Production of annual bedding plants providing seasonal color in the landscape is the primary profit center for many greenhouse operations. However, the increasingly hypercompetitive markets and decreasing profit margins of these enterprises have required the continual analysis of production and marketing systems (Hall, 2010). Also, a key success factor for these industries is to examine the inseparable factors of efficient input use, cost savings, enhanced product quality, and the sustainable nature of production or manufacturing practices (Boston Consulting Group, 2009; Rankin et al., 2011).
For greenhouse growers, sustainable production means applying best management practices to enhance plant quality and reduce negative environmental impacts (Southern Nursery Association, 2013) while sustaining or increasing profits (Hall, 2010). Life cycle assessment is a tool used to analyze the sustainable nature of production system components from cradle to grave or defined subsets of their life cycle.
The goal of this research was to model and analyze production systems using LCA procedures for major environmental horticulture crop groups. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the subsequent carbon footprint (CF) have been reported for representative trees and shrubs produced in field operations and in container production systems (Hall and Ingram, 2014, 2015; Ingram, 2012, 2013; Ingram and Hall, 2013, 2014a, 2014b, 2015a, 2015b; Ingram et al., 2016, 2017a; Kendall and McPherson, 2012). Young foliage plant production systems in two distinct greenhouse types have also been compared using LCA (Ingram et al., 2017b). CF is expressed in GWP due to GHG emissions for a 100-year period in units of kg CO2e. Thus, our objective in this study was to add to the knowledge about the range of nursery and greenhouse production systems, by analyzing the environmental impact potentials of a model production system in the northeastern region of the United States for finished annual color plants in 11.4-cm containers. In addition to providing detailed impact information of the individual components of production systems, so that growers can find ways to increase production efficiency and minimize GHG emissions, information gained from these studies should be appealing to environmentally conscious consumers (Yue et al., 2016).
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