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Charles R. Hall, Benjamin L. Campbell, Bridget K. Behe, Chengyan Yue, Roberto G. Lopez, and Jennifer H. Dennis

Currently, one of the most widely discussed topics in the green industry, which is promulgated by consumers exhibiting greater degrees of environmental awareness, is the issue of environmental sustainability. This has led to a desire for products that not only solve the needs of consumers, but are also produced and marketed using sustainable production and business practices. Consumers increasingly place a greater emphasis on product packaging and this has carried over to the grower sector in the form of biodegradable pots. Although various forms of these eco-friendly pots have been available for several years, their marketing appeal was limited as a result of their less-than-satisfying appearance. With the recent availability of more attractive biodegradable plant containers, a renewed interest in their suitability in the green industry and their consumer acceptance has emerged. The objective of this study was to determine the characteristics of biodegradable pots that consumers deem most desirable and to identify distinct consumer segments, thus allowing producers/businesses to more efficiently use their resources to offer specific product attributes to those who value them the most. We conducted a conjoint analysis through Internet surveys with 535 valid observations from Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Indiana. Our results show that on average, consumers like rice hull pots the most followed by straw pots. Our analysis identified seven market segments and corresponding consumer profiles: “Rice Hull Likers,” “Straw Likers,” “Price Conscious,” “Environmentally Conscious,” “Carbon Sensitive,” “Non-discriminating.” Idiosyncratic marketing strategies should be implemented by industry firms to market biodegradable containers to the identified consumer segments.

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Jennifer H. Dennis, Roberto G. Lopez, Bridget K. Behe, Charles R. Hall, Chengyan Yue, and Benjamin L. Campbell

Given recent consumer and market interest in more sustainable products and business practices, researchers conducted a nationwide survey of greenhouse and nursery crop growers to determine the current state of the industry in terms of sustainability. Growers were asked about the importance of sustainability, their views of state environmental regulations, sustainable practices in place and ones they would like to implement in the next 1 to 3 years, and interest in sustainable certification. None of the grower respondents in this survey were certified sustainable, but at least one fourth (25.8%) were interested in certification. More than half of the respondents currently recycle plastic pots, use controlled-release fertilizers, and composted plant waste. However, only 12% of growers want to use biodegradable plant containers or implement water conservation measures into their production system within the next 1 to 3 years. Grower respondents felt the biggest obstacle toward implementation was the sustainable production practice would not be compatible with their existing system of production.

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Chengyan Yue, Jennifer H. Dennis, Bridget K. Behe, Charles R. Hall, Benjamin L. Campbell, and Roberto G. Lopez

Organically and locally grown food products have become increasingly popular in recent years. However, unlike food products, consumers purchase most outdoor plants for their aesthetic value rather than their nutritional value. Many of the health concerns related to food products might not be applicable to ornamental plants, so the demand for organic non-food plants is unknown. Using a survey with 834 participants from four states, we investigated consumer preference for ornamentals, vegetable transplants, and herbs grown: 1) organically, locally, and sustainably; 2) in energy-efficient greenhouses; and 3) in biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable containers. Our study found that consumers are not enthusiastic about plants or their fertilizers being “organic.” However, consumers are very interested in plants being produced locally, similar to the public's ever-increasing interest in local food products. Consumers are also interested in purchasing plants in containers that are more sustainable. Among the different types of containers, biodegradable and compostable pots are more desirable than recycled pots.

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Arend-Jan Both, Bruce Bugbee, Chieri Kubota, Roberto G. Lopez, Cary Mitchell, Erik S. Runkle, and Claude Wallace

Electric lamps are widely used to supplement sunlight (supplemental lighting) and daylength extension (photoperiodic lighting) for the production of horticultural crops in greenhouses and controlled environments. Recent advances in light-emitting diode (LED) technology now provide the horticultural industry with multiple lighting options. However, growers are unable to compare technologies and LED options because of insufficient data on lamp performance metrics. Here, we propose a standardized product label that facilitates the comparison of lamps across manufacturers. This label includes the photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) efficacy, PAR conversion efficiency, photon flux density output in key wave bands, as well as the phytochrome photostationary state (PSS), red/far red ratio, and graphs of the normalized photon flux density across the 300–900 nm wave band and a horizontal distribution of the light output.

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Yolanda Godínez-Hernández, José Luis Anaya-López, Raúl Díaz-Plaza, Mario González-Chavira, Irineo Torres-Pacheco, Rafael F. Rivera-Bustamante, and Ramón G. Guevara-González

Seven pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) populations from the Yucatán Peninsula, México, that were selected from a field screening for viral diseases were tested for pepper huasteco geminivirus (PHV) resistance. Two populations (UX-SMH-1 and UX-SMH-24) displayed <50% of infection with PHV. Four plants did not show viral symptoms 3 months postinoculation using biolistic and grafting methods. When leaf tissue from these individuals was analyzed for PHV using quantitative PCR, it supported PHV replication, thus, the ineffective PHV infection in these symptomless individuals may be a result of restricted viral movement.

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William B. Miller, Neil S. Mattson, Xiaorong Xie, Danghui Xu, Christopher J. Currey, Kasey L. Clemens, Roberto G. Lopez, Michael Olrich, and Erik S. Runkle

Ethephon [(2-chloroethyl) phosphonic acid] is a plant growth regulator that releases ethylene on application and can abort flowers, stimulate branching, and inhibit stem elongation. Although ethephon is used as a foliar spray during the commercial production of many ornamental crops, its effectiveness as a drench has not been widely investigated. We performed experiments to quantify the effects of an ethephon drench on growth and flowering of a range of bedding plant and Narcissus cultivars and to assess the effect of lime on ethylene release from a peat substrate. A substrate drench of 0, 100, 250, or 500 mg·L−1 ethephon was applied to 12 potted Narcissus cultivars at one location, and up to 200 mg·L−1 was applied to 24 cultivars of bedding plants at three locations. Compared with untreated controls, ethephon generally reduced plant height at flowering and the effect increased with increased concentration. For example, Narcissus treated with a 250 mg·L−1 ethephon drench had stems that were 20% to 40% shorter at the end of flowering than control plants. However, ethephon drenches generally caused a 2- to 3-day flowering delay, and two cultivars had a phytotoxic response. Among the bedding plants studied, a 100-mg·L−1 ethephon drench suppressed plant height at flowering by greater than 30% in Catharanthus, Celosia, Dianthus, and Verbena, but by only 10% to 15% in Lobelia, Lycopersicon, and Tagetes. The drenches also delayed flowering in 10 of the 16 crops measured and decreased dry mass accumulation in all of the crops measured. Ethephon release from peat substrate became maximal ≈120 h after application and was dramatically increased by incorporation of dolomitic lime up to a rate of 9.5 kg lime per m3 of peat. Collectively, these studies show that ethephon substrate drenches inhibit stem elongation in a broad range of floriculture crops, but can also delay flowering and reduce biomass accumulation.

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Nancy Santana-Buzzy, Adriana Canto-Flick, Lourdes G. Iglesias-Andreu, María del C. Montalvo-Peniche, Guadalupe López-Puc, and Felipe Barahona-Pérez

The in vitro production of ethylene and its effects on the development of Habanero pepper (Capsicum chinense Jacq.) plantlets were evaluated using nonventilated containers (NVCs) and ventilated containers (VCs). Shoots of Habanero pepper between 0.5 and 1.0 cm of height were cultivated in Magenta culture boxes and samples of the headspace atmosphere were taken every four days during the previously established culturing time of 40 days. The presence of ethylene was detected in the NVCs and produced a negative effect on the development of plantlets. In a second phase of this work, the effect of silver nitrate (AgNO3) and cobalt chloride (CoCl2) on ethylene production was evaluated during in vitro development of Habanero pepper plantlets. Concentrations of 50, 300, and 500 μm of each ethylene inhibitor were used in the culture medium. Although cobalt chloride partially inhibited the production of ethylene during in vitro culture of this species, at low concentrations the plantlets presented some degree of vitrification and the highest concentration proved to be toxic for the plantlets. Silver nitrate added to the culture medium did not inhibit ethylene production, however, it did inhibit the effect of this hormone on the plantlets. In fact, when high concentrations of silver nitrate were used (300 μm), high amounts of ethylene were detected in the headspace of the vessels and plantlets were actually healthier.

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Celina Gómez, Christopher J. Currey, Ryan W. Dickson, Hye-Ji Kim, Ricardo Hernández, Nadia C. Sabeh, Rosa E. Raudales, Robin G. Brumfield, Angela Laury-Shaw, Adam K. Wilke, Roberto G. Lopez, and Stephanie E. Burnett

The recent increased market demand for locally grown produce is generating interest in the application of techniques developed for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) to urban agriculture (UA). Controlled environments have great potential to revolutionize urban food systems, as they offer unique opportunities for year-round production, optimizing resource-use efficiency, and for helping to overcome significant challenges associated with the high costs of production in urban settings. For urban growers to benefit from CEA, results from studies evaluating the application of controlled environments for commercial food production should be considered. This review includes a discussion of current and potential applications of CEA for UA, references discussing appropriate methods for selecting and controlling the physical plant production environment, resource management strategies, considerations to improve economic viability, opportunities to address food safety concerns, and the potential social benefits from applying CEA techniques to UA. Author’s viewpoints about the future of CEA for urban food production are presented at the end of this review.

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J.L. Anaya-López, I. Torres-Pacheco, M. González-Chavira, J.A. Garzon-Tiznado, J.L. Pons-Hernandez, R.G. Guevara-González, C.I. Muñoz-Sánchez, L. Guevara-Olvera, R.F. Rivera-Bustamante, and S. Hernández-Verdugo

Screening for resistance to mixed infections with pepper huasteco virus (PHV) and pepper golden mosaic virus (PepGMV) was carried out on plants representing wild pepper accessions collected in different states of México. One accession collected in Yucatán (BG-3821) corresponded to Capsicum chinense Jacq., and three collected from Michoacán (BG-3818), Tamaulipas (BG-3820), and Sinaloa (BG-3819) were identified as C. annuum L. Forty-eight plants were initially inoculated with a 1:1 mix of PHV and PepGMV DNAs by a biolistic method. Those plants that did not show typical symptoms after the biolistic method, were inoculated by grafting. Half of the plants (24) were highly susceptible, while the other half expressed different degrees of resistance. Of the resistant individuals, eight plants were asymptomatic and viral DNA of both viruses was detected in low levels. Two individuals showed delayed symptoms 34 days after symptom expression in the control plants. This delay was correlated with an increase in PHV DNA levels when plants became symptomatic. The remaining 14 plants showed symptom remission in newly developed leaves at 31 days postinoculation, and this asymptomatic effect was correlated diminished PHV DNA within the plants. Our results suggest that the resistance shown by some individuals to geminivirus mixed infections (PHV and PepGMV) is likely due to constrains in viral movement.