The Protected Ornamentals (PO) sector panel is one of three ornamentals panels within AHDB Horticulture, the others being Hardy Nursery Stock (HNS) and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers (BOF). The Protected Ornamentals panel encompasses production of protected pot plants, pack bedding and indoor cut flowers, as well as the associated plant propagation. With important cross-sector topics, such as energy and water use, the PO panel will work closely with the Protected Edibles (PE) and other sector panels as relevant, to ensure that the levy funds are spent on research efficiently.
Crop protection is a priority area for research and development funding. Robust integrated control solutions are sought for the ornamentals sectors and the key will be to provide strategies that work in practice. The panel supports the development of sustainable and robust disease control measures through the optimisation of the growing environment. The integration of pest and disease control with efficient energy use is a challenge that must be pursued.
In recognition of the cross sector relevance of crop protection challenges as well as the benefits that cross sector working within the Sustainable Crop & Environment Protection – Targeted Research for Edibles (SCEPTRE) project has brought to the edibles panels, the three ornamentals panels have developed a call for new crop protection work under the Managing Ornamental Plants Sustainably (MOPS) project. Further details can be found from the Tenders pages of the website.
A number of generic priorities have been identified which pertain in particular, to the efficient use of all available energy sources. Initiatives addressing the efficient use of energy will continue to dominate the activities and expenditure of the Protected Ornamentals panel over the next few years. Considerable progress has been made in transferring existing technologies and knowledge; the challenge for the future will be to identify the next step change that can offer already energy efficient growers, the chance to further reduce energy inputs by 10% or more.
The recent introduction of energy efficient LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) to horticulture has opened up new opportunities for the application of lighting in terms of both positioning lamps and the quality of light delivered. The PO panel has collaborated with the HNS and PE panels to develop a joint panel call for work to support levy payers in exploiting this rapidly evolving technology. Further details can be found from the Tenders pages of the website.
The target of reducing labour costs per unit of production is a major challenge and involves business management, capital investment, staff training and in some instances, legislative issues. For container-grown crops such as pot plants and bedding plants, substantial commercial developments in plant spacing and handling systems have already been developed and often the only barrier to adopting such automation will be financial.
Legislative pressures are increasing. Hence, greater emphasis will need to be placed on issues such as the efficient use of water, minimizing run-off from nurseries and compliance with the waste management regulations. There is considerable scope to tackle these issues through a range of knowledge transfer initiatives delivering immediate assistance to growers.
The panel is conscious that the needs of all growers, in particular growers of minor crops, may not be covered by this R&D Strategy and hence will encourage a proactive approach by HDC staff to contact these growers to establish how their needs might be best served from levy funds. The new (July 2013) call for a coordinated programme of trials addressing issues such as trialling and demonstrating the potential for new crops/varieties, season extension and practical solutions to problems encountered on a standard nursery is designed to deliver to smaller levy payers in particular. Further details of this opportunity can be found from the Tenders pages of the website.
HDC Research Manager