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The Plants, Soils, and Biometeorology Department at Utah State University was formed in 1989 as the result of a merger between the Soil Science and Biometeorology Department and the Plant Science Department. While constant vigilance is required to keep the department balanced and functioning as a single unit, overall the combined department seems to be stronger than the previous units.

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Computer technology allows horticultural educators to convey information more flexibly and visually to a greater audience. However, accessing and making use of technological teaching tools is as much a hurdle as it is an opportunity. HortBase provides the framework for educators in horticulture to easily access and contribute to quality chunks of horticultural educational by computer. Engaging computer-based instruction such as HortBase in distance or on-campus teaching is a three-step process. First, before assembling the teaching material, the educator must decide on who the target audience is and what information to convey. Audiences on campus often have higher expectations of how they want to learn, being accustomed to face-to-face instruction and guidance, but may not have a clear idea of what they want to learn. Off-campus audiences may have lower expectations but generally are more focused on the information they want. Second, the educator then must decide on how much of the information to bring into digital form oneself and what to draw from elsewhere. Chunks of digitized information can be created by scanning existing images into the computer or created on computer with drawing programs. Once digitized, images can be manipulated to achieve a desired look. This is laborious, so much effort can be saved by taking created chunks from HortBase. Finally, choose a medium for dissemination. Course content can be presented with slide-show software that incorporates digitized slides, drawing, animations, and video footage with text. Lectures can then be output to videotape or broadcast via an analog network. Alternatively, the digitized information can be incorporated into interactive packages for CD-ROM or the World Wide Web.

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Bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum) has potential as a small, water conserving landscape tree in western landscapes. This potential has been hindered in part by the difficulty in asexually propagating superior accessions. The ability of etiolation to enhance rooting of softwood cuttings of selected wild accessions was determined by grafting six accessions onto seedling rootstocks to use as stock plants. Etiolation was applied to stock plants by placing open-ended, black, velour, drawstring bags over the end of pruned shoots at bud swell allowing new shoots to develop and grow out the end of the bag while leaving the base of the shoot covered. In 2009 and 2010, cuttings from etiolated and nonetiolated shoots were treated with 4000 ppm indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) + 2000 ppm naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), stuck in a premoistened 3 perlite:1 peat (by volume) rooting substrate and placed under intermittent mist. After 4 weeks, 89% (2009) and 85% (2010) of the etiolated cuttings rooted and only 47% (2009) and 17% (2010) of the nonetiolated cuttings rooted. Etiolated cuttings produced on average 11.3 (2009) and 7.2 (2010) roots per cutting and nonetiolated 2.1 (2009) and 0.5 (2010) roots per cutting. Etiolation, and its application through the use of black cloth bags, can be an effective way to increase the rooting of bigtooth maple cuttings and the availability of these plants for use in water conserving landscaping.

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The green industry in Utah is a large and diverse group that ranges from nursery/greenhouse growers and retailers to landscape maintenance and design professionals to irrigation and turf industry professionals. Because of the size and diverse membership of the Utah green industry, extension faculty are challenged to gauge the needs and attitudes of the industry as a clientele group. In 2007, we conducted a mail survey of the Utah green industry to identify the learning preferences of industry members, to better understand the structure and extent of Utah green industry businesses, and to elicit industry perceptions about present and future challenges to success. We found that the service sector is a significant component of Utah's green industry, and that extension-based short courses can be used to provide more advanced and targeted education to specific industry groups. Drought/water issues and labor shortages were viewed as significant challenges to the future of the green industry, and these could be used as a foundation for building strategic alliances between extension and the green industry in Utah. Results of our survey will be useful to green industry professionals and extension educators that deal with green industry education, particularly in states with service- rather than production-oriented businesses.

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The potential of bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum) as a small, water-conserving landscape tree for the western United States is limited by the selection of superior accessions from a morphologically diverse gene pool and the ability to propagate wild plants in a nursery environment. Superior accessions were selected based primarily on red fall color. Aerial digital images taken during peak fall color in 2007 and 2008 were synchronized with flight global positioning system (GPS) track files using digital image editor software and visually compared with corresponding satellite images to determine the exact latitude and longitude of selected trees on the ground. Trees were physically located using GPS technology then visually evaluated for initial selection. Criteria included fall color, habitat, relative disease and insect resistance, bud quality, and plant form. From 56 observed trees of interest, six were selected for propagation. Through time-course experiments using multistemmed, bigtooth maple seedling rootstocks in a coppiced stoolbed, the optimum time for chip budding scions of wild accessions in northern Utah was determined to be July through mid-August. Further evaluation of accessions for use in the landscape industry is required.

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In response to a perceived need for the development and introduction of superior plant accessions for use in sustainable, low-water landscaping, land-grant universities in Colorado, Idaho, and Utah, have supported plant development programs. Each of these programs has unique characteristics and protocols for releasing plant materials and obtaining royalties to further support research and development. Colorado State University (CSU) is part of the Plant Select program, which evaluates and promotes native and non-native plants for use in low-water landscapes. Selected plants are released to commercial members who pay a membership fee and royalties for access to the selected plants. The University of Idaho focuses on selecting and evaluating native herbaceous perennials, which are then released through a contract and royalty program with a local nursery. Utah State University uses the Sego Supreme program to select, propagate, and evaluate native plants. Selected plants are released to interested growers who pay a royalty for production rights.

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