EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State University Department of Horticulture hired a new assistant professor specializing in weed science in ornamental crop production. Debalina Saha joined the department in July of 2019 and is serving the landscape, nursery, greenhouse and Christmas tree industries. She has a 50% Extension, 35% research and 15% teaching appointment.
Prior to joining the department, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees at University of Calcutta in India with a major in Botany. Saha earned her doctorate at University of Florida in May 2019. Her dissertation was on assessing the influence of mulch physical and chemical properties on preemergent herbicides and weed control for ornamental crop production. In her research, she assessed herbicide formulations (granular and liquid), moisture levels, mulch types and depth on weed control.
She has studied preemergent herbicide movement through different organic landscape mulch materials, evaluated physical properties of mulch and their effect on weed control, and has also assessed allelopathic properties of different organic mulch materials and their effect on weed control. Other projects she worked on in Florida were: controlling artillery weed with preemergent and post-emergent herbicides, using post-emergent herbicides to control bittercress and oxalis, and fertilizer placement and its effect on weed species grown in containers.
In her new role, she will be working with the large ornamental horticulture industry in Michigan. Michigan is the third largest producer of floriculture crops (behind California and Florida) with 569 producers with at least $10,000 in sales, according to the 2018 Floriculture Crops Summary by the National Agriculture Statistics Service. The reported wholesale value of the floriculture industry in Michigan is $486 million, up from $409 million reported in 2015. According to the latest nursery report, Michigan is the fourth largest producer of Christmas trees in the United States and ranks 11th in the nation in nursery stock sold, which is worth $1.2 billion.
The ornamental horticulture industry is very supportive of her new role with MSU. In fact, the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association, Michigan Christmas Tree Association, Western Michigan Greenhouse Association and Metro Detroit Flower Growers Association all pledged start-up funding to help secure the new specialist’s position on the faculty.
Saha is looking forward to meeting with stakeholders this fall to determine the areas of greatest need in the industry, and how to best address those needs. She is already planning on developing fact sheets in coordination with MSU Extension on controlling common problematic weeds in ornamental crop production for release in 2020.
— Heidi Lindberg, Michigan State University Extension
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