Horticultural Research Institute invests $400,000 in solutions

Posted On 12 Feb 2014
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logo_horti research instituteWASHINGTON, USA: The Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) has announced it will grant $400,000 in financial support for 16 new projects that investigate solutions in the areas of horticultural production, pest management, environmental stewardship, and business and marketing.

“The depth and breadth of the horticulture industry demands robust and diverse research of the best quality,” said Dr. Joseph Albano, HRI Research Director. “The projects that were ultimately selected for funding, after vigorous scientific and industry review, represent the work HRI feels will produce new and usable knowledge for horticulture businesses.” Collaborating with researchers on projects that provide usable knowledge is of prime importance to HRI’s industry leaders.

HRI’s president Harvey Cotten (Huntsville Botanical Garden, Huntsville, AL) agrees. “We are keenly interested in supporting projects with sound methods, materials, and measurables—and where the outcomes can impact the bottom line of horticulture businesses. At the end of the day, the research has to have meaning to our industry. And that meaning can be represented by a new method for pest resistance, new insights into consumer behavior, or learning that the best plant for a particular site is not what we always thought it was.”

HRI encourages investigators to seek out matching funds as part of the proposal application process. As a result, an additional $445,000 in funds from other granting agencies more than doubles HRI’s 2014 research investment. The projects, which were classified by the primary investigators into varying categories of research, benefit numerous segments of the horticulture industry.

The Horticultural Research Institute’s mission is to direct, fund, promote, and communicate horticulture research. Supporting research that challenges current methodology, pushes for better technology, and bridges the divide between businesses and the consumer is exactly how HRI helps build prosperous businesses, advance the green industry, and fulfill its core vision.

Marketing projects

Projects aimed at giving valuable information on trends in nursery and greenhouse crop production/management and providing the “hows” of better marketing based on consumer buying practices will receive $119,000 in HRI funds:

Dr. Bridget Behe, Michigan State University will lead two projects. The first will study the role of plant brands in consumer preferences their perceptions of plant quality and the second will delve into marketing demographics and trends affecting the green industry. These projects will characterize the demographics of consumers that purchase horticultural products and services, and how product labeling and marketing impact consumer choices when purchasing horticultural crops.  This information will provide growers with “who and why” information about consumers buying their products and services. ($85,000)

Dr. Alan Hodges, University of Florida, will conduct an assessment of national and regional trends in production and marketing practices for the U.S. nursery and greenhouse industry. This project will identify the production, management, and marketing practices of wholesale and retail nursery operations.  This information is critical in assessing how nursery operations have changed and will help in determining how nursery operations will “function” in the future based on trends over time. ($34,500)

Pest management projects

Spider mite and broad mite damage on ornamental crops is a significant problem behind plant pathogen and insect damage.  Dr. Karla Addesso, Tennessee State University, aims to test a proven chemical for Lyme disease tick vectors [ticks and mites are both 8-legged and are related to spiders] for efficacy against mite pests of concern to greenhouse and nursery crop producers.  If the biopesticide ‘Nootkatone’ proves to be an effective control for mites, it would provide growers with biologically-derived product that may also conform to organic production practices and a reduced restricted entry interval (REI), the time that no one can enter a pesticide-treated area. ($22,500)

Biopesticidal fungi control of Asian ambrosia beetles and their symbiotic fungi is the focus of a project by Dr. John Vandenberg, USDA-Agricultural Research Service.  This research aims to provide growers with an alternative chemical control measure using a biological-based treatment.  The principal investigator believes that this biopesticidal fungi will have broader control than just on ambrosia beetle, but rather, on many other wood-boring pests. ($50,000)

Dr. Steven Frank, North Carolina State University, will lead a project studying the effects of multiple stressors on pest damage to common nursery trees. This project will explore the interactions of air temperature, soil moisture, and multiple plant species on ambrosia beetle abundance and damage.  This study will provide information on placement of crops on the nursery to exploit microclimates or production conditions related to temperature and moisture to inhibit or reduce pest problems. ($31,302)

Currently, the recommended means for disposing of boxwood blight infected plant material is to burn or bury it.  These means for disposing of infected plant material (i.e. destroying the pathogen) are geared towards nursery operations, but when infected plants are disposed of in an urban landscape situation, the infected material enters the municipal waste stream. Dr. John Pecchia, The Pennsylvania State University, will evaluate compost temperature regimes on the survivability of Cylindrocladium buxicola, the organism that causes boxwood blight. This research aims to determine if composting is an effective way to destroying infected plant material for both nurseries and municipal waste streams.  Further, this research will identify the temperature and incubation time necessary for eradicating Cylindrocladium buxicola in a compost system.  ($9,000)

Sustainable production & Environmental resource management

Dr. Claudio Pasian, The Ohio State University, will evaluate organic fertilizers to grow horticultural crops in soilless mixes. Organic-based fertilizers have been used successfully on field crops, but there is little information available on the performance of such fertilizers in producing horticultural crops, and even less information on supplying organic fertilizers in a slow-release form.   The objective of the project, therefore, is to determine if slow-release organic fertilizers can replace chemical-based controlled release fertilizers (CRF) in the production of potted perennials and herbs, thus improving a horticultural operation’s sustainability. ($7,650)

Manage water and fertilizer from your smartphone? There’s an app for that… or there will be. Dr. James Owen, Virginia Tech, will helm a project that creates a comprehensive crop production tool for the mobile grower. This project aims to develop a unique app (mobile application) for use on tablets and smartphones by greenhouse and nursery crop growers.  The app will include a how-to-guide for conducting standard substrate and water tests and provide information to interpret results. ($14, 498)

Cyclic irrigation is a common method of irrigation in nursery crop production.  Dr. Robert Geneve, University of Kentucky, wants to optimize plant growth and water use by modifying cyclic irrigation timing in container nursery production. This project will improve on this method of irrigation by initiating irrigation based on plant physiology and not based on a schedule.  This information, theoretically, will maximize plant growth while reducing water inputs. ($16,962)

Nutrient-containing runoff water is a concern for environmental and regulatory reasons. Water conservation is a prudent environmental goal and an economic benefit in reduced pumping costs.  Dr. Jeffrey Beasley, Louisiana State University, will research a new technology for reducing irrigation application and controlling leaching in greenhouse and nursery production.  The project will investigate a novel approach to managing water resources by controlling irrigation systems by leaching fraction, i.e. water that leaves the pot. ($17,350)

As high quality water resources become limited, alternative sources of water will need to be used for maintaining landscape plants and lawns.  Dr. Yaling Qian, Colorado State University, will lead a project that will report the long-term impacts of recycled water and graywater on landscapes, both plants and soils. Resulting information will provide growers with information on what plants perform best under constant degraded water irrigation, and extension services with information for developing BMPs for landscapes irrigated with degraded water sources. ($45,000)

Dr. Gary Watson, The Morton Arboretum will investigate harvest season extension for field-grow trees by digging bare root.  The objectives of this study are to better understand how ornamental field-grown trees react to bare root transplanting.  The project will compare digging methods for dormant and full leaf trees on survivability and quality after transplant.  Information from this project will lead to improved methods and timing for digging field-grown trees. ($16,700)

Labor availability, increases in labor costs, and the high costs and potential runoff of herbicides may position mulch as a sustainable and economical alternative for weed control.  Dr. Charles Gilliam, Auburn University, leads a study to determine if proper mulch species and depth selection could reduce hand labor and pre-emergence herbicide cost. This project looks at mulch type/species and mulch depth on weed control in containerized nursery crops.  This information will be valuable to growers and state extension services in developing BMPs for using mulch as part of a weed control program. ($14,998)

Greenhouse gas emissions is a major concern due to global climate change predictions. Dr. Dewayne Ingram, University of Kentucky, will study greenhouse gas emissions and the associated costs of tree production components in a pot-in-pot (PNP) systems. This project will provide growers with information on the “carbon footprint” and economic cost associated with pot-in-pot production system.  With this information, a grower can assess areas in the production system where ‘sustainability’ can be improved. ($15,000)

Dr. Bert Cregg, Michigan State University, will study urban tree selection in a changing climate. The project aims to identify tree species that perform the best in urban landscapes and to acclimate to future predicted changes in climate.  This information is important to know as trees are long-term specimens in landscapes and as such, tree selection needs to consider future climatic conditions. ($20,000)


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