Allen D. Owings
The LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station is devoted to horticulture research and extension programs that aid the commercial nursery and landscape industry as well as home gardeners. Its mission is to conduct research on environmental and production factors that affect quality and sustainability of plants in the landscape.
Projects at the station include evaluating herbaceous ornamental landscape plants, studying landscape roses, managing the thrips insect pest for nursery growers and landscape professionals and conducting nutrient management studies.
The station annually conducts one of the largest herbaceous ornamental plant trial in a multi-state area. These multi-year trials are used to introduce and recommend the best varieties and new plants for Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region. Hundreds of visitors view these evaluations each year. The program also is helpful in selecting Louisiana Super Plants.
A multidisciplinary team research project on thrips emphasizes management – variety selection, fertilizer and water – and the use of biocontrols and action thresholds to manage thrips more effectively and economically.
Landscape nutrient management research provides appropriate fertilization guidelines for optimum growth and bloom of plants while reducing over-application and runoff from the landscape. The ability of landscape plants to remove, or filter, nitrogen and phosphorus from runoff water is being evaluated for use in stormwater mitigation systems.
New plant growth regulators and application technology are being evaluated for improved production efficiency and reduced landscape maintenance costs. Information is provided to growers and landscape maintenance companies.
Production methods used by wholesale growers can affect a plant’s ability to tolerate environmental stresses in the landscape. Research at the Hammond Research Station is continuing to identify the most effective production methods and proper use of fertilizers and water along with plant selection. This research can identify methods for lowering landscape costs and reducing the use of environmental resources.
Researchers at the station also select and breed potential new ornamental plants for the state’s nursery and landscape industry.
In 2013, horticulture professor Charles Johnson, from the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, and Daniel Wells, a newly appointed post-doctoral researcher in horticulture, began studying potential new varieties of Vitex (chaste tree) and Crateagus (native hawthorn). Several species of each plant are included in breeding, hybridization and selection.
Louisiana Master Gardeners are actively engaged in activities at the station. Nursery, landscape and garden center professionals view research activities at the station each year at a spring industry open house and a landscape horticulture field day each October.
The station hosts landscape pest management programs in addition to certification programs for Louisiana’s nursery and landscape professionals. The Margie Jenkins Azalea Garden Horticulture Lecture Series is also a popular event each year.
More information about work being done in landscape horticulture by the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station is at www.LSUAgCenter.com and on the station’s Facebook page.
Allen D. Owings is a professor of horticulture at the Hammond Research Station in Hammond.
This article was published in the summer 2014 issue of Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.