Young plant grower Southwest Perennials has been able to reduce the number of stock plants, increase the number of viable rooted cuttings and shorten rooting times with LEDs.

Jerry and Jonathan Soukup at Southwest Perennials in Dallas, Texas, are constantly looking for ways to maximize production of their starter plants. The father-son team produces over 300 varieties of primarily heat- and drought-tolerant plants. The plants, 80 percent of which are vegetatively propagated, are grown in 80,000 square feet of greenhouses at two different locations. Plants are produced in 72- and 128-cell trays. One of the things that the Soukups have done to run a labour-efficient operation is to keep their cultural practices simple and repeatable.

Southwest Perennials produces around 4 million starter plants annually. All of the young plants, both vegetative liners and seed plugs and stock plants are grown in Berger BM6 standard growing mix to which RootShield is added.

“We’ve been using the same growing mix for nearly 10 years,” said Jerry. “The only thing we add is a layer of vermiculite on the top of some seed-produced plug trays. The rest of the plants are grown in the straight mix.”

LEDs have major impact propagation

Jerry said the propagation system they have set up is relatively simple using poly-covered 30- by 100-foot Quonset houses and overhead mist. One new element that Jerry and Jonathan have added to their operation is installing Philips GreenPower LED Deep Red/White Flowering Lamps and GreenPower LED Deep Red/White/Far Red Flowering Lamps.

“At the 2013 Ohio Short Course, Hort Americas and Philips Lighting were running a show special, buy 20 bulbs get 10 bulbs free,” Jerry said. “We had heard and read about the benefits of LEDs so we decided it was a relatively cheap investment to make to see if the lights had any effect on our plants. We were on the sceptical side. I told Jonathan that we would invest a couple thousand dollars on the lights and we’d see if there is any difference with them."

Jerry said it didn’t take long to see the benefits of the LEDs on the plants. The bulbs were installed in mid-October and the plants started to show the effects of the supplemental light in three to four weeks.

Click here to read the complete article, written by David Kuack, at the corporate blog of Hort Americas.