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UC ANR Helps Major Agricultural Tourism Destination

The Issue

The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) is one of the most spectacular displays of color in the country and arguably, the world. The Flower Fields is a working farm for growing the brightly colored Ranunculus flowers used in arrangements and tubers for planting in gardens and landscapes. It is also a tourist attraction, as visitors come from everywhere to see and walk among the flowers that are in full bloom from March to May. These thousands of visitors contribute to the local economy by staying at local hotels and eating at local restaurants. What they do not see is the time and effort that the growers spend to produce this magnificent display. Much of the work and cost is for weed control. This ranch was infested with various legume species such as clovers and the primary method of management was laborious and costly hand pulling.

What Has ANR Done?

For about 20 years, Area IPM Advisor Cheryl Wilen used The Flower Fields to evaluate numerous methods for weed management in field-grown cut flowers. The Flower Fields growers were excellent cooperators, often providing UC ANR with large blocks of land to test various practices. In 2013, Dr. Wilen found that an herbicide registered for use in turfgrass selectively controlled clovers in Ranunculus and proceeded to work with regulators and growers to do verification testing. The supporting data from the testing was used to obtain a Special Local Need (24(c)) registration from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, enabling The Flower Fields to use the herbicide.

The Payoff

New weed control methods save money and improve tourtists' enjoyment of flowers

The 24(c) registration was granted in January 2019. Because this is peak of timing for clover emergence and growth, the grower could incorporate the herbicide into his weed control program and reduce the impact of the weeds that may interfere with the visitors' enjoyment of this well-known tourist destination. Michael A. Mellano, the farm operator at The Flower Fields, explained the benefits of having the herbicide newly available as an option to control weeds: "It’s really exciting to have finally been able to successfully pull together the 24(c) registration. It’s been several years in the making but we couldn’t have done it without the help of Cheryl Wilen, and the ANR team. The weed issue at The Flower Fields has been a big challenge for us for over 20 years and the use of a weed management tool is expected to really make a big dent in our annual hand weeding costs. There are several nuances that we are still learning as we roll out the use from the small/medium trials up to the large full-scale acreage but we expect the use of the material to cut our weeding costs by 30-50% with the added advantage of delivering an improved experience for the throngs of tourists that visit the fields each year!" This ongoing project demonstrates one way that UC ANR contributes to economic prosperity in California, by increasing efficiency and profitability in the agriculture industry.


Supporting Unit: San Diego County

Cheryl Wilen
Area Integrated Pest Management Advisor