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Virginia I. Lohr

Conducting research with human subjects involves many of the same issues involved with conducting any type of research. As horticulturists, we are aware of the range of variability that can be introduced when working with living organisms. This variability can come from environmental influences as well as genetic variation. These can be major factors when conducting research with people as well. Research with people also introduces complicating interactions between the researchers and the subjects. When working with humans as subjects, federal regulations must be considered; these regulations are even stricter when the research involves youth. These additional factors, which should be considered when designing studies to understand the impacts of plants and plant programs on youth, will be discussed.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Horticultural crops are being affected by weather extremes consistent with predictions from climate change models. Impacts include crop losses and extended growing seasons. Negative effects on crop productivity are predicted to vastly overwhelm any positive effects. Students who graduate from our programs will need additional knowledge to succeed compared with those trained in previous decades. To determine the extent to which higher educational institutions across the United States are educating students about these issues, a survey was conducted to gather information on the incorporation of climate change literacy in horticultural curricula. Most programs do not currently offer classes with “climate change” or “global warming” in the formal title or description, but many instructors are including at least some information related to climate change in specific courses they teach. Instructors of courses in fruits, vegetables, or turf, and instructors who do not teach at 1862 land-grant universities, are more likely than other instructors to include content related to climate change in their courses. Instructors who do not have tenure and instructors who teach plant identification courses are more likely than other instructors to have increased the content on climate change in their classes over time.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Evidence is growing that people exposed to environmental and mental stress benefit from having plants in their communities and from working with those plants in gardening and related activities. The benefits to the community range from improved social interactions to reduced littering. Feelings of self-confidence and self-worth are improved. Economic conditions can be improved: vegetable production reduces the need for individuals to spend money on food, and community improvement initiated by flower gardening increases property values. Some of these benefits are well-documented, while others are primarily supported by a long history of anecdotal evidence. More research is needed to fully document the importance of community gardening efforts and to justify expansions in these programs.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Many undergraduates major in horticulture because they love working with plants. When they hear research that documents how people respond-to plants, some students -begin to understand why they have responded positively to plants, and they want to learn more about the topic. This paper 1) discusses the potential to use students' excitement about human issues in horticulture to teach principles that educators consider important components of a baccalaureate degree, and 2) presents the case of one student to demonstrate how it can be done.

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Virginia I. Lohr

Researchers and practitioners have been aware of the importance of plant diversity for many decades. The Irish potato famine and dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi) are examples of problems resulting from lack of diversity. Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has renewed concerns over these issues, yet little has been done to increase diversity in landscape plantings. Urban trees are becoming more uniform genetically because of cloning of preferred cultivars; thus, they are losing potential resiliency to stresses at a time when these threats are increasing. A survey on plant diversity distributed to wholesale nurseries in Washington State showed that most respondents were aware of the issues, but lacked an in-depth understanding of them. This article presents additional data from the survey. Respondents reported that lack of consumer demand was an issue. Those with more education exhibited a deeper understanding of the risks from low diversity among landscape plants. Instructors in horticulture and the plant sciences should be more involved in teaching on this topic.

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Barbara Berge and Virginia I. Lohr

Studies have shown that many people prefer landscapes with vegetation over those devoid of plants. Few studies have looked specifically at adolescents or people of different ethnic heritages. Understanding preferences of such groups could help in designing horticultural education programs for these populations. In this study, high school students were asked to rate their preferences for a series of plant-dominated and urban-dominated slides.

Students generally gave higher ratings to the plant scenes than the urban scenes, indicating that they preferred the plant scenes. Their preferences were similar to what would be predicted from studies with adults. Hispanic students rated urban scenes and formal plant scenes, such as a garden with sculptured shrubs, significantly higher than did Anglo students. Hispanics rated informal scenes, such as a deciduous forest with no ground cover, significantly lower than did Anglo students.

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Paula Diane Relf and Virginia I. Lohr

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Virginia I. Lohr and Paula Diane Relf

Throughout history, plants have been used to benefit people. In the United States, formal research to document the impacts of plants on people was not published until the 1970s, when papers from social and medical scientists began to appear. In the 1990s, symposia, including the first on “The Role of Horticulture in Human Well-being and Social Development,” brought people together from around the world to share and expand their knowledge in this emerging field. Symposium participants have included researchers in the social sciences and plant sciences, practitioners in horticultural therapy, teachers in colleges and public gardens, industry representatives applying the knowledge, and more. This has formed the basis for current activities in research, teaching, and practice throughout the United States. Examples from research that now documents a variety of beneficial impacts of plants on people are discussed.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

Colorful baskets of flowering annuals are popular with home gardeners, but these containerized plants require frequent waterings. Mulching of field soils is a proven way to conserve soil moisture. This study was conducted to see if mulching would reduce the need to irrigate containerized plants. Adding either pine bark or sphagnum moss mulch to potted `Impulse Rose' impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) plants reduced the frequency of irrigations when the plants were small and had not yet reached canopy closure. Mulching had no effect on plant height or flowering.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A well-known research report showed that being in a hospital room with a view of trees rather than a view of a building was linked to the use of fewer pain-reducing medications by patients recovering from surgery. The experiment reported here was designed to further examine the role of plants in pain perception. We found that more subjects were willing to keep a hand submerged in ice water for 5 min if they were in a room with plants present than if they were in a room without plants. This was found to be true even when the room without plants had other colorful objects that might help the subject focus on something other than the discomfort. Results from a room assessment survey confirmed that the room with colorful, nonplant objects was as interesting and colorful as the room with plants present, but the presence of plants was perceived as making the air in the room fresher.