Negative environmental impacts resulting from nursery and greenhouse production practices are major concerns to producers in the mid-Atlantic and southeast United States because of potential future regulation impacting crop production and profitability. Contaminants (such as fertilizers, agrichemicals, and sediment) leaving an operation via runoff water from an agricultural production site are considered nonpoint source pollution and can contribute to the impairment of waterways downstream (Majsztrik and Lea-Cox, 2013). Nonpoint source water pollution can be, in part, mitigated by the use of BMPs. BMPs are defined as “schedules of activities, prohibitions, maintenance procedures, and structural or other management practices found to be the most effective and practicable to prevent or reduce the discharge of pollutants to the air or waters of the U.S. BMPs also include operating procedures, and practices to control site runoff, ground water contamination, spillage or leaks, sludge or waste disposal, or drainage from raw material storage” (Bilderback et al., 2013). The compendium of BMPs that can be used by growers to reduce runoff, and increase fertilizer and water use efficiency, while also protecting the surrounding ecosystem is Best Management Practices Guide: Guide for Producing Nursery Crops (Bilderback et al., 2013).
Agriculture, including nursery and greenhouse operations, is considered a leading source of nonpoint source water pollution (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005). To ensure human safety and protect the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a total maximum daily load (TMDL) establishing limits to the amount of sediment and nutrients that can be discharged into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2010, 2015). The Commonwealth of Virginia and other states in Chesapeake Bay watershed are responsible for reducing nutrients such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), and sediment from point and nonpoint sources such as municipal wastewater treatment, agriculture, and urban stormwater. BMPs used by agriculture producers are important tools to meet clean water goals, and voluntary adoption of these practices by the nursery and greenhouse industry is needed to show a good faith attempt to meet these goals and to practice good land stewardship. Knowledge and communication of the most widely used BMPs in Virginia, and the challenges and benefits associated with their use, can encourage grower adoption of BMPs throughout the mid-Atlantic and southeast United States and inform policymakers thereby increasing the number of growers assisting in meeting the demands associated with regulatory pressure to reduce sediment and nutrient nonpoint discharge from specialty crop operations.
Virginia’s nursery and floriculture crop sales, which exceed $213 million annually, are a significant economic component of the estimated $1.42 billion of ornamental crops sold in the mid-Atlantic United States (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2012). Thus, assessing the impact of BMPs on production as well as water quality is important. Although the Virginia greenhouse industry has been profiled via a survey including regulatory compliance, and water and fertilizer management (Scoggins et al., 2003, 2004), a survey of nursery and greenhouse BMP use in Virginia has not been conducted. The objectives of this study were to survey Virginia nursery and greenhouse growers to determine 1) the most widely used BMPs, 2) the reasons behind BMP use, and 3) the barriers to BMP adoption. Findings will be communicated to nursery and greenhouse growers via Extension and trade publications with the goal of increasing grower awareness and adoption of BMPs.
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