Coronavirus, Mangave, Texas Hemp, Weird Pests

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Chris Beytes Subscribe
Acres Online
Will coronavirus impact hort?
- Ball China
- Hardgoods
- How about you?
A mangave webinar
Two surveys that need you
Much more hemp info
THRIVE now regional
Finally ...

Will coronavirus impact horticulture?

Dumb question, Beytes! It already has. The slightly better question of “How?” is only coming to me in dribs and drabs as I talk with a few folks who do business with China. The $64 question “For how long?” is anybody’s guess.

The first horticulture/COVID-19 story I heard this week came from the tradeshow Myplant & Garden, in Rho, Italy, just outside of Milan, which has been postponed because of the pandemic:.

The event, billed as the most important tradeshow for horticulture, landscape and garden in Italy, was scheduled for February 26-28. The organizers have decided to postpone the event until September. This coincides with the decision of the Italian government to implement a “lockdown and travel ban” (as Bloomberg put it) in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, of which Milan is the capital.

They said in a press release, “This decision has grown out of ‘the gravity of the current, unpredictable situation’ that has led many exhibitors to decide that they would not participate in the trade fair for fear of a contagion. The progressive decision of many Italian and international buyer delegations and visitors of not taking part in the trade fair would have followed with high probability.”

They added that their main concern was for the health of visitors, exhibitors and their families.

You can read more about the postponement HERE.

How Ball China has been affected

Ball Publishing’s parent corporation, Ball Horticultural Company, does business in China. In fact, it’s an important market for the corporation, says Jason Hough, President of the Asia Pacific Region for Ball.

Jason told me via email that, “A story written two weeks ago would highlight the many challenges. A story written today would highlight the improvements that are happening fast.”

Those improvements include:

- Slowly, but surely, quarantine measures and restrictions on people movement within China are improving. “Such quarantine and restrictions are best described as very strict to progressively less strict as you move from Wuhan out.”

- The movement of people within cities (defined as specific geographic zones) is occurring with relative freedom, at least in those cities that are farther away from Wuhan or have had limited infections.

- The movement of people between cities is limited due to strict quarantine requirements and this contributes to difficulties moving products around the country or internationally.

- The Kunming Flower Market is open—“a very positive sign for our industry!”

- There seems to be confidence that most events, tradeshows, celebrations from May onwards will not be cancelled, although most events through mid-April have been cancelled.

Challenges that remain:

- Travel between cities and across provincial borders has its challenges and this is impacting business.

- Travel internationally is extremely difficult (flight availability out of China is limited) and many countries have quarantine restrictions in place preventing travel outside of China. Ball has temporarily halted all corporate travel to and from China and is in the process of doing the same for South Korea.

Said Jason in summary: “Week by week we are seeing things improve. This week we saw the greatest improvements and we hope this is the beginning of the recovery. Thankfully, the Ball China group have had no reports of the virus directly impacting staff or their families. I also want to mention that our partners and team across the Ball China Group have done a phenomenal job dealing with these incredibly difficult business conditions.”

Ball’s seed breeding division, PanAmerican Seed, has a production farm in Songming, in the Kunming area of China. Division President Anne Leventry expanded upon Jason’s comments.

“Not all of our employees were able to come to work due to quarantines put into place by the government, but many did and we did not experience a significant disruption in our seed production. As of this week, the majority of our employees are able to come to the farm and we do not expect any seed shortages this season as a result of the virus issues.”

What about hardgoods?

A large chunk of our industry's pottery and hardgoods comes out of China, and that has to be having at least a short-term impact on growers getting packaging and retailers getting spring stock.

“This is a real concern,” said Bisser Georgiev of LiveTrends Design confirming via email. Bisser told me he imports an average of three to four sea containers of hardgoods each week from all over the world, not just China. “Even a small interruption or delay can cause ripples in our forward supply chain,” he said.

Fortunately, he has millions of dollars of hardgoods and accessories warehoused in the U.S., so he’s not worried about the short term.

LiveTrends manufactures its quirky containers in numerous countries around the globe—including China.

“We are ready for spring, and so far, we don’t have any major delays,” Bisser said, adding that he’d just heard that his factories in south and central China are fully operational, and the ones in the north of China will be coming online soon.

“However, if this thing goes bigger than it is now, I’m concerned on how our pipeline may look like in Q3 and Q4.”

What’s he doing in case things do get worse?

“We are actively looking for sourcing outside China, with Vietnam, Mexico and Europe leading the effort.”

How about you?

How about you? Has your business been directly or indirectly impacted by the corornavirus? Tell me how so, with some details, at Or if you have questions about some specific product category that might be impacted, let me know and I’ll see what I can learn.

What’s Mangave? Find out in this webinar!

Mangave: It’s an interspecific cross between manfreda and agave, and it’s the hottest new landscape succulent hybrid on the market—and we’ve lined up the principle breeder to tell you all about it in our free webinar, titled:

Mangave Madness: The Story Behind this Fast-Growing Succulent Hybrid (and its Potential Benefits to the World of Horticulture)

The webinar is slated for Tuesday, March 3, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern/Noon Central.

Hans Hansen is the man you’ll be hearing from. As Director of New Plant Development at Walters Gardens and a lifelong breeder of perennials, Hans has seen and participated in more than a few breakthroughs in plant breeding. However, no cross has captured his attention quite so much as the mangave.

Man, that's some mangave!

Taking the best from both genera, Mangave have the accelerated growth rate, spotting and softer spines from manfreda, mixed with the durability and large architectural forms of agave. Mangave hybrids bring the potential of hundreds of new colors and habits not previously seen among agave in a product that's more grower-friendly, with a quicker finish time and less prickly spines.

As the principal breeder of Mangave, Hans is the perfect source for the story behind the succulent, his experiences with the crop and how he sees it contributing to the world of horticulture.

Sign up now at

Many thanks to our generous sponsor, Walters Gardens, for putting the "free" in free webinar.

A pair of surveys that need your input

I know you’re busy (I’ve checked your schedule), but if you could,  please help out a pair of quality industry folks by lending your opinions and experiences to these two surveys they're conducting:

For you veggie growers:
If you consider yourself a “controlled environment agriculture” grower—meaning you grow finished edibles, whether herbs, leafy greens, tomatoes, berries, microgreens or what-have-you—Jen Polanz, editor of our Inside Grower newsletter, is looking to learn more about what you. It will help her curate and craft editorial that more closely suits your needs.

For you futurists:
If you have an opinion on where you think gardening is headed, the National Garden Bureau wants your input.

In celebration of their 100th Anniversary in 2020, they decided not to look back at old pictures, but look forward to the future of gardening—at least as envisioned by consumers. They did that survey last fall and found the results so interesting, they thought, “Wonder how the industry’s view of the future might line up with consumers’ views?” Hence this survey:

Results will be presented this summer at Cultivate’20 in Columbus, Ohio. It’s yet another way that NGB works to connect the industry to gardeners.

Propagating and growing industrial hemp

I hosted a webinar on this topic last Tuesday, with the help of sponsor Oasis Grower Solutions, and it was one of my best-attended ever! And with good reason: Everybody is curious about this crop.

I know, I know—I seem to post a lot of negative news about the crop, but that’s only as a precaution to you. I don’t want you to jump into it without being educated about all the risks that come with the potential riches.

To that end, HERE is a link to the archive of that webinar, which is chock full of technical details from three experts, including Dr. Allison Justice, owner and founder of The Hemp Mine, a 40-acre hemp production farm in South Carolina. She’s been growing hemp for six years, since the USDA first allowed pilot programs in 2014, so she really knows her stuff—including the risks and pitfalls, such as plummeting prices and changing regulations.

Meanwhile, down in Texas, the Texas A&M AgriLife Hemp Team has been helping curious Texas growers learn more about the crop. They held meetings across the state all winter long and have compiled their information, including videos, at THIS WEBSITE.

Topics covered in the meetings included the botany of cannabis, the cost of growing and processing industrial hemp and expected potential yields, THC and law enforcement, and the development of markets for industrial hemp.

Ball Seed’s THRIVE now offers region-specific suggestions

To help you and your customers get the right plant for the right place, Ball Seed is now offering their popular THRIVE Landscape Solutions pamphlet for five specific regions of the U.S. and Canada:

- Midwestern & Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada
- Southeastern U.S.
- Southwestern U.S.
- U.S. Gulf States
- Western U.S. and Western Canada

Each highlights dozens of top-performing annuals and perennials from Ball Seed, along with “Top Tips for Landscape Planting Success,” as well as a “What To Order When” calendar to help landscapers work more effectively with growers.

Ball Seed Landscape Business Manager Jeff Gibson, who put together the regional books, said, “Armed with these top-performing landscape varieties, your greenhouse can offer the same custom service and recommendations to your landscape customers for their ultimate installation success.”

Contact your Ball Seed sales rep or Ball ColorLink associate at (800) 879-BALL to request your regional copies of “2020 Thrive Landscape Solutions.” You can also browse them online and download digital copies at

Finally ...

Have you noticed any weird pest problems lately?

I heard yesterday that some growers aren’t facing the usual mélange of whiteflies, thrips and aphids. Instead, their greenhouses are invested with snakes and owls, who are chowing down on mice and rats. What next: locusts and frogs? (I shouldn’t say that, seeing how locusts have been devouring countries in eastern Africa—ugh!)

Share your unusual pest problem with me at and we might just contact you about it for an upcoming article.

See you next time,

Chris sig

Chris Beytes
GrowerTalks and Green Profit

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