Uncertain future availability of water is one of the most critical current issues, and outdoor water use contributes substantially to the strain on water resources. Much of the nation’s outdoor water use is through urban landscape irrigation, and one solution for conservation of this limited resource is to change home landscape irrigation practices. Thus, households that use landscape irrigation are an important audience for Florida extension programs. Complex, statewide water conservation programs are difficult to evaluate because of program variability and limited resources, yet evaluation is an important task that reveals the success, or failure, of a program. This study compared factors between people who have or have not engaged in Florida extension programs. The targeting outcomes of programs model and theory of planned behavior were used as a basis for measuring different levels of possible outcomes. There were no differences in attitudes toward good irrigation practices and perceived ability to adopt them between extension participants and nonparticipants. There were differences between the two groups in perceived normative attitudes, intent to adopt good irrigation practices, and actual engagement in landscape water conservation practices. Findings demonstrate a relationship exists between these characteristics and engagement with extension. The greatest differences were stronger social norms and more engagement in complex conservation behaviors among people who had attended extension programs. It is not known how much externalities play a role in leading certain people to seek out extension education. Extension professionals should use the findings of this study to target nonparticipants and deliver more impactful programs.
There are substantial opportunities for residents to conserve and protect water through irrigation and fertilizer best practices without sacrificing landscape quality. Promoting the adoption of practices and technologies to address water quality and quantity issues is one of the most important contributions extension can make to solving complex water problems. Extension needs to use innovative approaches to encourage adoption of landscape water conservation practices and technologies, and one underused behavior change strategy is social marketing. Social marketing can help extension encourage behavior change by positioning desired behaviors in terms of value to clientele. This study examined the relationship between the benefits people believe their home landscape provides and their engagement in good irrigation and fertilization practices. Aesthetics is the most valued landscape benefit but it is not strongly influential on good irrigation or fertilization practices. Individuals who perceive their landscape offers habitat benefits are most likely to engage in good irrigation practices, whereas individuals who believe their landscape provides environmental benefits are most likely to engage in good fertilization practices. People who believe their landscape offers monetary benefits are least likely to engage in good irrigation and good fertilizer practices. Extension professionals should develop programs that relate fertilization best practices to environmental benefits and irrigation best management practices to habitat benefits while emphasizing that landscape management best practices are compatible with landscape aesthetics.
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.
This article shares survey results provided by both consumers and growers regarding the University of Florida Biodiversity Certified Plants for the Rapidly Expanding Urban Landscape Market project conducted at the University of Florida (UF). The overall goal of this project was to develop and test a scientifically based, UF-trademarked process for the certification of high-quality, commercially available, wildlife-friendly plants for the green industry. The objectives of two surveys that targeted consumers and growers, respectively, were to assess consumer and grower attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors pertaining to wildlife-friendly plants and a proposed certification. The consumer survey results (n = 868) indicated that respondents (consumers) strongly agreed with purchasing wildlife-friendly plants, and that respondents would benefit from the proposed certification. The certification could help consumers gain a better understanding of which plants are wildlife-friendly at the point of purchase. Nearly half of consumers reported an inability to identify wildlife-friendly plants in the store, which hinders them from purchasing. The grower survey results (n = 75) indicated that respondents were willing to offer biodiversity-certified plants. More growers rated themselves as innovators (the most innovative category) in terms of adopting innovations than any other diffusion of innovations category (early adopter, early majority, later majority, hesitant, or none of these), although the perceived cost of obtaining the certification was seen as a potential barrier toward grower adoption of the certification. These findings indicate that the proposed certification would be successful with appropriate and tailored marketing materials for both growers and consumers.
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.
US nurseries are experiencing a workforce shortage that is expected to intensify. A mixed-mode survey of decision-makers representing the US nursery industry was conducted in 2021. The survey assessed practices used in 2020 to elicit a better understanding of nursery approaches to the challenges presented by persistent labor scarcity. We compare our results with survey data collected ∼15 years earlier at container nurseries. Survey responses revealed that nurseries were undertaking strategies that aimed to improve production efficiency, better recruit and retain employees, and secure other sources of labor to overcome this shortage. Specifically, more than 65% of surveyed US nurseries increased worker wages, and more than 55% of respondents adopted automation to address the labor shortage. Strategies in use by ≥23% of respondents may limit future growth or jeopardize long-term nursery survival. These include diversifying tasks of current employees, reducing production of labor-intensive plants, or delaying expansion plans. Survey results suggested that production tasks excluding irrigation were on average 31% automated or mechanized at container nurseries, an increase from 16% during the prior survey. Field nurseries were 35% automated or mechanized in 2020. Newly developed or yet-to-be developed automated and mechanized technology (AMT) that decision-makers perceive as being helpful were reported. This article explores linkages between nursery characteristics and AMT adoption and highlights research and extension programming initiatives that are needed to help growers make informed decisions regarding adopting automation.