Growers take impatiens action

HDC seminar hears that Roundstone Nurseries is joining growers ditching cutting-raised material.

More growers are planning to stop producing imported cutting-raised impatiens walleriana following the outbreak of downy mildew on the plants earlier this year.

The metalaxyl-resistant strain of downy mildew is thought to have originated on this material, which accounts for about four per cent of the £25m-£40m impatiens market. It is likely that most seed-raised impatiens production will continue.

Speaking at the Horticultural Development Company's Impatiens Downy Mildew seminar last week, Roundstone Nurseries technical director Chris Need said: "We won't grow from cutting-raised material. We believe that it is probably possible to grow seed-raised impatiens with low risk, but we have serious reservations about selling products to customers that are unreliable.

"Why do people grow impatiens? Because they like reliable products. We don't have any forecasts for any of our retailers for impatiens next year and I believe that's the responsible approach."

WD Smith director Mike Smith added that no impatiens could be guaranteed. "We are telling the people we supply that if they are going to stock impatiens, then give customers a warning. We would encourage customers to ask all suppliers not to grow cutting-raised material. We are going to continue to grow seed-raised impatiens and will probably take the most important varieties.

"Seed-raised impatiens are incredibly cheap and good value for money, and cutting-raised impatiens haven't really sold well in the past."

Syngenta has also deci- ded not to deliver any cutting-raised material to the UK. Ball Colegrave said in a letter sent to customers last month that cutting-raised material would still be available next year. But managing director Sandy Shepherd said the company would reconsider following the discussions at the seminar.

Stockbridge Technology Centre science director Martin McPherson said managing the disease would be much easier if no material was imported.

"Is it really worth the risk importing this three to four per cent of vegetative cuttings? You would never get 100 per cent adoption and there is always going to be someone who is going to break ranks and import cuttings material," he said.

"If someone does bring in vegetative cuttings material, at the very least they need to make sure it's quarantined. If you can, don't do it at all."

Taking stock - Retailers gauge consumer confidence in impatiens

Retailers are facing a difficult decision about whether to stock impatiens next year, industry figures have said.

Speaking at the Horticultural Development Company's Impatiens Downy Mildew seminar last week, RHS chief horticultural adviser Guy Barter said the overall reaction to the downy mildew outbreak from gardeners had been muted. "They are mostly content to put it down to the weather rather than the retailers," he said.

However, retailers are concerned about a loss of confidence in the product. "Consumer confidence is the most important thing," argued Golden Acres Group operations director Simon Edwards.

"We will be providing a warning to allow them to make an informed choice."

Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker said garden centres would be selling fewer impatiens or none at all.

"There are a lot of other products out there and we will be promoting them," he said. "We will be going with what the growers suggest."

Coolings is not stocking impatiens next year and is advising customers not to buy them from any other nursery or garden centre.

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