We compared service quality perceptions and expectations for consumers from five traditional garden centers (TGC) and three nontraditional garden center outlets (NTO) in Charlotte, N.C., in 1995. NTO and TGC customers had very similar expectations of service quality from their respective retailers. However, TGC customers perceived that their retailer better met their overall expectations. Service quality gaps, the difference between customer perceptions and expectations, were identified for both types of outlets for four of five service quality dimensions. Both TGC and NTO customers ranked assurance and responsiveness as the most important service quality dimensions. Empathy was more important than reliability to TGC customers. This order was reversed for NTO customers. Both sets of customers ranked tangibles as the least important service quality dimension.
A national survey of the greenhouse and nursery industries was conducted to determine the current status of pest management practices. This study covers the trends in chemical and nonchemical pest control measures and factors that affect adoption of nonchemical control measures. For the 5-year period 1988-93, there appeared to be a decrease in chemical use for disease and insect control and for plant growth regulators. During the same period there was an increase in chemical weed control. The adoption of nonchemical pest control measures was concentrated in the area of insect control. The primary factors limiting use of nonchemical pest control measures were 1) availability of effective materials/biological agents, 2)availability of information, and 3) management complexity. The primary information sources on nonchemical pest control used by growers varied by size of firm and region of the country. For all respondents the primary sources were 1) industry trade journals, 2) other growers in the industry, 3) cooperative extension service, and 4) industry-sponsored seminars.
A national survey of the commercial ornamental industry was conducted to determine the current status of pest control including chemical and nonchemical disease control practices. The fungicides thiophanate methyl, chlorothalonil, mancozeb, and metalaxyl were used in the greatest quantity and by the largest percentage of growers. Metalaxyl was used in greenhouse and field operations by the highest percentage of growers, primarily to control root diseases but many growers reported using metalaxyl to control foliar disease. Overall, more fungicides were used in the field for foliar diseases, whereas almost equal amounts of fungicides were used for foliar and root diseases in the greenhouse.
Growers in the American Association of Nurserymen and the Society of American Florists were queried as to their use of plant growth regulators (PGRs) and nonchemical alternative practices during 1993. Daminozide (B-Nine SP) and chlormequat chloride (Cycocel) accounted for 78% of the total pounds active ingredient and were used by 20% and 17% of the respondents, respectively. In contrast, the rooting compounds indolebutyric acid (Dip `N Grow, Rootone, and Hormoroot) and naphthaleneacetic acid (Dip `N Grow, and Hormodin I, II, and III) were used by 53% and 24% of the respondents, respectively, but combined accounted for less than 3% of total pounds active ingredient. Pruning/pinching was used by the greatest number of respondents (82%) and was the only alternative to PGRs rated as very effective by more than 60% of the respondents. Use of chemical PGRs and nonchemical alternative practices was influenced by region and firm size. In the northeastern United States, growers reported relatively low use of PGRs (frequency and total pounds) and the lowest use of mechanical brushing as an alternative practice. In contrast, mechanical brushing was used most in the western United States. Large firms (more than $2 million in annual sales) reported the greatest use of chemical and nonchemical means of regulating growth.
Members of the American Association of Nurserymen and the Society of American Florists were surveyed as to their use of herbicides and nonchemical alternative weed control practices for 1993. Glyphosate was the top-ranking herbicide among the total of 37 reported, in terms of number of respondents and estimated total amounts of active ingredients applied. It was used by all but two of the respondents that used herbicides in their operations. Oryzalin was the top-ranked preemergent herbicide, and was second only to glyphosate in number of respondents and amount of active ingredient applied. The highest estimated use in amounts of active ingredient applied was in the southeastern (43% of total) and north-central (27% of total) regions, nearly two to three times the estimated use in the northeastern or western regions. However, there were only about 50% more respondents in the southeastern or north-central regions compared to the other regions. About 56% of herbicide active ingredients used were in field sites, 22% in container sites, 19% in perimeter areas, and 3% in green-houses. Large firms (annual sales more than $2,000,000) used the greatest estimated total amount of active ingredients, while small firms (annual sales more than or equal to $500,000) tended to use nonchemical alternatives the most. Nearly all respondents used handweeding or hoeing as part of their weed control program. Mowing was used by 84% of the respondents, 71% used tractor cultivation, and 66% used mulches (includes gravel and black plastic). Alternative methods were rated as somewhat effective to very effective by 65% or more of the respondents who used them.
A national survey of the greenhouse and nursery industry provided data on insecticide/miticide use in 1993. Respondents reported using 46 different compounds, and the industry used an estimated 2.8 million pounds of active ingredients to control insect and mite pests. The most frequently used material was acephate: 52% of the respondents reporting use in 1993. The most heavily used material was a miticide, dienochlor, with an estimated 643,281 lb (292,400 kg) applied, or 28% of the total. Only three other compounds represented more than 5% of the total use—carbaryl (498,073 lb or 22%) (226,397 kg), diazinon (326,131 lb or 14%) (148,242 kg), and propargite (143,888 lb or 6%) (65,404 kg). Of the top four products, two (dienochlor and propargite) are miticides. Together these represented 34% of the total estimated insecticide/miticide use, demonstrating the importance of mites as pests in the industry.
Pesticides have been the primary method of pest control for years, and growers depend on them to control insect and disease-causing pests effectively and economically. However, opportunities for reducing the potential pollution arising from the use of pesticides and fertilizers in environmental horticulture are excellent. Greenhouse, nursery, and sod producers are using many of the scouting and cultural practices recommended for reducing the outbreak potential and severity of disease and insect problems. Growers are receptive to alternatives to conventional pesticides, and many already use biorational insecticides. Future research should focus on increasing the effectiveness and availability of these alternatives. Optimizing growing conditions, and thereby plant health, reduces the susceptibility of plants to many disease and insect pest problems. Impediments to reducing the use of conventional pesticides and fertilizers in the environmental horticulture industry include 1) lack of easily implemented, reliable, and cost-effective alternative pest control methods; 2) inadequate funding for research to develop alternatives; 3) lack of sufficient educational or resource information for users on the availability of alternatives; 4) insufficient funding for educating users on implementing alternatives; 5) lack of economic or regulatory incentive for growers to implement alternatives; and 6) limited consumer acceptance of aesthetic damage to plants. Research and broadly defined educational efforts will help alleviate these impediments to reducing potential pollution by the environmental horticulture industry.
Optimizing growing conditions and, thereby, plant growth reduces the susceptibility of plants to many disease and insect pest problems. Educating lawn or landscape management professionals and homeowners about plant health management reduces the need for chemical intervention. Pesticides combined with N and P fertilizers contribute to water pollution problems in urban areas; thus, it is important to manage the amount, timing, and placement of chemicals and fertilizers. To educate consumers applying pesticides and fertilizers in residential gardens, we must educate the sales representatives and others who interact most closely with consumers. Evidence suggests that knowledge about the effects of chemicals is limited and that warning labels are not read or are ignored. Integrated pest management (IPM) offers alternatives to conventional chemical treatments, but such methods are not used commonly because of their relatively high cost and their uncertain impact on pests. Pest detection methods and using pest-resistant plants in landscapes are simple and, in many cases, readily available approaches to reducing the dependence on chemical use. Research on effective, low-cost IPM methods is essential if chemical use in landscape management is to decrease. Current impediments to reducing the pollution potential of chemicals used in the landscape include the limited number of easily implemented, reliable, and cost-effective alternative pest control methods; underfunding of research on development of alternative pest control measures; limited knowledge of commercial operators, chemical and nursery sales representatives, landscape architects, and the general public concerning available alternatives; reluctance of the nursery industry to produce, and of the landscape architects to specify the use of, pest-resistant plant materials; lack of economic or regulatory incentive for professionals to implement alternatives; inadequate funding for education on the benefits of decreased chemical use; and the necessity of changing consumer definition of unacceptable plant damage. We need to teach homeowners and professionals how to manage irrigation to optimize plant growth; use sound IPM practices for reducing disease, weed, and insect problems; and minimize pollution hazards from fertilizers and pesticides.