|Wednesday What’s New: Growing Greener Poinsettias|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 23 December 2009|
Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were brought to the US in the 1820s. According to the USDA poinsettias are the country’s most popular potted plant--and most of that popularity is during the Christmas season. The poinsettia market is dominated by a handful of companies that sell cuttings to growers ranging from mom-and-pop greenhouses to large industrial operations. Growing the perfect poinsettia is a difficult task however. There's a narrow window to get plants to the ideal size, shape and color in time for the Christmas season. Not only is it energy intensive, it’s also become more expensive because of the amount of fuel needed to heat greenhouses and transport plants.
Researchers like those at UNH have been experimenting with "cold finish" techniques that would allow growers to drop the temperatures in their greenhouses and save on heating costs. Though cooler temperatures slow plant growth and can require earlier planting, growers who cut back a few degrees late in the season still could save 20 to 40 percent on energy costs, depending on their location, said Roberto Lopez, an assistant professor and floriculture extension specialist at Purdue University in Indiana.
Brian Krug, UNH Cooperative Extension specialist cites another example. “A grower using natural gas to heat a 1/2-acre glass greenhouse in Toledo, Ohio, would spend about $18,200 to grow about 11,800 plants at the conventional temperature of 71 degrees versus $13,500 if the temperature were dropped 9 degrees late in the season. A comparable greenhouse in New Hampshire, where oil heat is more common, would save about $7,300 off its $33,100 heating bill”.
Excerpted from: What's red, green and now greener? This poinsettia by Holly Ramer
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