A conference attendee checks out the tools of the trade.

UD Cooperative Extension Co-hosts the Horticulture Industry Expo and Pesticide Conference.

February 02, 2024 Written by Molly Schafer

More than 600 members of the green industry gathered this winter in Dover for the Delaware Horticulture Industry Expo and 34th annual Delaware Pesticide Conference. 

“The expo provides an opportunity for industry members to reconnect and experience what’s new in the green industry,” said Valann Budischak, executive director of the Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association (DNLA) and retired director of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens.  The event is possible through the long-standing partnership between the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, DNLA and the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA). 


Industry Members

Industry members include landscapers, greenhouse managers, turf grass specialists, land managers, golf course superintendents, nursery employees, suppliers, and state agencies. “The green industry includes anyone who plays in the dirt in some way, shape, or form,” quipped Budischak.


Continuing Education

The conference provides continuing education for recertification credits required for Pesticide Applicator Recertification. Attendees learned of significant changes to Delaware’s Pesticide Rules and Regulations this year. Adhering to the new regulations is required to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Certification of Pesticide Applicators and meet federal requirements.


New Data

UD Cooperative Extension specialist Brian Kunkel presented new data on the crapemyrtle bark scale (Acanthococcus lagerstroemiae), an invasive insect. Infestations of crapemyrtle bark scale can weaken the plant and promote the growth of sooty mold. Extension agent Tracy Wootten works alongside Kunkel; their collected data will help slow the spread of crapemyrtle bark scale in Delaware. 

“Before, we were only going off of what people in states further south were doing,” Wootten says. “Now we have data on which applications work and what time of year to apply them specific to Delaware.”

Sharing findings like these at the expo helps to raise awareness, an essential part of the conference. Wootten says people call her to report sightings and locations of invasive pests.

“Landscapers and others in the green industry provide the boots on the ground,” Budischak stated. “By identifying invasives on their client’s sites, they gather more data points for the cause.” “It is a partnership,” Budischak emphasized, “that began at this conference.”


Naturalistic Landscaping

UD alumnus Mike Leventry’s presentation “Cultural Management Solutions for the Landscape” explored successful and sustainable landscape management. Naturalistic landscaping and stormwater management are among the top industry trends for 2024. Wootten sees a need for horticulture and landscape information and education as communities push to take over the management of homeowners' associations. 

“People are more aware of the benefit of having native plants in our landscape, to provide wildlife and pollinator habitat,” emphasized Wootten. Budischak notes that naturalistic landscapes are more sustainable but not maintenance-free. “These landscapes require a different skill set to maintain,” explained Budischak. “So, we’re retraining the landscape industry to maintain naturalistic landscapes.”


Alternatives to Common Groundcovers

Lauren Kope, director of the UD Botanic Gardens, presented “Groundcover Trials and Tribulations: A Performance Evaluation of Options to Invasives.” The Botanic Gardens trial seeks alternatives to common groundcovers recently banned from sale in Delaware. The green industry plans to gather at the UD Botanic Gardens this summer, where the plant trial results will be on view. “In August,” Budischak says, “we’ll take the classroom outside.” 


The DNLA Summer Turf & Nursery Expo will be held in August 2024 at the UD Botanic Gardens. 


Two exhibitors chatting at the trade table.

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