I Wish They All Could Be California Flowers


shutterstock tulips


tulip image via Shutterstock

Hey, good news!  Pesticide use on California-grown cut flowers is way down over the last decade, according to this report from UC.  California has required farms to file monthly pesticide use reports since 1990, and since 2001 those reports have been more crop-specific, making it possible to track pesticide use on cut flowers specifically.

Overall pesticide use on cut flowers has declined a whopping 50% in the last decade.  And of the pesticides still in use, many of them are organic controls like sulfur.  According to the report, the cut flower industry “is slanting away from the use of traditional, broad-spectrum materials such as organophosphates and carbamates towards inorganic products like soaps and oils, botanicals, insect pathogens, insect growth regulators and the use of biological control agents.”

Worker exposure/injury due to pesticide use is also down, and this is a major concern that doesn’t get discussed often enough.  Usually, when we talk about pesticide use, it’s all about residue on the food we eat or impact on honeybees and the rest of the environment–but the people who grow our food and flowers deserve a safe workplace, and that means cutting harmful chemicals so they aren’t exposed to them.

Good stuff!  To what do we owe this change?  The report lists a lot of changes, some of them remarkably simple (using fine mesh screens to keep bugs out of greenhouses) and some of them more sophisticated (pheremone traps and the like).  But these are the two that really give me hope:

“(8) a new generation of growers who have grown up under the concept of going green

(9) a consuming public with a greater acceptance of organic production and with an increasing negative perspective of pesticides”

Young, smart farmers and public pressure!

If you want to find flowers grown with sustainable methods, look for the Veriflora label and of course the CA Grown label is showing up on more flowers all the time.  More on all this at the California Cut Flower Commission, too.

And I love what Debra Prinzing is doing with the subject of American-grown flowers, on her website and through her books Slow Flowers and The 50-Mile Bouquet.  It was nice to see Flower Confidential cited in the UC report–it’s been out a few years, but still gives a fairly good overview of the flower industry, and is even used as the basis for a horticulture class at UC Davis.

h/t to Grower Talks.




  1. what kind of sulfur product are they using against powdery mildew? The link doesn’t specify. If it is copper sulfate, I wouldn’t be cheering it even though it is “organic”.

  2. To your list of “To what do we owe this change”, you should add scientific research (ie., there are better, more reliable methods of bug and disease control out there now, that are more economic than they were 30 years ago). I’m in my mid-fifties (the average age for farmers in my region), and I can tell you that there are quite a few of us “oldster farmers” out there who long ago pressed for the research into less toxic, “softer”, and economically-viable insect and damage control years ago, which has resulted in some of the tools available today.

    I would also credit research into both regional health and watershed health, the results of which have led to more interest and funding to find better ways to grow our food.

    All of this change comes at a price. More emphasis on science and critical thinking in our schools would lead to more informed consumers at the least, and better research too. A willingness to pay more for food would make it possible for farmers to take more risk in switching protocols.

    I guess what I’m saying is that we all have a part to play in making things better, and the less adversarial, the better. For example, a “negative perspective of pesticides” is ignorant thinking and casts growers in a broad, bad light who may be using sulfur sprays (for example) to control fungus and rots.

    Sorry this is so long!

  3. Thanks for this post. I’m always glad to hear encouraging news. And thanks for stressing the health of the employees, as you say this aspect is often ignored.

  4. Thanks for this enlightening article- more people need to be aware of chemicals on foreign and domestic cut flowers- for the people involved in production as well as the end consumer. In my floral design class I asked the first day before teach arrived : “How many of you know where most cut flowers are grown and that they use very harsh chemicals in production??” All of my classmates were clueless. Worked in a couple big shops in the Eureka/Arcata area and they were definitely clueless as well- about design as well as pesticides!!


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