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Dayton Nursery Goes Green
December, 2002

 

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 spraying fungicides.

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 caterpillars.

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!

 


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3459 Cleveland-Massillon Rd.  Norton, OH 44203

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