Thrips are tiny insects that have four featherlike wings, each consisting of a thick supporting strut with fine hairs on the front and hind edges.
Thrips inflict millions of dollars’ worth of losses annually. Thrips can reduce yield and/or the aesthetic or economic value of plants by causing feeding and egg-laying injury. They also transmit plant-damaging viruses to their hosts.
Species that feed on ornamentals include western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis; greenhouse thrips, Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis; and chilli thrips, Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood.
Researchers from across the globe have sequenced and analyzed the western flower thrips genome
Scientists now have a complete genetic blueprint of the western flower thrips to help them better understand the pest and to find ways to control it.
A peer-reviewed scientific paper about the discovery was published in BMC Biology in October 2020. Dorith Rotenberg, associate professor at North Carolina State University’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, is lead author of the paper.
“Entomologists and growers know this very well: Thrips are notorious for building up resistance very quickly,” Rotenberg says. “And so you have to consider developing and using different types of chemicals and integrating alternative control strategies to manage this pest.”
The genome could speed the development of solutions by helping researchers pinpoint molecular-level targets among the insect’s nearly 17,000 genes. Read the paper here: https://rdcu.be/ckQjT
Sources: University of Georgia Extension; University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources; Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Departments - View Point
Placing a price tag on the world’s natural assets allows people to look at the economic value of air, water and forests.
If corporations and people knew that the benefits of a local urban forest were worth, say, $12,000, would they be more inclined to take care of it?
Some economic and public policy pundits say yes, and I tend to agree with them. I recently read a story in The Conversation, “Putting a dollar value on nature will give governments and businesses more reasons to protect it” by Linda Bilmes. She’s the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Public Finance at Harvard Kennedy School. (http://bit.ly/nature_dollar_value)
Some reports say that the loss of the natural environment could become the planet’s sixth mass extinction. How will price tags of sorts help? Bilmes says, “As an expert on budgeting and public finance, I know that governments and private businesses alike pay much more attention to resources when they have a well-defined price tag. I believe that overhauling society’s concept of wealth to include ‘natural capital’ – the value nature provides to humans – is a critical step for slowing and reversing the loss of precious ecosystems.”
Natural capital is the world’s stocks of natural assets – air, water, forests, soil, and all living things from elephants down to tiny microbes. And these resources contribute more than $125 trillion to the global economy annually, according to the World Wildlife Fund. She explains that forests absorb carbon and filter the water we drink, and bees pollinate crops that enable us to grow food. Those things have economic values.
However, Bilmes notes that while actions to combat climate change have measurable goals, “there is no globally accepted metric for saving biodiversity” and that “human societies don’t formally recognize the economic value of these services.” And that has a direct effect on the degradation of our natural assets.
She mentions the Capitals Coalition, an organization that seeks to persuade at least half of the world’s businesses, financial institutions and governments to incorporate natural capital into their decision-making by 2030. The coalition believes “By identifying and measuring the value that flows between nature, people, society and the economy, ... [it leads] to outcomes that deliver benefits across the system.”
Bilmes says that natural capital accounting “would require businesses and governments to calculate how human activity affects nature, much as they assess depreciation of buildings or machinery. Analyzed in this way, nature is a financial asset, and damage to it becomes a liability. This approach creates incentives to conserve natural resources and restore others that have been degraded or depleted.”
“Adopting metrics to measure and track the benefits people receive from wildlife and ecosystems would clarify how human activities affect nature and show how much investment is needed to reverse humanity’s current destructive trajectory,” she says.
Your trees are sold to municipalities where urban forests filter air and water, control storm water, conserve energy, and provide animal habitat and shade. Your plugs are used in grassland restorations. Your products are natural assets and valuable in many senses, including natural capital.
The impact felt when an employee leaves is exacerbated when labor markets are tight. Leaders at all levels in the organization need to be cognizant of the message their actions send to employees when someone leaves.
Leaders are always being watched. How the leadership reacts when someone leaves is going to impact how everyone else reacts. If they are transparent, honest, and don’t act like the sky is falling, they acknowledge the loss, but pivot quickly into fill that gap, employees will take that cue, and things will go on without a glitch.
If you feel that workers today don’t have the same loyalty to employers that previous generations did, you are correct. Younger generations definitely have less tolerance for being unhappy. They are just not going to stay in a job if it’s not fulfilling a purpose that they believe in.
So, what can employers in construction do to attract and keep employees on the job in this market? Here are five key strategies.
Pay attention to exit interviews
When people leave an organization, it’s critical to find out why. According to the 2018 Retention Report from the Work Institute the top three reasons employees leave are:
Career Development – No opportunity to grow in a preferred job and career.
Work-Life Balance – Better work-life balance, which includes more favorable schedules, shorter commute times and scheduling flexibility.
Manager Behavior – Unprofessional or unsupportive managers. Exit interviews can be a useful tool in identifying the reasons why employees are leaving, provided they ask the right questions.
The goal of the exit interview should be to find out where the company did well or fell short on communication or meeting expectations. While exit interviews can be a useful tool, it’s about more than just collecting data. Companies need to analyze and share the information and then follow up with action. Understand that exiting employees might not be comfortable providing answers. If you haven’t already developed a culture of trust, when an employee leaves, they are not all of sudden going to divulge everything to you.
Examine your mission, values and vision
Problems such as high attrition, low trust, low morale, and low engagement are all a result of a compromised culture. Companies that start to deviate from their mission, vision, and values struggle. I recommend that you re-engineer your hiring processes to ensure that new hires have the technical competence and are culturally aligned with your company’s core values before they begin. For example, PCL Construction, ranked #98 on Fortune magazine’s Best Places to Work, and #7 on Engineering News-Record’s Top 400 list of general contractors, uses behavioral aptitude tests such as the Predictive Index to help gain a clear understanding of the motivating needs and behaviors of potential team members.
“We use a two-pronged approach to seek out interest and if the potential candidate seems like a good fit, the next steps would include an in-person interview,” says Dianna Hemphill-O’Byrne, communications specialist for PCL.
Be process-centric, not hero-centric
The more your processes are documented, and employees are trained on those processes, the less risk there is to the organization when a key person leaves. Employees can then easily step in and fill the void. When a company revolves around a handful of heroes, it can be demoralizing for the people who are not one of those heroes.
Check in with employees at all levels
It’s important to know what’s happening throughout all levels of the company. If you’re only talking with other C-level executives, you can be blinded. I view companies as puzzles. When one puzzle piece is missing, the puzzle is still incomplete. Everybody matters and everyone sees the company from their own perspective. Leaders need to understand what motivates everyone in the organization.
Lose the hierarchy
The idea of coming in and paying your dues before you speak up is an antiquated view. From the day they start on the job you should give employees an opportunity to be valuable. Creating cultures of mentorship rather than a strict hierarchy is really important. Encourage communication and collaboration.
At employee-owned PCL Construction, all salaried employees are eligible to become shareholders, and more than 90 percent choose the option.
“Employee-ownership is consistently ranked as a top differentiator for us among our competitors,” says Hemphill-O’Byrne.
Employee-ownership provides a sense of belonging and an understanding that people at all levels contribute to success. According to Fortune, dividends for long-term employees often exceed their annual salaries.
Editor’s note: This copy is courtesy of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, aem.org.
Marissa Levin is the co-founder of Successful Culture International, which applies a proprietary Culture Development Lifecycle to help organizations move from current state to desired state, and helps leaders reach their greatest personal and organizational potential. successfulculture.com
Departments - STRATEGIC CORNER
Increasing sales prices is the only effective way to reduce demand and relieve the pressure on inventories.
The Texas freeze has put a squeeze on nursery inventories. The nursery market is as short as we have seen it in quite some time, and supply continues to tighten as shipments to Texas have increased threefold since Valentine’s Day. This accelerating shortage has led to a rapid increase in prices and a reduction in the size of plant materials available for shipment. In some cases, crops are completely sold out and certain core items are unavailable at any price.
Nurseries with available inventory are experiencing a surge in sales and higher prices for now. But do they have the inventory depth and discipline to maintain a steady flow of availability? Selling plants during a spring shortage is fast and frenetic. Without a clear sales plan, weekly targets, and the ability to track inventory movement in real-time, nurseries run the risk of selling too fast.
Selling too fast can be as deadly as selling too slow because overselling creates inventory gaps. These gaps limit future sales and cash flows, sending loyal customers to the competition. Nurseries that sell out of inventory will have to wait months to bring fresh inventory online. With nothing to sell, these nurseries will have plenty of time to consider how much money they left on the table when plants were flying out the door.
In an effort to manage inventory, some nurseries have chosen not to ship to Texas or not to take on new customers this spring. Certain nurseries allocate inventory to existing customers, set quotas on orders, or limit sales to brokers. These measures help to limit the flow of inventory, but they are like fingers trying to plug holes in a mighty dam. When there's a shortage, the market will burst through one way or another.
Increasing sales prices is the only effective way to reduce demand and relieve the pressure on inventories. Anyone who has taken a course in macroeconomics knows how this works. When demand exceeds supply, prices will increase until the market comes back into equilibrium. Just how much prices need to increase will depend on the elasticity of the demand. In theory, this law is simple and rational, but in practice, things get a little messy in our industry. Many suppliers hesitate to increase prices, and prices rarely climb as high as the market will allow. There seems to be an invisible ceiling on pricing.
“Let’s not raise prices too much and risk being perceived as taking advantage of the situation,” some say.
“We need to help our customers now and keep prices low, because one day we will need the customer to support us when the shoe is on the other foot,” others might say.
Whatever the rationalization may be, the facts remain the same and the law of supply and demand cannot be controverted.
When we fail to properly value our inventories, the market is in disequilibrium and the customer is the one to suffer. Undervaluation causes inventories to sell at an unsustainable rate, creating industry-wide inventory gaps. These shortages result in construction schedule delays, failed inspections, missed market opportunities, and other downstream consequences that cost the customer far more than a price increase.
In my estimation, nursery inventories remain critically undervalued despite the price increases this spring. In some cases, product lines may be as much as 20-30% undervalued. Inventories are moving too fast, inevitably leading to more shortages in the future. It will be interesting to see what happens this summer and next fall. My prediction is that demand will continue to be strong, inventory gaps will widen, and prices will continue to increase — too slowly.
With higher prices and shortages on the horizon, the nursery industry will join the ranks of the growing number of industries facing the same. Just look up the lumber futures (LB on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) or the steel futures (HRC on the New York Mercantile Exchange). Shortages and inflationary trends seem to be everywhere. Oil and gas prices are up. The price of plastics, including irrigation materials and nursery supplies, are up. Everywhere you look, materials are short and input prices are increasing.
It does not take a degree in economics to know what effect this inflation will have on nursery profits if nursery prices do not increase commensurately. Most significantly, the cost and availability of labor are under tremendous pressure. There is increasing competition for labor from the construction industry and other industries hiring workers off the farm. Additionally, a multitude of factors are taking workers out of the workforce (i.e. Covid relief payments, high unemployment benefits, immigration challenges, and the aging of our core agricultural workforce). On top of all these factors, 25 states increased their minimum wage this year with some states, including Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, and California, passing laws that will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Expect a $15 minimum wage to increase the total nursery cost of goods by at least 10%. And that is just labor rate inflation. Add on top of that the higher cost of most input materials, and you can expect nursery production costs to increase 20-30% in the coming years. Whatever price increases have taken place this past spring will not offset these higher costs. Hopefully, we see more rational pricing decisions kick in this summer. The bottom line is that we need to keep up with inflation and market demand, or profits will get left behind. NM
Timothee Sallin is co-CEO of IMG Enterprises, the parent company of Cherrylake Inc. and IMG Citrus Inc. Timothee is passionate about promoting sustainable agricultural and landscape practices, as well as innovation in technology and organizational leadership. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in economics and international studies. He’s also a graduate of the University of Florida’s Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. www.cherrylake.com
Departments - Green Guide
The delightful flowers of this deciduous shrub are a favorite of hummingbirds.
Forks is a small town on Washington’s beautiful Olympic Peninsula. The town was built by the timber industry but made famous by vampires. Many of you have read the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer or seen the Twilight movies. Michelle and I spent my birthday weekend in Forks and everywhere you turn, signs refer to the sanguine, mythical creatures. In early spring in the Pacific Northwest, the blood-red flowers of Ribes sanguineum begin to show their colors. This beautiful shrub is native to the coastal mountains and valleys of western North America, from the Pacific Ocean to the western slopes of the Cascades. It ranges from southwestern British Columbia to Southern California from sea level to an elevation of 6,000 feet. The discovery of R. sanguineum by Western explorers is credited to Archibald Menzies, the Scottish surgeon and botanist who served in the Royal Navy under the command of Captain George Vancouver on his voyage around the world on HMS Discovery in the late 1700s. The Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga mensiesii, was jointly named after Menzies and his fellow Scottish botanist David Douglas. Both men made enormous contributions to botanical exploration in the early 19th century.
R. sanguineum is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub growing 8-10 feet tall in an upright, vase shaped to rounded habit. The leaves have three to five lobes and are deeply veined so that they almost appear crinkled. The timing of the red blooms is perfect for early foraging hummingbirds and other pollinators. It grows in full to partial sun in well drained soil. It is drought resistant once established. One selection that I’m particularly fond of is R. sanguineum ‘Vampire’, introduced by Dancing Oaks Nursery in Monmouth, Oregon. It has 8-inch-long pendant racemes of bright crimson flowers and is extremely floriferous. ‘King Edward Vll’ is also a noteworthy cultivar which received the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society Award of Merit and the even more prestigious “Great Plant Pick” by the Elisabeth Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle. You can’t go wrong with either of these beautiful shrubs.
Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. firstname.lastname@example.org