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

Savvy marketers rely on the principles of customer segmentation and product targeting to more efficiently allocate scarce resources and effectively reach groups of consumers with similar likes, preferences, or demands. Our objective was to identify and profile consumer segments with regard to their gardening purchases to determine whether there were differences in their ecofriendly attitudes and behaviors such as recycling. Our underlying hypothesis was that different types of gardeners may exhibit more environmentally friendly behavior, predisposing them to be more receptive to product innovations specifically designed to be ecofriendly. Researchers collected plant purchases, recycling attitudes and behaviors, and preferences for ecofriendly containers from 763 consumers in Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Texas. A cluster analysis based on plant purchases yielded three consumer segments: low use, woody plant buyers, and herbaceous plant buyers. There were some differences with regard to recycling behaviors among consumers in the three groups, including recycling aluminum drinking cans, newspapers, magazines, use of energy-saving bulbs, and composting yard waste. Generally, herbaceous plant buyers were most ecofriendly followed by woody plant buyers and low use. Given these differences, there appears to be some merit in the future to segment consumers by plant purchases versus others to target specific types of ecofriendly products to them.

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Jong Woo Choi, Chengyan Yue, James Luby, Shuoli Zhao, Karina Gallardo, Vicki McCracken and Jim McFerson

We conducted choice experiments with both strawberry producers and consumers. Consumer and producer willingness to pay (WTP) for the fruit attributes were estimated using mixed logit models. Through simulation using the mixed logit model results, we derived the market equilibrium prices, supply and demand curve, as well as quantities demanded and supplied for every fruit attribute. We found the highest equilibrium price was for strawberry internal color followed by flavor. Strawberry breeders can use the information when setting breeding targets, allocating resources appropriately during their breeding process and focusing on the improvement of attributes that produce the highest social surplus and total revenue.

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Chengyan Yue, Helen H. Jensen, Daren S. Mueller, Gail R. Nonnecke, Douglas Bonnet and Mark L. Gleason

The sooty blotch and flyspeck (SBFS) disease complex causes cosmetic damage but does not affect the safety or eating quality of apples. Treatment for disease is more difficult and costly for organic producers, and consumers' willingness to pay for organic apples needs to be considered in growers' choice of production technologies. A mixed probit model was applied to survey data to evaluate consumers' willingness to buy apples. The results show consumers will pay a premium for organic production methods and for apples with low amounts of SBFS damage. Behavioral variables such as experience growing fruit significantly affect the willingness to buy apples of different damage levels. Consumers have limited tolerance of very blemished apples and trade off production technology attributes for cosmetic appearance. Better understanding of this tradeoff can improve organic producers' decisions about disease control.

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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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Ruchen Zhou, Chengyan Yue, Shuoli Zhao, R. Karina Gallardo, Vicki McCracken, James J. Luby and James R. McFerson

Consumer preferences for attributes of fresh peach fruit in the United States are largely unknown on a national basis. We used a choice experiment to explore market segmentation based on consumer heterogeneous preference for fruit attributes including external color, blemish, firmness, sweetness, flavor, and price. We collected the data using an online survey with 800 U.S. consumers. Using a latent class logit model, we identified three segments of consumers differing by different sets of preferred quality attributes: experience attribute-oriented consumers, who valued fruit quality (48.8% of the sample); search attribute-oriented consumers, who valued fruit appearance (33.7% of the sample); and balanced consumers, who considered search attributes and experience attributes but who valued each in a balanced way (17.5% of the sample). Each group demonstrated differentiated demographics and purchasing habits. The results have important marketing implications for peach breeders and suppliers.

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Chengyan Yue, R. Karina Gallardo, Vicki A. McCracken, James Luby, James R. McFerson, Lan Liu and Amy Iezzoni

Rosaceous crops (e.g., almond, apple, apricot, caneberry, cherry, pear, peach, plum, rose, and strawberry) contribute to human health and well-being and collectively constitute the economic backbone of numerous North American rural communities. We conducted a survey of U.S. and Canadian rosaceous fruit crop breeders to assess priority setting in their programs, sources of information for setting priorities, and challenges in making technical and management decisions. Input from producers and consumers was most important in establishing breeding program targets, although respondents’ direct interaction with consumers was not frequent. Breeding targets and management decisions were mostly associated with the breeder’s type of organization, scope and range of crops, and intended use of the crop (fresh, processed, or both).

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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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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, Jingjing Wang, Eric Watkins, Stacy A. Bonos, Kristen C. Nelson, James A. Murphy, William A. Meyer and Brian P. Horgan

The development and evaluation of new turfgrass cultivars require considerable resources. A systematic understanding of the breeders’ and distributors’ trait selection behavior can provide a basis for making adjustments and improvements based on industry needs and thus accelerate the breeding process and make it more efficient. The objective of this study is to investigate the selection priorities for turfgrass traits and identify the most influential factors affecting turfgrass breeders’ and distributors’ likelihood of selecting turfgrass traits. Results show that the most important trait clusters for both breeders and distributors were abiotic stress resistance and growth characteristics. Breeders were more likely than distributors to select appearance traits when setting trait priorities. Program characteristics such as program size, education level, and being a male respondent had positive effects on the reported likelihood of selecting studied turfgrass traits, and these effects varied for different trait clusters.

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Chengyan Yue, R. Karina Gallardo, James Luby, Alicia Rihn, James R. McFerson, Vicki McCracken, David Bedford, Susan Brown, Kate Evans, Cholani Weebadde, Audrey Sebolt and Amy F. Iezzoni

Systematic studies of the relative importance of apple traits for U.S. apple producers to inform U.S. apple breeding programs have been lacking. To fill this gap, a series of audience surveys with instant feedback at five apple producer meetings across the United States was conducted. The traits included in this study were fruit crispness, juiciness, firmness, flavor, soluble solids concentration, sugar–acid balance, shelf life at retail, freedom from storage disorders, host plant disease resistance, and other fruit and tree traits provided by the producer. Producers rated fruit flavor and crispness as the most important traits for a successful apple cultivar. The relative importance assigned to traits was associated with growing location and producers’ years of experience in the decision-making process of managing apple orchards. This study contributes directly to a larger effort that provides breeding programs with systematic knowledge of trait preferences of supply chain members, including producers, and should result in a more targeted approach to developing and commercializing new apple cultivars.