This research farm has a total of eight ponds. Runoff water flows from sedimentation to retention, then three filtration ponds before reaching the "Beaver" pond by gravity. Water is pumped from the Beaver pond to replenish the irrigation pond. The Pump pond is the primary supply of pristine water. Water quality and microbial diversity data are taken regularly from selected ponds throughout the 5-year project period and will be related to pathogen decline at every step of the water recycling system. These data also will be compared with those collected in the Mid-Atlantic region. Field demonstration plots also have been planned for this farm to showcase the novel knowledge and technologies resulting from this project.

Lancaster Farms (Suffolk, VA) grants this project the use of its Pitch Kettle facility and provides on-site support including personnel, boat, propagative and planting materials. The Pitch Kettle farm has a 15-acre natural lake, a small sedimentation pond and a 2-acre irrigation pond. The lake is fed primarily with spring and rain water. Runoff water from all production areas is channeled to the sedimentation pond. When this pond is full, water overflows to the irrigation pond where water is drawn to irrigate plants. Water may be drawn from the lake to replenish the irrigation pond as needed. There also are several bodies of pristine water surrounding the property. These reservoirs are ideal sites for comparative analyses of water quality and beneficial microbes in water. Ongoing research activities at this facility include continuous monitoring of water quality and weather conditions and regular water sampling for microbial diversity in selected reservoirs. Field trials and demonstration plots are also planned for this facility to showcase the BMPs that will be developed in this project.

Moon Nurseries (Chesapeake, MD) provides access to two irrigation runoff containment ponds, land and propagative and planting materials. Water quality is continuously monitored and water samples are taken regularly for determining microbial diversity. Moon Nurseries also is collaborating on another SCRI project directed by Lea-Cox of the University of Maryland, continuously monitoring soil moisture and conductivity as well as weather conditions. Thus, Moon Nurseries also provides a link between this and the Lea-Cox project.

Schwalm's Greenhouse (Sunbury, PA) provides access to two irrigation reservoirs within a greenhouse complex of about 2 acres. Flood and drain floors, benches with hand watering, and hanging baskets irrigated by drip tubes are used. Employees assist in the continuous baiting for Pythium in the recycling flood and drain system that is initially filled from a well. Most plant material is purchased from other greenhouse operations where it is started through vegetative propagation. A wide variety of herbaceous plants are grown including poinsettias, geraniums, and numerous bedding plants. The grower and employees monitor crop health and send plants to Moorman for analysis as needed.

Tidal Creek Growers (Davidsonville, MD) provides a 4-acre research pond at its production facility. This pond receives runoff water from a large modern greenhouse complex and some field production areas as well. Its employees assists in water sampling for determining microbial diversity and water quality monitoring and provides other on-farm assistance including a boat as needed.

Medium- and Small-sized Colleges

In Tidewater Virginia there are three primarily undergraduate institutions with strong science programs: Christopher Newport University (CNU), Hampton University (HU), and Virginia Wesleyan College. CNU and HU have undergraduate enrollments below 5000 while Virginia Wesleyan is below 1500. All programs promote student involvement in research experiences and encourage students to participate in science-related internships. The nature of this project provides opportunities for students in areas beyond the scope of these less agriculturally focused programs. This could lead to graduate education in a more agriculturally focused area.

In addition to these baccalaureate degree programs, there are two community college systems in the area that could provide students: Thomas Nelson CC and Tidewater CC.