Lydia Falk spent her spring semester this year (2015) in College Station, Texas completing her internship on a landscape maintenance team at Texas A&M. She heard about the position thanks to Bro. Nelson urging her to attend seminar one day. Falk ended up interviewing for the job that day and everything fell into place.
The seminar speaker that day was Don Crawford, Resident Regional Manager at Service Solutions Company. On our campus here in Rexburg, the grounds crew and landscape maintenance team consists of our own students using equipment owned by the school. Texas A&M is a client of Service Solutions Company (SSC), who then deploys maintenance and special projects teams to beautify and maintain the campus grounds. So, Lydia worked for SSC as part of a special projects team for campus.
Falk arrived in Texas April 24 and stayed all the way through August 14. She rented a room in the house of a family friend. Work hours were from 6:00am-2:30pm. She didn’t have a car, just a bike to get her to and from work each day— 4 miles every morning and afternoon. Now that’s dedication! Her crew installed annual spring as well as summer flower beds for the president’s mansion, the V.P. house, the chancellor house, and the equine center in addition to regular maintenance— cleaning, trimming, mowing, fertilizing. Occasionally, Lydia had the opportunity to be the crew leader. One task that all the crews working for SSC had was to clean the football stadium after games. In order to make sure all the little jobs this involves were accomplished, the company asked Lydia to create a spreadsheet to track when all these the tasks were completed. Her spreadsheet worked so well, the entire company began to use it after every game.
Of her time spent in Texas, Lydia said that she loved getting a real experience on a real crew in a large town on a large campus. You can’t get that kind of experience in Rexburg.
Every year during the Christmas season there is an explosion of poinsettias around campus— in offices, luncheons, parties on campus, for sale in the Plant Shop, and decorating the stage for the big Christmas concert. Have you ever wondered where they come from? The poinsettia plants that are in the grocery stores are brought in as a full grown plant ready for sale, but the ones that are on our campus are grown right here.
Students that are interested in large growing operations have the opportunity to be involved with the Horticulture department’s annual poinsettia sales. This year, Sam Marinho, Johnny Church, and Devon Mayberry headed up this year’s poinsettia project as part of a special problems class. In July, the plugs arrived from nurseries in New Jersey and Utah and the 2-3” babies were potted up. From July to September the tender plants were closely monitored in the greenhouse, being hand watered and individually inspected for pests and diseases. Starting mid-September the plants need to be subjected to complete darkness for a minimum of 14 hours each day in order to induce the beautiful coloring that poinsettias are known for. The lack of light is what signals the plant to transform it’s green leaves to the seasonal red. Because the lighting system in our greenhouses is all controlled from a master controller, simply turning the lights off is not an option. So we are left to drape and drag dark plastic over the the benches that the poinsettias are on in order to give the plants the darkness they need. It’s not easy, your arms will be tired and you’ll be breathing hard by the time you get them all covered, but it works.
Of the experience, Sam Marinho said, “It was an excellent learning opportunity, but extremely stressful and time-consuming.” However, she expressed her gratitude in being able to work on the project and getting experience with a real-life, large scale growing operation. Johnny Church commented that, "After growing these poinsettias, I'm less worried about my upcoming winter production classes. I'm told [by Bro. Toll] that if you can grow points, you can grow anything."
BYU-Idaho may not be a typical “research university”, but that doesn’t mean that students don’t ever have the opportunity to be part of research. All you have to do is ask your professors what you can be involved in. For example, this semester Landon Knowles has been working with Bro. Dewey on two different projects. One of them is testing the efficiency of over-the-counter weed killer on Kentucky blue grass, and the other is looking at drought stress responses in plants.
Everybody loves the lush beauty and soft blades of Kentucky blue for their lawn. However, as it is a rhizomatous grower, it has a tendency to creep into areas of your landscape where you don’t want it— like flower beds. How easy would it be if the homeowner could keep their flower beds free of weeds and unwanted Kentucky blue just by a simple spray of weed killer? As of right now, your typical spray bottle of weed killer is not labeled for use on Kentucky blue. Landon has been spraying patches of Kentucky blue grass with weed killer in different concentrations and viewing the results. So far, a spray with a 3x concentration is working very well. After more data collection and a review of results, Knowles is wanting to write a thorough discussion of the results and get it published.
The second project that Knowles is involved in is looking at drought stress responses. He’s using Kentucky blue grass, but you could do this with any plant theoretically. Plants can communicate with neighboring plants and we can verify this. Right now Landon and Adam have patches of grass set up in the greenhouse. One patch— the control, is in a corner by itself, and the other experimental patches are grouped together about 15 yards away from the control. They are purposely water stressing one patch of grass. Each week they take clippings from the water stressed patch, it’s neighboring patch that is watered regularly, and the control patch. The clippings are soaked in water for 12 hours so the cells can fill and be at full turgor pressure before they are weighed. One sign of a plant that is drought stressed is thicker, heavier, cell walls. When the three different groups of clippings are weighed, the drought stressed group should be heavier as the cell walls are thicker in order to prevent water loss within the plant. In this experiment, the drought stressed plant as well as its neighbor weigh more than the control plant. The stressed plant is “talking” with its neighbor saying, “I’m having problems over here, you may want to thicken your cell walls because whatever is happening here will most likely become a problem for you as well.”
Working with a professor with research projects is an excellent way to apply your classroom studies to work skills. These are great opportunities to make the most of your time here in Rexburg and we encourage you to seek these opportunities. All you have to do is talk to your professors! They may not be working on something at the moment, but they would know someone who is.
This summer we were able to upgrade to a real floral cooler. What worked as the cooler for our floral products the last decade was an old meat cooler from the animal science department. This new one is more efficient, and we don't constantly have a drip bucket to empty. However, if you're on the taller side of life, you do need to watch your head as you step inside.
Our aim for the Department of Horticulture at Brigham Young University-Idaho is to nurture understanding of both the art and science of Horticulture. Students learn experimentally in the classroom, laboratory, greenhouse, and ten acre Thomas E. Ricks demonstration garden as they pursue an Associates or Bachelors Degree. Using the medium of plants, students develop habits of hard work, enlightened minds, and healthy living that assist in gainful employment opportunitues.