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- Author or Editor: Alexa J. Lamm x
Greenhouse and growth chamber operating and maintenance costs continue to escalate while budgets remain stagnant. As a result, many universities struggle to find the necessary funds for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of basic research infrastructure needs. A survey was conducted to develop an understanding of how user fee systems contribute to funding stability, and how they are designed and managed in support of greenhouse and growth chamber facilities at colleges of agriculture throughout the United States. Where user fees have been implemented, the majority of greenhouse and growth chamber facilities are managed centrally, and are administered by agricultural experiment station (AES) directors or facility managers. Regardless of the administrative authority, most systems use an advisory committee to set fee schedules and determine policies. The majority of user fees are allocated back to the specific facility, with the majority of funds in general used to help pay for indirect expenses. The findings also indicate that user fees make more efficient use of space by providing faculty with a financial incentive to minimize their project area and to conduct experiments quickly.
Nursery and greenhouse growers have an important role to play in conserving water resources. Many technologies are available to help growers conserve water. Yet, within the industry, there may be varying levels of knowledge about a specific strategy, along with inconsistent adoption and continued use. An understanding of these factors can be incorporated into educational programming for this audience. This study evaluated the reported knowledge level of U.S. greenhouse and nursery growers about eight specific water conservation technologies and then explored the rate at which growers had adopted and continued or discontinued their use. Technologies were ranked from high to low adoption rate, beginning with drip irrigation, rainwater capture, water reuse, and microirrigation, followed by soil moisture sensors, climate-based irrigation, subirrigation, and finally an irrigation audit. Overall, greater levels of knowledge corresponded to both greater adoption and continued use of a technology. Other factors, such as economic cost and technical feasibility are undoubtedly important. Findings highlight an opportunity to focus educational programs on the systems-based strategies that are beneficial to growers, but growers are least knowledgeable about to increase adoption of effective water conservation methods that currently have low levels of grower implementation.
Every county and municipality in Florida can adopt its own unique ordinance regulating the fertilization of lawns and landscapes. With increased concern for eutrophication to state waterbodies, many have chosen to implement seasonal fertilizer restrictive periods prohibiting the application of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, typically during the rainy summer months. These fertilizer “blackout” policies have been the subject of controversy among environmental activists, university scientists, and policy decision makers, with their efficacy being called into question. A Foucauldian discourse analysis was undertaken to trace the dynamics of the controversy, and survey research was conducted with Florida residents and with Florida decision makers to compare their lawncare maintenance practices, sentiments surrounding turfgrass, their trust in landscape science, as well as their awareness of policy in the city or county in which they reside. Differences were found between the two populations in terms of how many respondents fertilized, used automated irrigation systems and hand-pulled weeds. Although both populations had very neutral sentiments around turfgrass with no significant differences, Florida decision-maker respondents had a higher mean response for trust in landscape science. Only 32% of Florida resident respondents were able to accurately identify if their city or county had a blackout ordinance, compared with 81% of decision-maker respondents. Increasing civic science may be the best way for reducing this discrepancy, while also giving power to citizens in environmental policy adoption.
There are many water treatment technologies available to the nursery and greenhouse industry, but this sector has been somewhat hesitant to adopt them. An online survey was used to evaluate nursery and greenhouse growers’ knowledge, implementation, and continued use of 12 water treatment technologies. Less than 24% of the growers had used a water treatment technology. The knowledge level was low overall, and fewer than one in four growers had implemented all 12 technologies. However, most growers who had implemented 10 of the 12 technologies continued to use them. The results imply water treatment technologies available for this group are somewhat unknown and underused, thereby implying that there is a need to increase awareness of these innovations and highlight the opportunity for growers to advocate for treatment technology use among their peers.
There are economic and knowledge-based challenges that must be addressed for indoor farms to be viable in the United States despite their potential benefits. A mixed-methods approach was used to identify the needs of specialty crop growers and stakeholders interested in or currently using indoor propagation environments to grow seedlings, cuttings, and tissue-cultured plants. An online survey evaluated specialty crop growers’ current use of indoor plant propagation environments and their needs related to indoor plant propagation. A focus group was then conducted to further understand the needs for indoor plant propagation by stakeholders. Industry participants were largely motivated to adopt indoor propagation environments to reduce crop losses (“shrinkage”), increase productivity per unit of land area, ensure faster germination or rooting, improve plant quality, and profit from anticipated economic benefits. Research and education priority areas identified by stakeholders included economic costs and benefits (including capital investment and energy costs), improved crop quality, production time, uniformity, reduced shrinkage, and strategies to improve light management indoors. Based on the results, research efforts must determine and prioritize the most important economic considerations and production advantages to fill important gaps in knowledge about indoor plant propagation.