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  • Author or Editor: David Buckley x
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Production of high-quality nursery liners has long been a foundation principle for enabling success and business longevity in the competitive nursery industry. Unfortunately, many different characteristics can be used to define liner “quality,” ranging from physiological parameters measurable in scientific studies field establishment success and transplant production performance to gut-level hunches on the part of growers. A more complete understanding of what buyers are looking for in a bare-root liner would significantly enhance the success of producers in meeting the demands of end-users. As a result, a choice study involving a point-of-purchase simulation was designed to assess preferences of green industry professionals when viewing bare-root 1 + 0 nursery liners. A conjoint design was used for this study and involved six key attributes of liners: 1) number of first-order lateral roots (FOLR); 2) price; 3) production region; and uniformities of 4) height; 5) canopy density; and 6) liner caliper. A visual survey based on a large, color graphic depicting six distinct bare-root 1 + 0 liners with different combinations of attributes was administered together with a demographic questionnaire at four different green industry tradeshows and extension grower education and outreach venues in the southeastern United States. Results from 248 completed surveys corroborated previously reported results suggesting that high FOLR is the most important attribute influencing preference for 1 + 0 liner products followed by uniform liner height and canopy density. Contrary to a priori expectations, neither price nor region of production substantially influenced product preference. Utility values were calculated for each attribute level using outputs from the experimental model. These values can be used by growers to adjust production methods to improve liners with attributes that end-users value most. In addition, growers will be able to better estimate product ratings, redirect marketing efforts, and assess sales potential for various bare-root 1 + 0 liner products in U.S. markets.

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Ornamental plant growers must be able to accurately assess production costs associated with woody liner stock to gain profit potential in a highly competitive industry. Fixed and variable cost inputs may not be intuitive or readily apparent to growers and may even differ between common types of production in the trade. To help liner producers identify profit-based price points for their woody ornamental liner stock, we modeled costs associated with producing familiar species and cultivars of a representative deciduous shade tree, a broadleaf evergreen, and a needle leaf evergreen liner. Production costs are projected down to individual plant units for each of the three most common liner production systems, including a field ground bed system, a polyhouse-covered (plant protection structure sheathed with one layer of 6-mil polyethylene film) ground bed system, and a polyhouse-covered container system. Production costs for individual plants varied due to the actual growing space available within each system. The field ground bed system offered greatest flexibility in crop planting density, with cost potentially distributed among the largest number of salable units. In addition to modeled costs, advantages and disadvantages of each liner cropping system are discussed.

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