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Flower Production

The sustainable production of ornamental crops is gaining wide acceptance nationally as it already has done internationally. Several large-scale U.S. flower producers have already been certified using European standards of sustainability. And there is a move now in the U.S. that will in the next couple of years develop a national standard for sustainable agricultural practices. Flower growers and nurseries will be also covered under the new national standard and are involved in its development. Eventually it will be important for all agricultural producers to be certified as sustainable.

There are approximately 250 nurseries and flower farms on O‘ahu that produce an estimated $33,524,000 in sales according to the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture's (HDOA) 2006 statistics. That is 33% of the state's total wholesale value of flowers and nursery products. Although this represents a 3.5% increase in sales from 2005, over the last five years sales have been relatively stable. In 1992 HDOA began compiling statistics only from farms that had over $10,000 in sales. In addition to the 250 farms tallied there are between 200 to 300 growers who are employed off their farms and nurseries or retired, who do not reach the $10,000 level. The sale of mostly lei flowers and nursery products provides an important supplement to their incomes.

The amounts of the various types of flowers have shown some change over the years. While the sales of some of the potted orchids and lei flowers declined, foliage has remained relatively constant. Exotic tropicals, cut flowers, Poinsettia and the "all other nursery products" category which includes bedding plants, plant rentals, sod, trees, and any other nursery products have enjoyed an increase in sales in the same period.

The nurseries' profitability is the primary concern of the growers.

The primary goals of agricultural sustainability are defined as:

Environmental stewardship includes protecting and improving soil quality, reducting dependence on non-renewal resources and minimizing adverse impacts on food safety, wildlife, water quality, and other environmental resources. ("What is Sustainable Agriculture?" John Ikerd)

The development of agricultural systems that maintain and conserve the natural environment is critical to the sustainablility and ultimate profitability of those systems. Using an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to pests is one method of minimizing adverse environmental impacts of pest control.

Growers often approach pest control strictly from a chemical control point of view. Integrated pest management techniques are sometimes overlooked and often take a back seat to the use of chemical pesticides. This dependence on controlling pests strictly by the use of chemicals leads to greater problems in the long run with pest resistance, contamination, and increasing costs of production.

The cost of pesticides is extreme in terms of actual dollars spent on the chemicals and their application, their actual return in protecting the crop, and their effect on the environment. To address this problem, participants in the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) project developed a production and pest management guide for growing Dendrobium orchids in Hawai‘i. This has been a great source of vital information to the orchid growers. However, adoption of the suggested pest management practices by commercial growers has been very slow. Growers continue to heavily rely on chemicals for controlling pests.

In addition, the waste stream for most flower growers is considered only in terms of a logistics problem with little - if any - concern for the environmental impacts of their practices. Almost no concern is given to run-off water unless it causes an immediate problem. This has become an important issue not only because of the environmental impacts, but also because of regulations including the Coastal Zone Management Act that defines all of Hawai‘i in the coastal zone. In addition to run-off water, many growers store old outdated chemicals and have piles of refuse (old plastic pots, media, shade cloth) that can be recycled or disposed of in an environmentally safe manner.

This project is designed to address these issues and has four main objectives:
  1. Improve the sustainability of flower growers by training them in cultural practices that are based on curret research and best management practices, focusing on plant nutrition, irrigation, crop spacing, cultivar selection, other cultural practices.
  2. Improve growers' pest control efforts using an integrated pest management system designed to minimize damage to the environment while improving production and profitability.
  3. Increase nurserymen's awareness of environmental issues, conservation practices and how they may contribute to a long-term sustainable operation.
  4. Improve the marketing skills of individual growers and to assist grower associations in developing a marketing strategy.

Ka Lono Pua - The Flower News

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