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  • Author or Editor: Wojciech Florkowski x
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Leyland cypress (×Cupressocyparis Leylandii) is becoming increasingly important as a live-cut Christmas tree yet it differs from trees currently familiar to most customers. Results of a consumer survey provide an opportunity for growers to adjust planting and marketing decisions. Questionnaires were completed while respondents displayed the tree at their residences. Opinions about the tree referred to tree features and compared them with features of other types of Christmas trees and inquired about the care given to the tree and its disposal. In general, respondents were consistent in their favorable assessment of Leyland cypress as a live Christmas tree with respect to several characteristics including tree shape twig density, and maintenance of fresh appearance over time. Recycling was the primary form of tree disposal.

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It is more important than ever to produce a quality Christmas tree because of increasing competition in the Christmas tree market. Grade standards are intended to reflect quality, as defined by the consumer, to the grower. The USDA revised a set of voluntary standards for Christmas trees effective October 30, 1989. The existence of different grade standards cause the existence of several prices that correspond to each grade. The price differentials among grades should reflect the quality or desired consumer attribute. Therefore, a description of a grade that is not reflective of that desired by the consumer can lead to missallocation of resources by producers resulting in economic losses. The new USDA standards did not include consumer opinion information into the new standards, therefore, we feel these standards are more applicable to producer-wholesale transactions, and not that of the producer-consumer. It was found that over 75% of surveyed growers in Georgia sold almost 80% of their trees as choose and cut, not wholesale. Consumer demand will drive the Christmas tree market and, therefore, consumer preferences need to be incorporated into the grade standards.

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Managers and employees of landscape maintenance and lawn care industry (LM/LC) applying pesticides can prevent pollution. Adequate information about application of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and nematicides is a prerequisite for proper application. A survey, prepared by an interdisciplinary research team “Ornamentals Working Group,” was implemented in 1994 to Atlanta metro area firms. The gross return rate was 25.4%. The majority of respondents had 10 or fewer years of experience in providing landscape services; had at least 13 years of schooling; and were in their thirties or forties. The categorical nature of dependent variables suggested ordered probit procedure as the statistical estimation method. Independent variables included characteristics of the respondent, firm characteristics, and information sources about the application of a specific pesticide. Extension and research personnel and commercial representatives were important information sources about insecticide and fungicide application. The use of all three sources of information by the LM/LC industry seems to depend on pesticide type, with commercial representatives, and extension and research personnel often acting as complementary information sources.

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In response to a mail survey of the landscape maintenance and lawn care (LM-LC) industry in metropolitan Atlanta, we learned that 76% of respondents fertilized lawns and turf and 68% fertilized ornamental beds. Less than one-fourth of those who provided fertilization services offered an organic fertility option; for those who reported an organic option, an average of 25% of their residential customers used such a service. Complete fertilizers (N-P2O5-K2O), ammonium nitrate, urea, and N solutions were the products applied by most respondents. Average amounts of N per application were ≈1.5 lb/1000 ft2 on lawns and 1.1 lb/1000 ft2 on ornamentals. Of firms that provide fertilization services, 88% use a predetermined application schedule, whereas 88% use visual observation and 69% use soil testing to guide fertilizer management. Only 5% reported using tissue analysis as a fertilizer management strategy. Nitrogen fertilizers were applied most frequently in the spring, with nearly equal amounts applied in summer and fall. Phosphorus was applied most commonly in the fall or spring. Relatively few firms reported applying significant amounts of either N or P in winter. Most respondents indicated that they received adequate information about fertilizers, but few received information about organic fertilization. Commercial sales representatives and trade magazines were cited most often as sources of information; university specialists were the least-cited formal source of information concerning fertilization. We have suggested some research and educational issues to be addressed based on these results.

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A survey was conducted to investigate consumer preferences in a Christmas tree purchase. The survey asked about consumers' socioeconomic status, customer loyalty and on farm buying habits, specific tree preferences, and preferences of live versus artificial trees. Fifty-three percent of the 148 respondents were male and 61% were between the ages of 25-44. Thirty-three percent had 3 children, 50% were college graduates and 59X had a family income greater than $35,000. Sixty-eight percent purchased their tree at the same farm as they did the previous year, 62% traveled from 1-10 miles to the farm, 50% of trees were purchased by December 8, and 70% of the purchases were during the afternoon. The most common tree selected was a 6-7 ft. Virginia Pine and selection time ranged from 5-30 minutes. Compared to an artificial tree, respondents cited messiness, difficulty to carry and trouble to remove as major drawbacks of choose-and-cut Christmas trees. This was particularly evident in female and elderly respondents.

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Biodegradable containers of various types are available on the market and can be directly purchased by growers and homeowners. However, adoption of these containers has been slow, limiting their potential as an alternative to plastic containers. It is crucial to assess level of knowledge and use of biodegradable containers by horticultural growers and landscape service providers to help explain their slow rate of adoption by the industry. An online survey instrument was implemented to assess grower and landscaper knowledge and familiarity regarding biodegradable containers in the state of Georgia. Results indicated that 83% of horticultural growers do not purchase biodegradable containers. However, peat biodegradable containers were primarily purchased when these containers were used. Both growers and landscape service providers “neither agreed nor disagreed” that the use of biodegradable containers could improve plant growth. Growers “did not know” if using biodegradable containers “improved water efficiency.” Landscape service providers exhibited low knowledge of the wide variety of biodegradable containers available on the market as well as limited awareness of features of such containers as they pertained to plant growth.

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A survey indicated that the landscape maintenance and lawn care industry of the Atlanta metro area was localized in densely populated counties with a high concentration of commercial activity and residential housing. A relatively young age and limited size of most of the firms suggested a lack of barriers to entering the industry, which was supported by gross sales and equipment owned by surveyed companies. Most firms generated no more than $100,000 in sales in 1993 and owned equipment valued at less than $25,000. Most residential accounts were under 10 acres.

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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.

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