Assessing Consumer Knowledge and Use of Landscape Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management Practices through a Computer-based Interactive Survey

in HortTechnology

Attendees at the 2001 Philadelphia Flower Show participated in an interactive-quiz-formatted survey on touch-screen computers to determine their knowledge and use of plant health care (PHC) and integrated pest management (IPM) practices. Participants answered 15 questions in three categories: 1) PHC practices (criteria for proper plant selection, correct planting practices, and reasons for mulching and pruning); 2) IPM practices (insect identification, plant and pest monitoring, and maintenance of records on pests found and treatments applied to their landscape plants); and 3) demographic and sociographic questions to aid in characterizing the survey population. Over half of the participants (58%) were interested in gardening and a majority (77%) were interested in protecting the environment. Most participants (66%) were between 36 and 60 years of age with a mean age of 47 years, 76% lived in and owned a single-family home, and greater than half (56%) had never purchased professional landscape services. Most recognized PHC criteria for proper site selection, although not all environmental site characteristics were recognized as being equally important. Nearly half (49%) identified the correct planting practice among the choices offered; while an equal number of participants chose among the several improper practices listed. Although reasons for mulching were properly identified by the respondents, excess mulching around trees was considered a proper planting practice by over 39% of the participants. When questioned about IPM practices, a majority reported that they identify pests prior to treating them (71%) and that they scouted their landscapes (82%). However, only 21% kept records of the pests that they had found and the treatments that they applied for those pests. Participants' responses were further examined using cluster analysis in order to characterize the participants and identify meaningful consumer knowledge segments for targeting future extension programming. Three distinct segments were identified: 1) horticulturally savvy (69% of the participants), 2) part-time gardener (25% of the participants), and 3) horticulturally challenged (6%). At least 47% of the horticulturally savvy and part-time gardeners correctly answered plant health care questions (44% of the total survey participants). These two segments included more individuals who were interested in gardening and protecting the environment and are potential targets for future PHC and IPM extension education programs. In contrast the horticulturally challenged recorded no interest in or opinion on gardening or protecting the environment. It is apparent that a majority of consumers are learning and employing PHC and IPM concepts. Proper site selection, planting practices, and mulching along with record keep- ing and pest identification proficiency remain key educational areas to be developed. Although not all gardeners are well versed in all subject matter, a basic knowledge of PHC and IPM is being demonstrated.

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