Although nurseries and greenhouses produce plants that beautify and
enhance our surroundings, the production process of such a myriad of
products can and does lead to a wide variety of environmental problems.
Such problems include the use of dangerous chemicals to control insects,
disease and weeds, reliance on and heavy use of scarce water resources
and the run off of this water from the land and into waterways.
At Dayton Nurseries, operations to make the nursery "green" have been
in full swing since 1999.
In 1999, the Dayton’s installed an additional water pump in order to
collect rain water, that would normally run off into nearby streams,
into a one acre lake that it used for irrigation of the plants. This
rain water has increased the quality of the plant material because of
the water purity. The pump transports water from a lower pond and stores
it at a higher elevation . An added benefit of this lower pond and pump
system is that in addition to rain water it collects run off from
irrigation of the plants that enables the recycling of water that has
some nutrients dissolved that would normally pollute creeks and streams.
This water "reuse" makes the nursery’s reliance on ground water supplies
minimal at best.
Another way in which the nursery will recycle water and prevent run
off into streams is the use of ebb and flow benches in the greenhouses.
The ebb and flow bench is a system in which water floods the bench and
pots of plants absorb water through the drainage holes in the pots.
Water goes up the potting mix by capillary action. When, after 18
minutes, the plants have had enough water, the water drains out
automatically and flows back to a 1500 gallon storage tank to be used
again and again. The beauty of the system is less waste of valuable
ground water supplies and the prevention of water with dissolved
nutrients running off the land. Because of the considerable expense, the
Dayton’s hope to have all production areas in the greenhouse converted
over to the ebb and flow system by spring 2006. And again, plant quality
is enhanced by the more even watering and the leaves of the plants
remain dry which results in less disease and lessens the need for
Herbicide use for weed control is a necessary evil at the nursery on
our woody trees and shrubs although a lot of hand weeding still does go
on. Herbicides adhere to soil particles that may be washed into streams
and lakes. Also, much herbicide is wasted from applying them with a
hand-held spreader in that much of the chemical lands between the pots
and then is carried off by irrigation water or rain water.
Starting in 2003, Dayton Nurseries will conduct experiments in line
with those conducted by Ohio State University in which herbicides are
mixed with mulch materials such as penn mulch and then spread on the
containers of plants. The herbicides when applied this way don’t "fall
between the cracks". Weed control is much better as shown in initial
trials done by the university. Toxicity to plants is less and the over
all use of the product is less. Depending on the initial trials for
2002, the Dayton’s hope to have a full herbicide program that makes
environmental sense in place by spring 2004.
Pesticides and fungicide use is mostly limited to those products that
break down quickly. These new generations of products in insecticides
kills insects by making them stop feeding, using hormones that prevent
them from molting, and in some cases some parasitic insects can destroy
other harmful insects. Even bacteria is used called Bacillus
thunbergensis that disrupts the digestion process of leaf eating
Fungicides in general breakdown quickly. However, one of the safer
effective fungicides against black spot of roses and powdery mildew on
many plants is "Remedy" that is a salt, potassium bicarbonate combined
with a spreader-sticker (wetting agent) that actually prevents disease
from entering the leaf because of an unfavorable ph on the leaf surface
but also pierces the cell walls of certain disease-causing fungal cells
causing them to dehydrate.
Maintaining water quality has been a battle especially with the
recycled water as the nutrients it carries has a tendency to create an
algae bloom that is difficult to control. In October 2002 Dayton
Nurseries installed a compressor unit that injects air at the bottom of
the pond that creates more oxygen at the lower water level that will
help to keep irrigation at the bottom of the pond aerated to create
conditions unfavorable for algae growth. In addition to the air
compressors, Dayton’s has introduced triploid grass carp that are
voracious algae eaters. Because of the extra set of chromosomes, these
fish, which would normally breed relentlessly and out compete other
native species are in fact sterile and will need to be replaced every
3-4 years as they age. With the algae eating fish and oxygen injection,
chemical control of algae should be unnecessary.
Finally, the story doesn’t end here. Newer plans include less energy
use in the production of our products such as solar and wind power
generation with an emphasis on conservation. Dayton Nurseries aims to
prove that sound environmental ways of conducting business can be
profitable as well. Stay "tuned" on what’s coming next!