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Avoid a Ship-Wreck When Shipping Plants

by Tyler Chandler in Ornamental
Posted:  Apr 25, 2019
You’re in control in the plant and greenhouse nursery. You control when the sprinklers are turned on and how long they run for. But, how do you control moisture after a plant gets on the truck? And what can you do to ensure healthy, beautiful plants are on display at the garden center?

It’s no easy task. But to talk about solutions, we must address plant shipping challenges:
  • Too much water can result in rotting roots and leaf spots. Even the sprinklers themselves can cause damage, knocking flowers off.
  • Too little water can lead to wilting, loss of flowers and flowers that lose the desirable shine on their leaves.
  • Variable temperatures impact water needs, especially if plants experience drastic temperature changes and shock.
  • Uneducated/apathetic garden center employees may not know or care about plant water needs.
The objective in shipping plants is to maintain adequate moisture with some built-in flexibility for variables like temperature and garden center staff.

So, what’s the solution? Wetting agents; more specifically, a blended wetting agent.


The Purpose of Wetting Agents

Wetting agents serve three key purposes:
  • Purpose #1: Reduce the effects of organic acids, which cause dry, hydrophobic areas in the soil. These hydrophobic areas negatively impact crop growth and root health. They also reduce fertilizer and chemical effectiveness by limiting movement and use within the soil media.
  • Purpose #2: Improve distribution of water, nutrients and plant protection products. Ultimately, organic acids create an inefficient pathway for water flow, causing water to bounce around and repel. The same happens when fertilizer and chemicals are applied. The net result is less effective soil media management.
  • Purpose #3: Stretch timing between irrigation events.
Ultimately, a wetting agent can help maintain moisture through the shipping period and even once a plant finds its home at the garden center.


Types of Wetting Agents

There are three types of wetting agents: penetrants, retention aides and blends. It’s important to have an understanding of all three to understand why blended wetting agents are most effective.
  • Penetrants are designed to move water off the soil surface and down into the potting media. They are best to apply at planting time when the soil may be fully hydrophobic. They can get soil media fully wet right away and help with pest control in the bottom half of potting media.
  • Retention aides help break through dry areas in soil media to reduce moisture stress. They’re designed to keep water and any chemical applications just beneath the soil surface, making them perfect for shallower root systems like you’d find at a golf course. Retention aides are also great for surface-level pests.
  • Blends combine the best attributes of both penetrants and retention aides. They provide the efficient water movement of penetrants and hold moisture around soil particles like retention aides. Use of a blended wetting agent allows for longer time spans between irrigation cycles. Other benefits include better water use (less water leeching) and drier leaves, which can help reduce fungicide costs. 
We recommend AquiSync® blended wetting agent.


Understanding Blended Wetting Agent Application

Blended wetting agents require the correct rate per volume of water and the correct solution volume per plant.
With AquiSync, the rate per volume of water is easy – you use 16 fluid ounces of blended wetting agent per 100 gallons of water. And a single application lasts about four to six months.

The challenging part is understanding how much finished solution should be added to the soil.

The chart below outlines solution volume per pot (wand system):
 Chart outlining solution volume per pot (wand system)

To achieve the ideal water volume per pot, take time to calibrate. Calibration is easy and only takes a minute or two. Get out a measuring cup, set it on the floor, turn on your wand and count the seconds until you fill the measuring cup to the respective volume. For example, if it’s an eight-inch pot, you’d count how many seconds it takes to fill the measuring cup with eight ounces of water. This calibration will tell you how many seconds of run time are needed to achieve the right application.

The chart below outlines solution parts per million (injector system):

Chart outlining solution parts per million (injector system)

If you’re using an injector system, the parts per million is dependent upon goals. Use 10 parts per million if you’re looking to spread the wetting agent out over several applications across weeks or even months. Use 100 parts per million if you would like to do a single dose of wetting agent up front and have it last for a while. Use 300 parts per million if you want to apply right before shipping for the maximum shelf life.

As stated above, a single application will last about four to six months, but will vary based on soil type, watering frequency, environment and more. Hot and wet conditions may call for more frequent application.


Keep Plants Healthy and Thriving

Your reputation as a nursery or greenhouse grower relies on plants that make it through the shipping process healthy and thriving.

Find your regional WinField United representative and ask about AquiSync®.

©2019 WinField United. Important: Before use always read and follow label instructions. Plant performance is dependent on several factors beyond the control of WinField United, including without limitation, soil type, pest pressures, growing practices, and weather conditions. Growers are encouraged to consider data from multiple locations, over multiple years, and be mindful of how such agronomic conditions could impact results. AquiSync® and WinField® are trademarks of WinField United.
 
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