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Carter M. Westerhold, Samuel Wortman, Kim Todd, and Douglas Golick

Pollinating insects are integral to the health of all terrestrial ecosystems and agriculture worldwide. Urbanization can greatly reduce nutritional resources and habitat for pollinators. However, these losses can be mitigated through targeted landscape practices, such as planting nectar- and pollen-rich plants and managing pollinator habitat in urban areas, especially home landscapes. As homeowners attempt to conserve pollinators through horticultural practices, they often seek the advice and guidance of horticulture retail employees. The knowledge horticulture employees have about pollinators and the recommendations they provide to customers is largely unknown. A nationwide survey was developed and distributed with the objectives to 1) assess employee knowledge about pollinators and pollination biology, 2) discover what plant and management recommendations employees were giving customers pertaining to pollinator conservation, and 3) determine where to focus possible education and outreach, as well as which topics to focus educational programs on. Our findings suggest, among our respondents, that overall knowledge was adequate, with a mean score (±sd) being 8.37 (±3.23) of a possible range of 0–14 points. Uncertified and part-time employees were identified as having significantly lower scores. The subject of plant selection was found to have the largest gap in knowledge, with a mean score of 1.82 (±0.62) of a possible three points. We identified several opportunities for educational outreach, aimed at improving employee and customer knowledge on this important subject.

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Samuel E. Wortman, Michael S. Douglass, and Jeffrey D. Kindhart

Demand for local food, including strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa), is increasing throughout the United States. Strawberry production in the midwestern United States can be challenging due to the relatively short growing season and pests. However, vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel production systems could extend the growing season, minimize pest incidence, and maximize strawberry yield and profitability. The objectives of this study were to 1) identify the best cultivars and growing media for vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel production of strawberries in the midwestern United States and to 2) assess potential strategies for replacing synthetic fertilizer with organic nutrient sources in hydroponic strawberry production. To accomplish these objectives, three experiments were conducted across 2 years and two locations in Illinois to compare 11 strawberry cultivars, three soilless media mixtures, and three nutrient sources. Strawberry yield was greatest when grown in perlite mixed with coco coir or vermiculite and fertilized with a synthetic nutrient source. Yield was reduced by up to 15% when fertilized with a bio-based, liquid nutrient source and vermicompost mixed with soilless media. Strawberry yield among cultivars varied by year and location, but Florida Radiance, Monterey, Evie 2, Portola, and Seascape were among the highest-yielding cultivars in at least one site-year. Results contribute to the development of best management practices for vertical, hydroponic, high tunnel strawberry production in the midwestern United States, but further research is needed to understand nutrient dynamics and crop physiological response among levels within vertical, hydroponic towers.