Regional showcase - GroSouth

A wide range of exhibitors and speakers will feature at GroSouth to update visitors on all the latest industry topics, writes Matthew Appleby.

GroSouth: annual south coast growers' event is hosted by Roundstone Nurseries
GroSouth: annual south coast growers' event is hosted by Roundstone Nurseries

The 2016 GroSouth exhibition will mark the fifth year that Roundstone Nurseries has hosted the annual south coast growers' event. Top of the bill in the seminar programme is Tim Clapp, head of range, horticulture and garden care at Kingfisher.

He will give an interactive seminar on "what the consumer wants, how to get your product to market, what the end customer needs, what the customer looks for in a product and current trends". Clapp adds: "I will be talking about what we are looking for in plants and trying to demonstrate how confusing plants can be for gardeners to select."

The AHDB's Wayne Brough will speak on the AMBER (Application & Management of Biopesticides for Efficacy & Reliability) project as well as biopesticide use. The AMBER project runs from 2016 to 2020 under project leader David Chandler of the University of Warwick.

Nursery tour

Also on the agenda is a nursery tour around the Newlands site to include the propagation and production facilities and the new biomass boiler. Fargro's David Hide will once again be leading a delegation of students seeking a career in horticulture production to the show, featuring presentations and tours.

New exhibitors will include Poterie Goicoechea, LC Packaging and JFH Horticultural Supplies, while Petersfield Growing Mediums will return after a break. Petersfield sales manager Neil Williams says while growers are usually quite conservative about changing suppliers, some are a little unsettled after changes to some suppliers over the past couple of years.

Petersfield has invested in new bagging lines and automation at its Leicester base so is keen to recoup some of the outlay by gaining new business. "Normally growers are very conservative with their compost, find suppliers they like and stick with it. They have to be fairly rattled to start looking around."

Williams says the assurance of repeat orders helps to keep prices competitive, particularly in a market where exchange rates, wage increases and increased pension contributions mean a possible estimated three per cent increase in prices in the sector.

On exchange rates, he adds: "You have to be awake to it, but I'm pretty sure it will level out." On changes in supply from peat to peat-free, he notes that there has been little movement recently, though he would like to see more after successfully trialling a new way to add fertiliser into peat-free compost the latest in 25 years of trials.

"I'd like to get more peat-free business, if only to glen back years of trials. Peat-free has never taken off in the way we were led to believe it was going to but it has found its level." Petersfield supplies the National Trust and the RHS among others with peat-free, which is 20-30 per cent of its business.

Williams says big issues on the horizon are growing populations of vine weevil, caused by loss of effective controls, and the retirement of growers such as Greenfingers' Alan Beaumont and John Morris at Six Acre Plant Centre & Nursery, as many of a generation of nurserymen look to sell up.

Show sponsor Fargro continues to work with growers on its new biopesticide range including Met52, T34 and AQ10. This year Fargro has new ranges of all-weather plastic hanging baskets, new designs of rattan-style baskets and a new range of wooden, ceramic and galvanised planters as well as new containers.

Young Plants and Dummen Orange are supporting GroSouth as silver sponsors. Among other growers at the show will be Blue Ribbon, Bridge Nursery, Chapel Cottage, Earley Ornamentals, Gasa, Ball Colegrave, Kernock Park Plants, Kilworth Conifers, Pentland Plants, Rudy Raes, Seiont, Thompson & Morgan and Volmary.

GroSouth will kick off with the second HTA seasonal plant dinner at Chichester Park Hotel the night before the show (8 November), replacing HTA seasonal plant group meetings. Plants for Europe's Graham Spencer will give a talk entitled "Getting Excited!" and will focus on "how we can use innovation in plants to help keep enthusiasm going (not just with our customers)".

Afternoon conference

There will also be an afternoon conference before the dinner on "Integrated pest management for pest and disease control in ornamental crops", run by AHDB and Fargro at Brinsbury College Campus from 2.30pm to 5pm. Speakers will include Fargro, BASF and ADAS.

Kernock Parks Plants business development manager Mark Taylor says the topics that guests will be talking about at the dinner and show include Xylella, the National Living Wage, recruitment and consolidation. Taylor agrees with Petersfield's Williams that more and more nursery retirements are happening, often with growers hoping to get someone to run the nursery for them.

"From an ornamental grower point of view, there could be a honing down of plants grown because bigger growers are looking to supply B&Q and Homebase, Waitrose and discounters and they are only after specific plant lines, and only big volume lines will be grown by those big growers," he says.

"That leaves the more quirky stuff as the remit for independents. But it gets to the point where it is not economically viable to put varieties that are not being grown for the big people on the catalogues. People's lists of products will be reviewed and reviewed and reviewed."

Show details: GroSouth

When Wednesday 9 November

Where Roundstone Nurseries, Pagham Road, Lagness, Chichester, West Sussex PO20 1LL


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