Snow damages Louisiana nursery industry, retail garden centers

Allen D. Owings, Benedict, Linda F.  |  12/15/2008 8:56:21 PM

Damage at the LSU AgCenter's Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Allen Owings. Click for downloadable image.)

Snowfall on Dec. 11, 2008, at the LSU AgCenter's Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Allen Owings. Click for downloadable image.)

News Release Distributed 12/15/08

Although the exact costs aren’t in yet, the unexpected snowfall on Dec. 11 caused more damage to Louisiana’s commercial ornamental horticulture industry than hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which struck earlier this year.

“Wholesale growers in the Forest Hill area and the Florida parishes saw the most damage, and these areas represent the two major nursery production areas in the state,” said Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulture specialist at the Hammond Research Station.

The Florida parishes include Tangipahoa, Washington and St. Tammany. Forest Hill, which is in the southern part of Rapides Parish, has 250 wholesale growers, while the Florida parish area has a smaller number of producers but several of the larger producers in the state, Owings said.

Areas around the state where the most nursery structural damage occurred saw snowfall accumulations ranging from 2-8 inches. This resulted in large deposits of snow on greenhouse and shade structure roofs.

The 2-3 inches of snowfall in the Forest Hill area resulted in the partial or total collapse of at least 300 greenhouses and related structures, Owings said.

Growers in the Florida parishes saw snow accumulation of 8 inches. This resulted in similar damage to greenhouses and damaged plants growing in the greenhouses.

“Some plant material can be salvaged but will have lost quality while other plant material was damaged to the point that it will have to be discarded. Some trees and shrubs in field and container production settings lost limbs from the weight of snow accumulation,” Owings said.

Wholesale growers use varying types of greenhouses and similar structures for growing plants, over-wintering plants and providing shade to shrubs that would generally not be produced as well as if they were growing in full sun. Most of these type of houses at nurseries are covered with plastic or a woven fabric material.

In scattered damaged elsewhere, retailers in several areas saw damage similar to what the wholesale growers saw to greenhouse structures at their garden centers.

Wholesale ornamental plant sales annually in Louisiana are estimated at about $150-170 million with another $100-150 million in plant inventory. Louisiana’s total commercial ornamental horticulture industry, which includes wholesale nursery growers, landscape contracting and maintenance along with retail garden centers, contributes more than $2.2 billion annually to Louisiana’s economy and employs 57,000 individuals.

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Contact: Allen Owings at (985) 543-4125, or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu

Editor: Linda Foster Benedict at (225) 578-2937, or lbenedict@agcenter.lsu.edu

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