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  • Author or Editor: Virginia I. Lohr x
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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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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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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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Abstract

Several recent reports have been critical of the quality of general education in the United States (Assn, of American Colleges, 1985; Geiger, 1980; Schwerin, 1983). Baccalaureate education has not been spared from negative evaluation (Boyer, 1987). A report of the Assn, of American Colleges (1985) stated that the bachelor’s degree had lost its intrinsic value: undergraduate education was being dominated by a marketplace philosophy and universities were not promoting rigorous thinking.

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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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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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Implementing water-conserving landscapes is one action that many individuals can take to help ease the nation's water crisis, but few people seem to be exercising this option. Some horticulturists attribute this to a negative attitude toward such landscapes. Our research was designed to assess these attitudes and to see if they could be improved with information. Questionnaires were administered to people in treatment or control groups. Those in the treatment group viewed a short videotape about water issues and water-conserving landscapes. Initial attitudes in both groups were neutral or positive, not negative as predicted. Viewing the videotape was associated with significantly improved attitudes. People in the treatment group described water-conserving landscapes as less hot, more colorful, and more attractive three weeks after viewing the videotape than they had initially.

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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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Abstract

Seedlings of broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. Group italica), lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), marigold (Tagetes patula L.), and tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) were grown in 50% (by volume) vermiculite and 0%, 12.5%, 25%, 37.5%, or 50% fresh or aged spent mushroom compost, with Canadian peat comprising the remaining portion. Percent dry weight of the plants decreased linearly, whereas dry weight, height, and quality ratings showed quadratic responses as the rate of compost in the growing mix increased. Plants were smaller in fresh than in aged spent mushroom compost. Lettuce, marigold, and tomato (moderately salt-sensitive crops) grew best with 25% aged spent mushroom compost, and broccoli (moderately salt-tolerant) grew best with 37.5% aged compost.

Open Access