The organic industry divides, the latest in greenhouse solar, and a 10 year anniversary

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A sustainable e-newsletter from GrowerTalks and Green Profit GrowerTalks MagazineGreen Profit Magazine

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jennifer Duffield White Subscribe

Industry Splits on Organic Vote
High-Tech Solar for the Greenhouse
Foliar Disease Webinar
Next Trend: Floral Flavors
Thanks for 10 Years

Organic Hydroponics & Containers Pass the Vote; Industry Split

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted on November 1 to recommend prohibiting the certification of aeroponics, but the motions to prohibit hydroponic/aquaponic and container production failed by a one-vote margin.

For organic hydroponic growers, the news brings much relief. But for another group of growers, it’s what Dave Chapman, the main organizer behind the “Keep the Soil In Organic” movement, calls “a terrible defeat for organic farming.” Chapmen and others feel that the NOSB did not protect the intent of organic standards—that is, it’s all about the soil.

On the other side of the coin, The Coalition for Sustainable Organics declares the vote a victory—allowing hydroponic and container growers to continue being certified organic. From their perspective, the organic label needs to evolve to include new growing methods. “We need more product that meets the high standards of the USDA Organic Program, not less,” said Lee Frankel, executive director of the Coalition for Sustainable Organics.

To be clear, it was close:

  • Motion to prohibit container production failed (8 no, 7 yes).
  • Motion to prohibit aquaponic production failed (8 no, 7 yes).
  • Motion to prohibit aeroponic production passed (14 yes, 1 abstain).

What’s next?
According to the National Law Review, the NOSB will now provide this recommendation to the USDA’s National Organic Program, which ultimately decides whether these methods are included or excluded from USDA organic certification. (NOSB is an advisory committee; the USDA must go through formal rulemaking to modify any existing standards.)

Some sensational headlines have indicated some organic farmers may “revolt” and leave the organic program. But it’s also likely they could find an additional certification that can set them apart.

In his closing comments at the NOSB meeting, Francis Thicke, an NOSB member who’s ending his term on the board, said, “We need an add-on organic label for organic farmers who are willing to meet the expectations of discerning consumers who are demanding real organic food.” He added, “I support the creation of a label, such as the proposed Regenerative Organic Certification.” (That certification has been drafted by several organizations, including the Rodale Institute, and it’s collecting public comments until November 30.)

Thicke’s disenchantment with the state of organics wasn’t just about the hydroponic vote, mind you. He also pointed out the standards surrounding livestock conflicted with his idea of organic integrity.

Will Greenhouses Go WSPV?

Wavelength-Selective Photovoltaic System (WSPV) is the newest lingo in solar power for growers.

How does it work? A greenhouse roof has transparent roof panels that contain a special dye that absorbs light and transfers energy to a set of narrow photovoltaic (PV) strips that produce electricity. The magenta-tinted WSPV’s are supposed to generate electricity more efficiently than traditional PV systems. And maybe more importantly, they say it’s cheaper than traditional PV. (A WSPV panel costs about 40% less per watt than a traditional PV panel.)

The big question has been how those roof panels affect growing conditions. New research on WSPV shows that the panels may actually improve crop production. In a new paper published in Earth’s Future, Michael Loik, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, monitored both photosynthesis and fruit production in 20 varieties of fruits and vegetables, with and without WSPV. Panels with WSPV absorb blue and green light but let everything else through. The study showed that 80% of plants weren’t affected by the transparent WSPV panels, while 20% grew better under the magenta tint. They also found that tomatoes needed 5% less water in the WSPV environment than in a conventional glasshouse.

Learn more at Soliculture

Foliar Disease Webinar on Tuesday

Disease management is always a learning process. That’s why you should jump in on a GrowerTalks webinar this Tuesday called “Making ‘Fronds’ with Foliar Fungicides.”

It’s free, and Dr. Janna Beckerman will go into detail on a range of foliar diseases, briefly focusing on diagnosis, but more heavily emphasizing management, and also how to most effectively deploy fungicides.

DATE: Tuesday, November 14
TIME: 1:00 p.m. ET (12:00 p.m. Central)

Learn more at

Edible Flowers No. 1 Trend for 2018

Whole Foods Market released their annual list of most-anticipated food trends for the coming year. Growers take note: it might be time to reconsider edible flowers. Whole Foods declared “Floral Flavors” as the No. 1 trend for 2018. They say this includes adding flowers and petals to dishes, as well as infusing botanical flavors into drinks and foods.

One of the other trends? Transparency 2.0—consumers wanting to know the real story behind their food.

You can read the full list HERE.   

10 Years. Thank You.

Time flies. GreenTalks is officially 10 years old this month. In the first issue I wrote, “You'll find a lot of gray matter in our discussions here.” And has that ever been true. I went on to say, “There will be ideas you'll jump to implement and some that may not fit your particular business. I would urge you, as a reader, to think of this newsletter as a book. With each installment, or chapter, you'll gain a greater understanding of the big picture. Be patient. Keep an open mind.”

Two-hundred-forty email newsletters later, here we are. We’ve talked recycling, renewable energy, organics, human resources, philosophies, and how-to’s. We’ve followed news developments and more.

Your Journeys
I took a moment this month to reflect on the evolution of GreenTalks, and what struck me most was the way in which the industry has evolved to embrace sustainability. We use the term “sustainable” less often; but it seems that everyone “does" sustainable more.

When GreenTalks started, I had to answer the question, “What’s sustainability?” all the time—in the newsletter, at seminars, and in my one-on-one conversations. And maybe the hardest concept for many was that it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. What’s sustainable for one grower isn’t for another. It’s about location, resources, your business, your customers, and your employees— and factoring those variables into how you make business decisions.

 In one of those early issues of GreenTalks, I said:

Sustainability, as it's being pursued in the manufacturing world, in agriculture, in everyday living, and in the floriculture industry, is about moving closer to an ideal. It's a process of improving practices, impacts, and adopting new technologies as they become available. Sustainability is, indeed, a journey—from the process of learning how to think about the concept to the process of implementing changes and seeking new solutions.

Today's world has asked us to be more adaptable, and I think more businesses have opened themselves up to change. We’ve learned to find greener solutions not just because they’re green, but because they fit with our core values, our business model, and because the numbers make sense.  

So first, I want to thank all of you for reading and for writing and sharing your ideas with me over the years. I do this, first and foremost, for you.

Now, I’d love to hear your sustainability journeys. Tell me what you’re up to, how your business has addressed sustainability over the years—whether it was in small, incremental ways or through big changes.

Email me at 

Until next time,

Jennifer Duffield White 

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