Interview by Brooke N. Bates

Controlling pests and plant disease is critical to the success of any growing operation. As plants move through the production process and then throughout the supply chain, each step introduces new risks to plant health. The more proactive approach growers take to mitigate these risks, the more potential problems they can prevent. The Systems Approach to Nursery Certification (SANC) helps nurseries understand and minimize these risks. Forrest Keeling Nursery in Elsberry, MO, was one of the first eight nurseries involved in the SANC pilot program – receiving certification earlier this spring. Kim Lovelace-Young, vice president and general manager at Forrest Keeling, describes SANC as a “streamlined process for collaboration” between nurseries and state regulators. At Cultivate’17, she will join consultant Jerry Lee and Dana Rhodes, SANC program chair at the National Plant Board, in a panel discussion to explain how this collaboration benefits nurseries. Here’s a preview.

Q: What is SANC?

A: SANC, a Systems Approach to Nursery Certification, is designed as a voluntary, audit-based nursery and greenhouse certification based on a systems approach to controlling and mitigating pests and disease. A systems approach is basically a proactive approach to preventing pests and diseases at each step in the production process.

Q: How does SANC work?

A: The first thing you have to do is a risk assessment. You go through your entire production cycle and identify what are called critical control points where you might be at risk of introducing pests and disease, and you rank your critical control points, whether they’re low, medium, or high risk.

Then you identify best management practices to mitigate those risks. If incoming plant material is a risk, you might inspect the material when it comes in, maybe quarantine it before it’s introduced to your production material. Another critical control point would be your water source, so testing for pathogens in your water would be another best management practice.

Q: How does SANC benefit your nursery?

A: We found that we were doing a lot of these practices anyway, and the SANC program helped us document it and add recordkeeping into what we were already doing. We have a facility manual and a best management plan now in writing, whereas before, we were doing most of these things, but it wasn’t documented. Now that it’s documented, it’s a management tool for us.

Q: How much time and effort does it require from your staff?

A: We haven’t had to add staff to oversee the SANC program. We’re able to do it with our existing staff.

It did require quite a bit of time to develop the facility manual and the best management plan, but now that it’s in place, it’s saving us a lot of time and confusion on who’s responsible for what. It’s very much an organizational guide for us.

Be prepared to devote quite a bit of time to the process of getting the facility manual and best management plan developed. But once it’s in place, it shouldn’t be onerous on the business. It’s certainly been a worthy investment for our facility.

Q: What type of operation would benefit most from SANC?

A: The thing about the SANC program that’s really unique is that it’s tailored to your operation, so it would be beneficial to all types of operations. They don’t dictate what your best management practices are; you decide your best management practices.

Q: What will be the key takeaway of your session at Cultivate about SANC?

A: The key takeaway will be whether or not SANC would benefit your growing operation. The process does much more than just certify you. It does so much more in organizing and documenting and developing a proactive plan for your growing operation.