The Mississippi (MS) Greenhouse Tomato Short Course has been held every March since 1989. The purpose of this 2-day, intensive training is to educate growers so they will be able to successfully grow greenhouse tomatoes as a viable horticultural business. With a mixture of experienced, novice, and prospective growers, it is just as important to provide current growers with research based, practical information, as to expose potential growers to the realities of the business, helping them make an informed decision before investing time and money. Beginning as a small program for a handful growers in the conference room at the Truck Crops Experiment Station, it has gradually grown in number and diversity of participants and invited speakers, depth of subject matter, and geographic origin of growers and speakers. The 2003 program had 142 participants from over 20 states and 4 countries, making it the largest such program in the United States. This is in keeping with the recent trend. The typical lineup of topics includes the basics of producing a commercial crop of hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes, the budget for establishing and operating a greenhouse business, marketing and promotion, pest and disease identification and management, and the grower's point of view. Other topics, varying year to year, include heating, cooling, and ventilation of greenhouses, record keeping, new technologies, biological control, diagnostics, and alternative crops. For 2004, the subject of organic production will be introduced. With targeted extension programming such as this Short Course, the greenhouse tomato industry in MS has grown from 15 growers in 1989 to 135 growers today, producing $6.5 million in annual gross sales. Complete information can be found at www.msstate.edu/dept/cmrec/ghsc.htm.
Research indicates that humor is an effective method to reinforce learning, yet humor is rarely used in horticultural textbooks. Use of humor in horticulture is easier than in many disciplines because humor dealing with plants is less likely to offend specific population segments since plants, not people, are usually the butt of the jokes. A large collection of plant humor has been assembled, including the following: Edward Lear's 32 line drawings of “Nonsense Botany”, e.g. Manypeeplia upsidonia; Gary Larson's macabre Far Side cartoons dealing with plants, e.g. the “Venus kidtrap”; periodic tables of vegetables and of fruits & nuts; Arcimboldo's Renaissance paintings of faces composed of flowers, vegetables, and plant parts and their modern imitations; Robert Wood's book, How to Tell the Birds From The Flowers, containing drawings and poems; Axel Erlandson's fantasticly grafted trees; plant movies like the two versions of Little Shop of Horrors, which is set in a flower shop; Joke Fountains of the Renaissance; and numerous cartoons from science periodicals.
Economics and logistics have greatly reduced or eliminated the ability of horticulture instructors to use field trips or on-site visits as educational tools. This is especially problematic in the field of greenhouse management and controlled environment agriculture, since the facilities and technologies used are essential to the discipline. To address this problem, we developed 15 DVD-based virtual field trips (VFT's) that instructors may use to demonstrate to students the most up-to-date facilities, technologies, and management strategies used in greenhouse management (ornamental and food crops) and controlled environment agriculture (GCEA). Each VFT included a preface with background information about the company, a tour organized by subject chapters, self-examination, and a teacher's guide with additional information and case studies. Each land-grant institution with an instructional program in greenhouse management of controlled-environment agriculture will be provided a free copy of each VFT, which will benefit all instructors of GCEA in the United States.
Graduate students received training in total crop management (TCM) techniques including pest scouting and trapping, nutritional monitoring, and graphical tracking of crop height. In 1995, one student visited five greenhouse businesses biweekly during the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd.) season to provide TCM training to one greenhouse employee per business. In 1996, a second student visited one greenhouse business every week during the poinsettia crop to conduct the TCM program for that business. The students benefited from the gained practical knowledge of greenhouse production techniques and TCM techniques, and they also benefited from the opportunity to visit commercial greenhouses and interact with staff throughout the production cycle for an entire crop. This program also provided the students with the opportunity to develop their teaching, communication and training skills. The participating growers benefited during this study from receiving useful production information and TCM training. An evaluation of the program conducted in 1998 indicated that four of the five participating businesses continue to use some TCM techniques, while two of the five have fully integrated the TCM program into their normal production routines.
A laboratory exercise is outlined and discussed for seed priming, or osmoconditioning. The exercise was developed using an easily constructed and inexpensive seed-priming system. A variety of horticultural seeds can be used to give students experience and exposure to some of the benefits of seed priming. Seed germination data usually can be obtained within 6 to 8 days, depending on the species used. The laboratory may be modified to stress various features of seed priming, including priming agents, optimal concentrations, and ranges of germination temperatures.