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Ellen M. Bauske, Gary R. Bachman, Tom Bewick, Lucy Bradley, David Close, Rick Durham, and Mary Hockenberry Meyer

Consumer horticulture encompasses interior and exterior ornamental, food, and community gardening. These activities influence the environment in many ways, affecting water quality and quantity, waste management, wildlife, and environmental sustainability. Consumer horticulture also impacts human health and well-being. In spite of keen consumer interest and the robust commercial impact, there is a paucity of support for consumer horticulture at both the state and federal levels. To explore strategies for increasing support for consumer horticulture, a workshop with four presentations was held at the annual conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science on 31 July 2014 in Orlando, FL. Presentations described the formation of a new Southern Experiment Extension/Research Activity, Landscapes and Gardens for Better Living (SERA44); the local funding sources and local issues that focus research, education, and extension efforts in consumer horticulture; and the need to develop shared goals to drive regional projects. The need for a national strategic plan for consumer horticulture, and a process for creating one, was outlined. A strategic plan could galvanize the support of diverse stakeholders; focus research, education, and extension efforts; and build a strong case for resources dedicated to consumer horticulture.

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Ellen M. Bauske, Gary R. Bachman, Lucy Bradley, Karen Jeannette, Alison Stoven O’Connor, and Pamela J. Bennett

Communication is a critical issue for consumer horticulture specialists and extension agents. They must communicate effectively with the public interested in gardening, with Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers and with other scientists. A workshop was held at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science on 22 July 2013 in Palm Desert, CA, with the intent of sharing tips and techniques that facilitated consumer horticulture and EMG programming. Presentations focused on communication. One program leader reported on the North Carolina Master Gardener web site, which integrates an online volunteer management system (VMS) with widely available web tools to create one-stop shopping for people who want to volunteer, get help from volunteers, or support volunteers at both the county and state level. Another program used the state VMS to house videos providing continuing education (CE) training required for EMG volunteers. This training is available 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Agents created the videos by recording live presentations with widely available, screen capture software and a microphone. Features that make the social media site Pinterest a strong tool for gathering together focused programming resources and professional collaboration were outlined. Finally, the use of a compact, subirrigated gardening system that uses peat-based potting mix was suggested as a means to simplify communication with new urban gardeners and address their unique gardening issues.

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Ronald C. Stephenson, Christine E.H. Coker, Benedict C. Posadas, Gary R. Bachman, Richard L. Harkess, John J. Adamczyk, and Patricia R. Knight

Due to difficulty in monitoring insect pests, applications of insecticides are frequently conducted on a calendar schedule. However, seasonal variability in pest populations leads to these calendar schedules sometimes being inaccurate. Threshold-based insect management strategies, including use of thresholds with conventional pesticides and with use of organic pesticides only, were compared with a conventional calendar approach for yield, management cost, and production value of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Effect of cultivar was considered by inclusion of the long season cultivar Celebrity and the short season cultivar Early Girl Bush. These factors were compared for spring and fall seasons during two production years. Greatest total and marketable yields were obtained from use of conventional pesticides according to action thresholds. Use of organic insecticides according to thresholds did not affect yields in comparison with a calendar-based approach. Proportion of fruit rated unmarketable was greater with use of organic insecticides due to reduced efficacy and residual of control. Production costs for the organic threshold-based approach were greater due to increased number of insecticide applications required. Gross margin for both conventional and organic threshold-based insect pest management was greater than for the conventional calendar method. Increased economic return for conventional threshold-based management was due to increased yields. Increase in return for organic threshold management was based on premiums received for organically grown tomatoes. Adoption of conventional threshold-based insect pest management by small-scale producers has the potential to increase production efficiency and value, as well as increase environmental sustainability of production. Economic feasibility of organic production requires access to markets willing to pay significant premiums for organic produce. Further research to evaluate economic and yield impacts of production practices for small-scale farms is needed.