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Alicia Rihn and Hayk Khachatryan

Consumer awareness of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides is growing (in part) due to increased publicity and media attention. Environmental groups want neonic insecticides to be banned because of their perceived potential negative consequences on nontarget species (especially bees and other pollinator insects). Several retail outlets and governmental agencies are now requiring the ornamental horticulture industry (hereafter, green industry) to label plants grown using neonic insecticides. Although the scientific value of the mandatory labeling policies are debatable, neonic labeling may negatively influence consumers’ demand for plants. Research on consumers’ awareness of neonic insecticides is limited, and the extent to which awareness influences preferences and shopping behavior is less understood. This manuscript addresses these research gaps by investigating correlations between awareness of neonic insecticides, knowledge about related topics (e.g., gardening and pollinator insect health), and purchase likelihood, using an online survey of 921 U.S. consumers. Results indicate that only 24% of surveyed plant purchasers are aware of neonic insecticides. Consumers who are aware of neonic insecticides are more knowledgeable about plants that improve pollinator health and entomology than those who are not aware. Labels with “neonic-free” wording were the least preferred and influential pollinator-related in-store promotion. However, awareness of neonic insecticides was positively correlated with consumers’ purchase likelihood for “neonic-free” plants. Overall, awareness influences consumers’ shopping behavior, which could necessitate altering green industry pest management strategies as consumers’ awareness of neonic insecticides increases due to the negative publicity surrounding it.

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Hayk Khachatryan and Alicia Rihn

Declining pollinator insect populations has become an important environmental concern in recent years. Despite widespread awareness, consumer perceptions of production practices (i.e., natural and organic) and effects on pollinator health are not well understood. This study assessed consumer perceptions of pollinator-friendly plant production practices in nursery production systems for food crop plants and landscape plants. Understanding consumer perceptions of horticultural production practices related to pollinator health is important because this impacts consumers’ product selection (e.g., landscape and food crop plants), sales, and the availability of pollinator-friendly products in the residential landscape. We used an online survey of 1243 U.S. consumers who ranked the importance of 11 different production practices for both food crops and landscape plants. Results were analyzed using an ordered probit model and showed that plant type influences perceived importance of the production practices. For food crop plants, grown without pesticides practice was perceived as the best production method for pollinator health, whereas grown outside practice was ranked the highest for landscape plants. Grown using synthetic pesticides practice was ranked the least beneficial method regardless of plant type. Results contribute new insights into consumers’ perceptions of pollinator-friendly production practices relative to plant type (i.e., landscape vs. food crop plants) which green industry stakeholders can use as they assess production methods or marketing strategies.

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Benjamin Campbell, Hayk Khachatryan and Alicia Rihn

Certain pesticides are coming under scrutiny because of their impact on pollinator insects. Although most consumers express willingness to aid pollinators, the reasons for consumers’ preferences or barriers to purchasing pollinator-friendly plants and the types of pollinators’ that consumers are trying to protect are less understood. Using an online survey of 1200 Connecticut (CT) consumers, of which 841 had home landscapes, we find that 46% of consumers with home landscapes purchased pollinator-friendly plants to attract pollinators to their landscape. Consistent with past research that focused on consumers’ preferences for pollinator-friendly plants, the data also reveal that some consumers are willing to pay premiums for plants that contribute to pollinator’s health. However, only 17% stated that attracting pollinators was their primary motivation; a finding that suggests labeling alone will likely not motivate consumers to purchase plants. The major barriers to purchasing pollinator-friendly plants included lack of labeling (cited by 28%), followed by high price (28%). Consumers purchasing pollinator-friendly plants were trying to attract butterflies (Lepidoptera) (78%), bees (Apidae) (59%), hummingbirds (Trochilidae) (59%), and other birds (41%). We also find that demographics and purchasing behavior affect barriers and types of pollinators desired. Simply labeling plants has the potential to increase purchasing, but increasing price could be detrimental as many consumers feel pollinator-friendly plants are highly priced. Implications for ornamental horticulture stakeholders are discussed.

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Alicia L. Rihn, Chengyan Yue, Bridget Behe and Charles Hall

Demand for fresh-cut flowers and floral products has been decreasing in recent years, particularly among young consumers. The objectives of this study were to explore Generations X and Y's positive and negative attitudes toward flowers as gifts; explore differences in perceptions about price, product, place, and promotions among Generations X and Y to determine the best marketing techniques to reach them; and determine what actions the floral industry can take to improve Generations X and Y's use of flowers as gifts. Participants were recruited in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, and Lansing and East Lansing, MI. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire and participate in a focus group discussion. An ordered probit model was used to analyze the data. Results showed that younger consumers were dissatisfied with several floral product attributes, including short longevity, lack of trendiness, relative high cost, lack of appropriateness, and lack of uniqueness. Results also indicate that younger consumers perceived that their friends do not enjoy floral gifts. Additionally, younger consumers viewed floral advertisements less frequently and considered floral gifts difficult to purchase, resulting in decreased awareness and interest. Overall, most participants felt that in-store sales or discounts, greater flower longevity, more price ranges, and trendier arrangements/flowers would increase their use of fresh flowers as gifts.

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Alicia Rihn, Hayk Khachatryan, Benjamin Campbell, Charles Hall and Bridget Behe

A rating-based conjoint experiment combined with eye-tracking analysis was used to investigate the effect of plant attributes on consumer purchase likelihood for indoor foliage plants. The experiment assessed the effects of plant type (Dracaena marginata Lam., Guzmania lingulata, or Spathiphyllum wallisii Regel), volatile organic compound (VOC) removal capacity (high, low, or none specified), price ($10.98–14.98/plant), production method [certified organic, organic production (not certified), or conventional], and origin (in-state, domestic, or imported) on consumer preferences. An ordered logit model was used to analyze the data. Organic production methods, in-state origin, domestic origin, and high VOC removal increased participants’ purchase likelihood. Visually attending to the highest price point ($14.98) increased consumers’ purchase likelihood. Age, gender, child (<12 years), pet, relationship status, education, and ethnicity affected participants’ purchase likelihood for indoor foliage plants. Purchasing barriers for indoor foliage plants are also discussed. Results have implications for indoor foliage plant growers and retailers as they produce, promote, and sell their products.

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Alicia L. Rihn, Chengyan Yue, Charles Hall and Bridget K. Behe

Choice experiments were conducted to explore the market potential or value added when using longevity information and guarantees on cut flower arrangements in the retail setting. The objective of our study was to determine consumer preferences and willingness to pay for different vase life longevities and guarantees on cut flower arrangements. The choice experiment data were collected using online surveys with 525 U.S. consumers in July 2011. The choice experiment scenarios included single species or mixed species cut flower arrangements with varying vase life longevity (5 to 7 days, 8 to 10 days, 11 to 14 days), presence or absence of vase life longevity guarantee, personal or gift use, and price range ($7.99 to $11.99, $34.99 to $43.99). Two types of arrangements were used in the experiment, mixed arrangements consisting of different species of cut flowers and single-species arrangements consisting of six red roses plus a filler flower. We analyzed the data with a mixed logit model and Ward’s linkage cluster analysis. As expected, participants were willing to pay higher prices for cut flower arrangements with longer vase life longevity. The presence of a guarantee improved participants’ probability of selecting the corresponding cut flower arrangement. Using Ward’s linkage cluster analysis, we found there were three distinct consumer clusters: guarantee seekers (49% of the sample), value-conscious consumers (31%), and spenders (20%). Among the three clusters, guarantee seekers were more likely to select cut flower arrangements with guarantees. Value-conscious consumers were interested in both guarantees and longevity indicators. Spenders were least interested in longevity indicators and guarantees. We conclude floral retailers could successfully implement the use of longevity indicators and guarantees to increase consumer interest in cut flowers and generate profits. Target marketing strategies could then be developed by floral retailers to attract different consumer 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.

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Chengyan Yue, R. Karina Gallardo, James J. Luby, Alicia L. Rihn, James R. McFerson, Vicki McCracken, Nnadozie Oraguzie, Cholani Weebadde, Audrey Sebolt and Amy Iezzoni

Developing new cherry cultivars requires breeders to be aware of existing and emerging needs throughout the supply chain, from producer to consumer. Because breeding programs in perennial crop plants like sweet and tart cherries require both extended time and extensive resources, understanding and targeting priority traits is critical to improve the efficiency of breeding programs. This study investigated the relative importance of fruit and tree traits to sweet and tart cherry producers using ordered probit models. Tart cherry producers considered productivity and fruit firmness to be the most important traits, whereas sweet cherry producers regarded fruit size, fruit flavor, fruit firmness, freedom from pitting, and powdery mildew resistance as important traits. The location of producers’ orchards and their demographic backgrounds influenced their perceptions of the importance of traits. Our findings provide a quantitative basis to reinforce existing priorities of breeding programs or suggest new targets.

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Chengyan Yue, R. Karina Gallardo, James J. Luby, Alicia L. Rihn, James R. McFerson, Vicki McCracken, Tom Gradziel, Ksenija Gasic, Gregory L. Reighard, John Clark and Amy Iezzoni

We conducted audience surveys at three major peach producer meetings across the United States. We found that the relative importance assigned to fruit quality and tree traits by producers varied across producers’ end markets. Fresh peach producers indicated fruit flavor and size were the most important fruit quality traits, whereas processed peach producers viewed fruit size, fruit firmness, and absence of split pits as being the most important traits for a successful peach cultivar. These results have potential to ensure that peach breeding programs are consonant with fresh and processed peach producers’ needs for fruit and tree traits.

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Chengyan Yue, R. Karina Gallardo, James Luby, Alicia Rihn, James R. McFerson, Vicki McCracken, Vance M. Whitaker, Chad E. Finn, James F. Hancock, Cholani Weebadde, Audrey Sebolt and Amy Iezzoni

The primary goal of this research was to evaluate the relative importance of strawberry fruit quality and plant traits to strawberry producers. Previous studies focus on strawberry traits that impact postharvest quality and marketable yield; however, studies emphasizing the importance of these traits to strawberry producers are scarce. To investigate U.S. strawberry producer trait preferences, a series of audience surveys were conducted at four strawberry producer meetings across the United States. Results indicate that fruit firmness, fruit flavor, and fruit shelf life at retail were the most important fruit/plant traits to producers for a successful strawberry cultivar to possess. Growing state and producers’ years involved in the decision-making process of strawberry farms impacted the relative importance of the fruit/plant traits. This study directly contributes to a larger investigation of supply chain members’ trait preferences to improve the efficiency of Rosaceae fruit crop breeding programs and to increase the likelihood of new cultivar adoption. The overall project should result in a more efficient approach to new strawberry cultivar development and commercialization.