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  • Author or Editor: Dewayne L. Ingram x
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The production components of an evergreen shrub (Ilex crenata ‘Bennett’s Compacta’) grown in a no. 3 container in an east coast U.S. nursery were analyzed for their costs and contributions to carbon footprint, as well as the product impact in the landscape throughout its life cycle. A life cycle inventory was conducted of input materials, equipment use, and all cultural practices and other processes used in a model production system for this evergreen shrub. A life cycle assessment (LCA) of the model numerated the associated greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), carbon footprint, and variable cost of each component. The LCA also included the transportation and transplanting of the final product in the landscape as well as its removal after a 40-year useful life. GHG from input products and processes during the production (cutting-to-gate) of the evergreen shrub were estimated to be 2.918 kg CO2e. When considering carbon sequestration during production weighted over a 100-year assessment period, the carbon footprint for this model system at the nursery gate was 2.144 kg CO2e. Operations, combining the impact of material and equipment use, that contributed most of GHG during production included fertilization (0.707 kg CO2e), the liner and transplanting (0.461 kg CO2e), the container (0.468 kg CO2e), gravel and ground cloth installation (0.222 kg CO2e), substrate materials and preparation (0.227 kg CO2e), and weed control (0.122 kg CO2e). The major contributors to global warming potential (GWP) were also major contributors to the cutting-to-gate variable costs ($3.224) except for processes that required significant labor investments. Transporting the shrub to the landscaper, transporting it to the landscape site, and transplanting it would result in GHG of 0.376, 0.458, and 0 kg CO2e, respectively. Variable costs for postharvest activities were $6.409 and were dominated by labor costs (90%).

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Understanding carbon footprint (CF) terminology and the science underlying its determination is important to minimizing the negative impacts of new product development and assessing positive or negative cradle-to-grave life-cycle impacts. Life cycle assessment has been used to characterize representative field-grown and container-grown landscape plants. The dominant contributor to the CF and variable costs of field-grown trees is equipment use, or more specifically, the combustion of fossil fuels. Most of that impact is at harvest when heavy equipment is used to dig and move individual trees. Transport of these trees to customers and the subsequent transplant in the landscape are also carbon-intensive activities. Field-grown shrubs are typically dug by hand and have much smaller CFs than trees. Plastics are the major contributor to CF of container-grown plants. Greenhouse heating also can be impactful on the CF of plants depending on the location of the greenhouse or nursery and the length and season(s) of production. Knowing the input products and activities that contribute most toward CF and costs during plant production allows nursery and greenhouse managers to consider protocol modifications that are most impactful on profit potential and environmental impact. Marketers of landscape plants need information about the economic and environmental life-cycle benefits of these products, as they market to environmentally conscious consumers.

Open Access

Organic and low-input production systems are increasingly of interest in medicinal plant production, such as Calendula officinalis, a medicinal plant grown for essential oils. However, in these systems the effects of nutrient availability and water stress may act singularly or in combination to affect plant growth and medicinal compound production. This study investigated the effects of organic and conventional fertility sources and drought stress effects on four calendula cultivars. Soil nitrogen (N) status, plant growth, productivity, and essential oil quality and quantity were measured. The plant growth response to increased N availability varied by cultivar, indicating that some cultivars may be better suited to low-input fertility regimes. Fertility source did not significantly affect essential oil quality or quantity. Drought stress reduced plant growth but increased the quality of essential oil, as indicated by the concentrations of specific constituents, although it did not reduce total oil yield. These results indicate that organic and low-input farming systems may significantly reduce plant growth, but may not necessarily affect essential oil yield or quality. As such, the sustainability of medicinal plant production systems may be improved by reductions in water and conventional fertilizers without significant reductions in medicinal compound production.

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A solid-state, electronic controller was designed and built to maintain de“sired root-zone temperatures in specially designed root heating tubes. The controller uses a thermistor feedback mechanism to an operational amplifier circuit. The tubes were constructed from 7.5-cm-diameter metal pipe, electrical heating tape, a rubber coating, and pipe insulation. Each controller can maintain treatment temperatures in 16 tubes; four tubes at each of four temperatures. Temperatures can be maintained from ambient to 50C with a precision at 35 of ± 0.9C within and between tubes.

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Short-term effects of root-zone temperatures (RZT) of 28, 33, 38, and 43C for 6 hours daily on container-grown Musa spp. (AAA) `Grande Naine' and Ixora chinensis L. `Maui' were determined under greenhouse and growth room conditions. Diurnal fluctuation of leaf carbon assimilation (LCA) was altered by treatments. In the growth room at 43C, the maximum LCA occurred about midday for banana, but not until afternoon in ixora. LCA was highest (0.53 mg CO2/m2 per sec) in banana with a 33C RZT under greenhouse conditions, while it was equally high (0.74 mg CO2/m2 per sec) at 33 and 38C in a growth room. In ixora, 33C induced the highest LCA (0.40 mg CO2/m2 per sec) in the greenhouse at 1200 hr, but there were no apparent differences in midday LCA between plants with RZT of 28, 33, and 38C in the growth room. Effects of RZT and environment on the daily fluctuations of gaseous exchange processes raise questions about using measurements at only one time during the day to separate treatment effects.

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Freezing tolerance and the lethal freezing temperature were determined for detached leaves of avocado (Persea americana Mill.) by either electrolyte leakage or visual appearance of browning. Leaves from field-grown trees of `Gainesville', `Booth8', and `Winter Mexican' in both Gainesville and Homestead, Fla., were evaluated. All cultivars in both locations survived ice formation in their tissue. Leaf tissue had a temperature limit (lethal freeze temperature) at and below which the tissue died. The lethal freezing temperature varied from -5.1 to -9.3C, depending on time of year and location. The lethal freeze temperature for a cultivar decreased over the fall and winter as temperatures decreased. Leaves of `Booth-8' and Winter Mexican' decreased 2.5 and 1.5C, respectively, in Homestead from 13 Nov. 1982 to 5 Feb. 1983. The plants growing at the lower temperature location (Gainesville) had lower lethal freeze temperatures. Leaves of `Gainesville' had a lethal freeze temperature of - 9.3C from trees at Gainesville and - 7.8C from trees at Homestead.

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Increasing demand for groundcover plants and increasing consumer preference for more sustainable products encourage nursery crop producers and landscape management companies to assess efficiency and sustainable practices. Ajuga reptans ‘Bronze Beauty’ and Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’ were grown in standard plastic containers or plantable containers (Ellepot and SoilWrap) and 12- or 18-count flats. These production alternatives were presented in personal surveys of commercial industry personnel and consumers to determine their willingness to pay for these attributes. A conjoint analysis revealed an affinity for both groups to purchase flats of groundcovers and preferred sedum over ajuga. Commercial buyers from larger companies were more likely to purchase plantable containers than those from smaller firms. Generally, flats of Ellepots were preferred over flats of SoilWraps and 18-count over 12-count flats by commercial buyers. Price had a negative impact on consumer willingness to pay. Consumers revealed no specific preference for the plantable containers, although preference for plastic containers declined with age and presence of children at home.

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