Specialty crops, trade show featured at horticulture field day

Johnny Morgan  |  10/10/2016 7:56:15 PM

(10/10/16) HAMMOND, La. – The annual landscape horticulture field day hosted by the LSU AgCenter and the Southeast Louisiana Nursery Association at the Hammond Research Station on Oct. 6 featured new specialty plants.

Again this year, the nursery association’s trade show was held in conjunction with the field day, which added an even greater boost in the interest, said Allen Owings, research coordinator at the station.

“We’re trying to provide landscape industry professionals, the garden centers and wholesale nursery growers new plant information,” he said.

The trade show exhibitors also set up booths to display their products and to provide valuable landscape information to those in attendance.

The field day began with a look at the caladium and butterfly bush trials being conducted by LSU AgCenter researcher Yan Chen.

“We wanted to show how well these plants do in our soils,” Chen said. “Again this year, we were looking at growth regulators. This is the end of the three year study, so we are summarizing the results this year.”

In addition to the updates on traditional plants, this year’s event featured new items being studied, such as olives, figs and tea.

“The tea market in the U.S. is huge right now,” Chen said.

During the care and maintenance tour, Chen told the group that tea is a $10.2 billion wholesale market in the United States.

Chen has been looking at different teas that can be grown in Louisiana and is trying to stay ahead of the curve on these plants.

“Tea is really catching on since people are realizing how healthy it is for you and how inexpensive it is compared to a number of other beverages,” she said.

Currently the only two commercial tea companies in the continental U.S. are in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Oregon, she said.

The Great Mississippi Tea Company is in its infancy with 3 acres planted, and another 50 acres ready to develop, Chen said.

AgCenter horticulturist Jason Stagg discussed the results of his fig and olives trials and showed how the plants fared following the historic flooding in August.

“We were worried about a number of the plants because the floodwaters rose so high on them,” he said. “But so far, most of the plants seems to have survive the high water.”

Nearly 200 landscape professionals from the Gulf South attended the event to gain valuable information from the research being conducted at the Hammond Research Station, Owing said.

Jerry Pittman, a new plant developer with Plant Development Services in Loxley, Alabama, has a long relationship with the research station staff and gains valuable information from the research at the station.

“We have Allen do trials on a lot of our plants here,” he said. “So we know the quality of work done here.”

Other AgCenter professionals on the program included entomologists Dennis Ring and Zinan Wang; AgCenter “Plant Doctor” Raj Singh; vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot; horticulturist Ed Bush; research associate Joey Quebedeaux; plant scientist Jeff Beasley; and weed specialist Ron Strahan.

The field day ended with Owings and Chen providing tours of the native grass establishment studies and the Piney Woods garden.

The Hammond Research Station is unique because of the research being done by observing rare plants to see how well they will do in the south Louisiana climate, Owings said.

The Hammond Research Station is open to the public and is located at 21549 Old Covington Highway, just off U.S. Highway 190.

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LSU AgCenter researcher Yan Chen discussed her caladium research during the annual landscape horticulture field day at the Hammond Research Station on Oct. 6. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter horticulturist Jason Stagg, right, discussed fig and olive production with landscape professionals during the annual landscape horticulture field day at the Hammond Research Station on Oct. 6. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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LSU AgCenter weed specialist Ron Strahan discussed weed control options during the annual landscape horticulture field day at the Hammond Research Station on Oct. 6. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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Allen Owings, research coordinator at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, led a group of landscape professionals on a tour of the native grass establishment studies and the Piney Woods garden during the annual landscape horticulture field day at the Hammond Research Station on Oct. 6. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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