Nursery Research Initiative Targets Emerging Challenges

The American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) continues its partnership with the Society of American Florists and the USDA Agricultural Research Service to focus federal research dollars on critical industry problems through the Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative (FNRI). In 2004, new FNRI dollars are flowing to support research on urgent emerging pest and disease problems, including Phytophthora ramorum, Emerald ash borer and Ralstonia solanacearum.

Emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, is an exotic insect, native to Asia, that attacks ash trees and was previously unknown on the North American continent until its discovery in Michigan during the summer of 2002. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, the borer has devastated approximately eight million ash trees in Southeast Michigan. Left unchecked, landscape losses nationwide could total $50 to $60 billion. Leading EAB researchers at Michigan State University, Ohio State University and the ARS research facility in Wooster, Ohio have received more than $250,000 in support from the FNRI to investigate ash and other host susceptibility, and chemical and biological factors affecting the EAB. This work is fundamental to devising management strategies that may help control this highly destructive insect.

Phytophthora ramorum is a pathogen that has killed a large number of native oaks and tanoaks in coastal forests of California and extreme southwestern Oregon. P. ramorum also infects common ornamental plants, such as rhododendrons and camellias, and has had a significant economic impact on the nursery industry worldwide. Research efforts supported by the FNRI will evaluate potential disease management strategies, and develop rapid detection methods for monitoring the disease in nursery, greenhouse, and small fruit production systems. The FNRI has supported P. ramorum research at Oregon State University, ARS – Frederick (MD) and ARS-Corvallis (OR), where FNRI funds have enabled the establishment of a new ARS research scientist position assigned to investigate this highly virulent disease.

Ralstonia solanacearum is a bacterial pathogen that causes the disease known as Southern wilt, bacterial wilt and brown rot of potato. Ralstonia race 3, biovar 2, the presence of which triggers specific quarantine restrictions, has been detected in US greenhouses on imported geranium cuttings, resulting in crop destruction and millions of dollars in losses. In 2003 and 2004, the FNRI has supported key Ralstonia research on pathogen behavior in geraniums, disease diagnostics and disease control.

The FNRI focuses on three essential research areas: (1) improved environmental and resource management; (2) more effective pest management; and (3) superior production systems and strategies. By advocating increases in research funding to Congress, ANLA and SAF are able to collaborate and leverage support for leading-edge research that is vital to the future of the green industry. To date, the FNRI has provided more than $700,000 to support research on the preceding three research priorities. FNRI research funding now totals $6 million, which complements direct industry support for research through ANLA’s research arm, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI). HRI has supported EAB and Phytophthora ramorum research with $16,000 and $15,000 grants respectively.

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