Which plants best improve air quality, plus pollinating drones and retailers who regulate chemicals

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jennifer Duffield White Subscribe

Energy Efficiency Help
Retail Regulating Chemicals
Organic Survey
Pollinating Drones
Pollinator Conference

Apply for Energy Grants by March 31

We’ve begun to see a bit more communication coming from USDA offices since the last issue of GreenTalks. USDA Rural Development offices recently sent out reminders about energy grant applications being due on March 31. So if you’re thinking of tackling an energy efficiency or renewable energy improvement for your greenhouse or garden center, it’s time to get that grant application finished.

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides grants that cover up to 25% of the total project cost. They also offer loan guarantees, which you can apply for throughout the year.

Grant applications are due March 31, 2017. Start by contacting your local USDA Rural Development office. And don’t forget that many of the companies that offer energy efficiency or renewable energy products have programs to help their customers with the application process.

About REAP
Find your local Rural Development office

Who’s Regulating Chemicals?

It’s expected, with pending changes at the Environmental Protection Agency, that we’ll see a change in some of the federal rules by which the chemical and manufacturing industries operate. And yet, it’s worth remembering that retailers and state and local governments can create a significant impact on what’s sold or used in the manufacturing/growing process.

For the last few years, retailers have been pushing to affect change at the store level—as we’ve seen with plants and certain pesticides, either limiting or labeling plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids.

Target recently announced they are proceeding with a transparency and chemicals policy that will include restricting (minimizing or eliminating) certain substances in textile, beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning products. (They do not mention garden products.) And don’t forget that Walmart has their own program to phase out specific chemicals. But the out-of-the-ordinary part of Target’s announcement was that they say they will also be putting money towards research and development of safer alternatives.

Which is to say that consumers and retailers, for better or worse, have concerns, and they still have a lot of power in the marketplace.


Organic Producer Survey

Another announcement I received from the USDA: the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is conducting the 2016 Certified Organic Survey to gather new data on certified organic crops and livestock commodities in the United States.

If you’re an organic grower, don’t forget to participate. (The survey is mailed to all known certified organic producers in all 50 states.) The info you provide is critical to help determine the economic impact of certified organic agriculture production in the United States. In the long-run, the data is used by both businesses and policy decision makers. The information you provide is confidential.

Bromeliads: Removing VOCs One Room at a Time

Looking to boost indoor plant sales? You might try harnessing the research of Vadoud Niri, Ph.D.  Last summer he presented new research at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society on reducing air pollution with houseplants. He and his team looked at how different types of houseplants remove different types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Here’s a quick rundown:

Bromeliad: One of the best all-around plants in the study, removing six out of eight VOCs. It’s best at removing benzene (found in car exhaust).

Dracaena: All the plants listed here remove acetone, but dracaena is the best, removing 94% of it from the air.

Spider plant: Great at removing ethylbenzene, p-Xylenes, o-Xylene and acetone.

Jade plant: Great at removing benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, p-Xylenes and o-Xylene

Here’s a YouTube video you can share on the topic.

A Drone that Pollinates?

New Scientist recently reported on research out of Japan that has created a pollinating drone that does the work of bees.

With pollinator populations in trouble in many areas, and with so many crops dependent on pollination, the drone is being touted as perhaps the wave of the future. Thus far, researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology have successfully cross-pollinated Japanese lilies with the small 4-cm-wide drone.

But critics have cited that a) drones could not feasibly pollinate acres of orchards with thousands of flowers per tree, and b) a drone would not solve the issue of bees’ other ecosystem services, including pollinating plants in nature.

Protecting Pollinators in Urban Landscapes

So, if drones are not the answer to the pollinator problem, there are some more concrete answers waiting for you at the Protecting Pollinators in Urban Landscapes Conference.

Save the date: It’s October 9-11, 2017, in Traverse City, Michigan. Hosted by Michigan State University and North Carolina State University. The program has not yet been published, but when it is, you’ll find it at http://protectingpollinators.org.

Until next time,

Jennifer Duffield White

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