South Texas farmers are looking harder than ever for a way to make farming profitable. Lloyd Anthony, nursery manager at Speedling Corp. in Alamo, says the Speedling system offers one way to maximize yield and turn a profit.

Speedling sells transplants and transplanting machinery in 15 locations throughout the world. The Alamo office sells Lannen/mechanical transplanters as well as vegetable plants, poinsettias and grass in specially designed flats that have been through a sterilization chamber.

Plants in all Speedling greenhouses are grown in sterile media in a controlled environment and receive saline-free reverse osmosis water.

“Seeds can be expensive,” says Anthony. “Seeds for some vegetables, like peppers, are about two cents apiece, but seedless varieties of watermelon can cost 13 to 15 cents for one seed.” When farmers were sowing 1,500 to 2,000 watermelon seeds per acre, germination became an important factor for producing a profitable crop.

Speedling's germination rooms are kept at the temperature optimal for the crop — which could be 70 degrees for celery or 80 degrees for watermelon. Depending on the crop, up to 97 percent of the Speedling transplants germinate. The process increases secondary root development and keeps transplant shock to a minimum.

If a producer plants his own seeds, a rain could wash them away. Sometimes it takes three plantings to get a stand. The seeds are literally down the drain, a considerable waste of money, especially with expensive seeds.

In the early growing stages, the farmer must irrigate at least twice. Buying transplants saves irrigation money as well as costs of early hoeing. The transplant is larger, hardier and healthier than the homegrown plant, which may have been stressed by weather conditions. So farmers may use different and cheaper herbicides. They save money on pest related crop emergence losses, too.

Speedling customers buy their own seeds, get them to Speedling to plant and then don't have to worry about a late frost, hail, or other damaging weather.

Johnny Crook, who farms cayenne chili peppers, says his yields have increased by 4,000 pounds per acre using Speedling plants. “That more than pays for the cost of the transplants.”

Speedling in Alamo has added grass to their crops this year, specifically Tifton 85, one of the highest yielding bermuda-grasses available for hay and pasture National Hay Show for the past two years.

“Tifton 85 is drought tolerant and rapid growing,” says Anthony. Another advantage is that it maintains a high protein level even under stressed conditions, something few grasses do.

“For grass, we take the runner tips, put them in flats and in 30 days they're ready for the field. It looks like grass is going to be a great business for us.”

“For grass, we take the runner tips, put them in flats and in 30 days they're ready for the field. It looks like grass is going to be a great business for us,” says Anthony.