Helios Nursery was founded as a propagator of apple, pear and cherry bare root rootstocks and grafted trees in McMinnville, Ore. The company’s marketing niche is to only grow elite root stock and elite fruit tree varieties. Most of the hundreds of thousands of rootstocks and grafted trees the company produces annually are shipped nationally to fruit orchardists. Its two-year-old grafted trees are field grown and sold bare root.
Foto 1: Using Ellepots, Todd Erickson, manager (left), and Tye Fleming, owner, at Helios Nursery in McMinnville, Ore., have been able to condense 12 months’ worth of elite fruit tree rootstock production into six weeks.
Foto 2: Elite fruit tree rootstock cuttings propagated in Ellepots can be graded and removed from the trays in six weeks. Rootstock cuttings propagated in conventional pots and trays take 12-16 weeks before they are rooted and ready to grade.
Helios Nursery manager Todd Erickson said the company was looking to differentiate itself from its competitors by accelerating the availability of elite rootstocks and elite varieties of grafted trees.
Erickson said Helios Nursery needed to increase its production of elite bare root rootstocks and two-year-old elite variety grafted trees to meet the increasing demand from its orchardist customers.
Ellepots enable Helios Nursery to produce multiple rootstock crops per year, which helps the company meet the changing demand of the market.
“We have chosen to produce all of our elite rootstocks in Ellepots,” Erickson said. “In the Ellepots and Ellepot trays we can propagate the rootstocks in the greenhouse in a much shorter period of time. And the rootstock plants that we produce have many more roots. Producing a rootstock bare root in the field takes at least a year. In Ellepots and Ellepot trays we can accelerate the process significantly.”
Helios Nursery is producing several varieties of apple, cherry and pear rootstocks. “We are growing in two different sizes of Ellepots, the 45 mm by 60 mm long and 35 mm by 60 mm (72 Ellepot Deep),” Erickson said. “Most of the rootstocks we are producing have a sizeable root system and that’s why we like to use Ellepots that are a little longer than wide. We have found a uniform growing substrate that we are able to use for all of the rootstocks. We are using Ellepots for all of the rootstocks we produce.”
Erickson said using Ellepots has enabled his company to propagate and ship rootstocks from April through November. “For a grower who is doing the propagation outside, it would take a year to produce one crop,” he said. “Doing the propagation in Ellepots in a greenhouse, we are able to produce multiple crops per year,” he said. “We are propagating from April 1 until Dec. 1.”
Helios Nursery uses Ellepots and Ellepot trays to propagate its rootstocks in a greenhouse which accelerates the process significantly. Producing a rootstock bare root in the field takes at least a year.
Another advantage of propagating the rootstocks in Ellepots is being able to grade and consolidate the cuttings much more quickly than propagating in conventional plastic containers. “Propagating in Ellepots allows the rooted cuttings to be removed from the trays sooner because the paper is holding the soil ball together,” Erickson said. “The cuttings can be consolidated and graded in half the time. In the Ellepots, the cuttings can be removed from the trays immediately after rooting begins. If the cuttings are propagated in plastic containers, the cuttings can’t be removed from the pots and trays until the plants’ roots have fully filled the soil area. The cuttings in the Ellepots haven’t necessarily produced more roots, but they can be processed much more quickly.”
Erickson said the rootstock cuttings propagated in Ellepots can be graded and removed from the trays in six weeks. He said it would take 12-16 weeks for cuttings propagated in conventional pots and trays before the roots would fill the whole pot.
Being able to produce multiple rootstock crops per year helps Helios Nursery meet the changing demand of the market. “It takes the same amount of time to produce a finished grafted tree, but it takes much less time to produce the elite rootstock in Ellepots,” Erickson said. “We can react to the needs of the market much more quickly.”
Helios Nursery originally purchased its Ellepots from a horticultural distributor. After several years of successfully using Ellepots, company officials decided to purchase their own Ellepot machine. “Purchasing our own Ellepot machine initially got sidetracked,” Erickson said. “We encountered a southern European equipment manufacturer that claimed to sell machines that were faster and cheaper than the Ellepot machines from Ellegaard. “What this other equipment company had promised, it wasn’t able to deliver. Its machine did not run nearly as fast as promised and the company provided very little technical service or guidance to solve the problem.”
Helios Nursery worked with EllepotUSA, which assisted the nursery resolve its problems and sold the company an Ellepot machine. “The saying “If it is too good to be true, then it probably is.” definitely would apply in this case,” Erickson said.
Helios Nursery can now focus on producing healthy and superior rootstocks and grafted trees for its customers. It is using its new Ellepot machine and the correct type of Ellepot paper to meet its production requirements.
“We do multiple turns of elite rootstocks per year,” said Todd Erickson, Helios Nursery manager. “Ellepots allow us to respond immediately to our customers’ changing demands. Something not possible using conventional methods of propagation.”
This article was written by freelance technical writer David Kuack for Ellepot
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