Russell, formerly at Golden Acres and Sparsholt College, said the US exchange was "an absolutely incredible opportunity for me and a great career enhancement that has enabled me to broaden my knowledge and network with others in our industry from all around the globe".
He added: "It exceeded all my expectations and I have been able to seek and share plant production knowledge, new ideas, new products and technical innovations with other keen professionals in the industry. Going on this trip has shown me what America has to offer to the world of horticulture".
In the first week he visited 16 wholesale nurseries covering hardy nursery stock, ornamentals, annual and edibles production that were mostly growing crops for landscape customers as well as some garden centres and box stores. He also visited public and botanical gardens, research stations, garden centres and arboretums. The tour included the Mountain Research Lab with Thomas Ranney, looking at new nursery crops with a greater commercial potential and adaptability, including new tomato varieties.
"We travelled all the way from the coast to the mountains in North Carolina," said Russell. "I have seen some of the largest nurseries in the USA. One was a colossal 600 acres and it was fascinating to learn how a nursery of that sort of scale is managed. I was also very interested to learn that some nurseries have adapted to the Toyota Innovation Strategy for operations such as potting lines and I was lucky enough to see this in full operation.
"I was very surprised to see a motorbike attached to a side cart of a hedge trimmer used to trim the crops. It was also extremely exciting to see that there are so many other young and keen horticulturists working out in the States in high-level nursery management positions who are very keen to progress on up the ladder.
"In the second week I attended the IPPS southern region conference in Virginia Beach. This included presentations on LEDs in commercial production, breeding programmes, propagation schedules and new hybrids. It also involved more tours to nurseries including Lancaster Farms, Bennet's Creek Nurseries and Whites Nursery & Garden Centre.
"Being involved with IPPS is like having the horticultural bible in your hands as it allows you to tap into people from all different backgrounds and expertise with vast amounts of knowledge and be able to share knowledge and tips with them. I would strongly encourage every young horticultural professional to get involved in the IPPS and apply to be a six packer at next year's conference."