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Prof Attends Essen Plant Messe in Germany

By Kendra Knutson

MARCH 23, 2007--How would you like to receive a dozen five-foot tall roses for Valentine's Day? These gigantic roses, robotics used in transplanting fauna that operate like the human arm, and greenhouse heaters that burn bio-sources such corn cobs for fuel are just a few of the many fascinating items that University of Wisconsin-River Falls horticulture Professor Terry Ferriss witnessed on a recent journey to Europe.  

Ferriss, along with 49 other floriculture faculty and industry professionals, traveled to Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Germany in January as part of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) tour of Dutch greenhouses and the International Plant Messe, Essen, Germany (IPM-Essen), which is the largest greenhouse industry trade show in Europe.  

The IPM-Essen was Ferriss's main reason for taking the trip. The trade show is held annually to unveil cutting-edge technology and trends in the ornamental plant industry. This year's show included 1,400 exhibitors from 42 countries with an attendance of 57,800 visitors. Various international displays promote new innovations and developments in floriculture throughout the world. The IPM-Essen is also a great way for people involved in the floriculture industry to not only network with each other but bring back knowledge and ideas to their communities and classrooms in order to better predict and deal with future industry trends.

Ferris learned about new marketing strategies and how to discover what the consumer prefers. "Marketing is not just about the plant anymore, it's about the total package," said Ferriss. Consumers are looking at the overall appearance, including color and shape of the container. She found that popular European containers were very tall (two or three feet) and slender.

Ferriss said she noticed bog differences in style and taste when comparing popular color and plant variety trends in the United States versus other countries. The new fashionable color trend around the world is the citrus earth tones. Ferriss said those color tones are in the interior of the new UWRF University Center that is decorated in yellow, orange and brown tones.

This trip has helped her get a "glimpse of the next popular scheme," she said. In this country it could be a pink, lavender, burgundy, and mauve combination.   

According to her observations, several different types of plant materials and plant settings are more popular in Europe than in the United States. For example, in Europe, woody ornamentals are placed in large patio containers instead of just annuals, as is the usual U.S. planting. Hydrangea's, succulents, and herbs are also more popular there. Demonstrations were also given on using plants to create an outdoor living space.   Different colored foliage plants and orchids still tend to be the most popular choices throughout the world.

Another interesting experience was seeing the five-foot tall, long-stem roses from Ecuador. "I walked up to them and they were as tall as I am!" said Ferriss. These roses grow naturally on a farm that is located amid two 9,600-foot volcanoes in Ecuador. They measure between five and six feet and reach this height because of the extended daylight and cool night temperatures. Their blooms open up to a full three- to four-inch diameter flower.

Trip participants also had the opportunity to tour the greenhouses, network with other plant producers, and see top of the line robotics and mechanical prototypes. The advanced robotics operates much like the human arm and is used for transplanting purposes. According to Ferriss they are not only capable of picking up the pots and moving them, but are also precise enough to perform an individual plant cutting.

Other featured products included new benching materials to utilize more space in greenhouses, mechanical pruners for trees in nurseries, and pot spacers. Ideas on light reduction in the summertime were demonstrated using different colors of shading materials.   Several types of boilers utilizing various fuel sources such as wood pellets, dry shelled corn and corncobs were also on site.        

Although Ferriss had two days to explore the Essen show, it was so large that she still felt like she rushed through it. Her favorite part of the trip was just being able to actually witness the show and to network with other people. Ferriss said she was also excited to see two former UWRF students, who are now working on graduate degrees.   

Ultimately, Ferriss said that this trip has taught her that plant industry professionals need to be careful not to make assumptions about consumers. They need to carefully research actual consumer preferences. An example is the popular color of roses. In the United States it is generally red, but one cannot assume that to be true everywhere in the world. In Europe, for example, the most popular color is not red, but orange.

The ASHS association she toured with was founded in 1903 and is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, application. The objectives of these ASHS working groups are to promote interaction among the research, extension, teaching and industry components of horticultural science, provide a forum for discussion and exchanging ideas, promote basic and applied research by identifying needs and developing methods and procedures, promote good relationships with other similar interest organizations, educate the public, recruit young scientists, and recognize outstanding contributions.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:06 Central Daylight Time


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