Boxwood Blight, Seed Your Future Among Topics Receiving HRI Research Funding in 2018

Horticultural Research Institute LogoThe Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), the research arm of AmericanHort, recently announced the 10 research projects that will receive funding in 2018. The funding, which totals $232,000, will be provided to projects that will investigate solutions in the areas of horticultural production, pest management, environmental stewardship, and business and marketing.

“The projects selected for 2018 funding represent the work HRI feels will produce the most valuable information for horticulture businesses,” says Jennifer DeJager, HRI President. “After careful reviews by industry professionals and scientists, the most relevant projects were selected for funding.”

“HRI supports projects where the outcomes can impact the bottom line for industry businesses,” says Jennifer Gray, HRI Administrator. “Whether that’s finding effective control methods for pests, investigating innovative approaches for plant production, or discovering new paths to consumer engagement — the projects selected for funding will provide valuable information companies can use to grow their businesses.”

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

Here is a closer look at the 2018 funded projects, and the universities involved.

Calibrachoa Flowering Promoted by Endophytic Mortierella Elongata (North Carolina State University)

Calibrachoa, often called ‘mini petunia,’ is growing in popularity among consumers. Black root rot, caused by Thielaviopsis basicola, is a common problem in calibrachoa production, and new strategies of using biocontrols are being sought. Mortierella elongata, a fungal endophyte that lives inside plant roots, is one of those new potential control agents and may have the added benefit of promotion of flower production.

Off the Sales Floor and Into the Cart: Analyzing the Path to Plant Purchases (Michigan State University)

How do consumers make buying decisions? This project aims to tackle that question with regard to plant purchases. New technologies such as a portable device that tracks eye movement will be used to investigate visual cue selections that lead to plant purchase. Packaging, in-store signage, brand, and price may impact consumers’ choices. Results should help retailers improve the shopping experience.

Seed Your Future – Promoting Horticulture – A National Study and Action Plan (North Carolina State University)

Increasing the number of students and graduates in horticulture serves the entire horticultural industry. The Seed Your Future movement aims to do just that through promotion of horticulture among young people and in academic settings. More 150 partners are involved.

Continued Development of a Modified Hydroponic Stock Plant System for Mini Cuttings of Difficult-to-Root Nursery Crops (University of Kentucky)

Nursery producers often rely on budding and micropropagation as propagation tools for difficult-to-root woody crops. Unfortunately, they are more time consuming and expensive as compared with traditional cuttings. This project looks at a modified process adopted by the forest industry, where a hydroponic stock plant system is used. Eastern redbud is the model crop, and this work is a continuation of a project funded in 2017.

Identification and Development of Plant Endophytes for Biocontrol of Boxwood Blight (Virginia Tech)

Boxwood blight, caused by Calonectria pseudonaviculata, is a huge concern in the nursery and landscape management industries. Control options are currently limited to a handful of fungicides. Naturally, biocontrols are being sought, as well, and some bacterial endophytes (organisms that spend at least part of their life in plant roots) have been identified that show potential to reduce C. pseudonaviculata in culture. A team will further evaluate these endophytes for real world applicability.

Boxwood Blight Management in the Landscape (Connecticut Ag Experiment Station)

Historic gardens and home and commercial landscapes alike fear invasion of boxwood blight. Once plants are infected, the current recommendation calls for plant removal and destruction, followed by a rigorous fungicide program to protect any adjacent, symptom-free boxwoods. This research will focus specifically on management of boxwood blight in landscapes with various fungicides.

A Sustainable Approach to Phytophthora Infested Landscape Beds: The Search for Tolerant or Resistant Annuals and Herbaceous Perennials (North Carolina State University)

Phytophthora root rot and stem blight affects more than 100 of the most popular and most commonly used landscape perennials and annuals, including annual vinca, petunia, and daylily, throughout the U.S. Current recommendations for infested landscape beds are either impractical or not economically feasible for landscapers and homeowners. Previous research has given hope of reducing inoculum through the use of crop rotation with resistant plants.

A System Nitrogen Balance for Container Plant Production (University of California, Davis)

As water resources become more valuable, efforts increase to maintain water quality. Nitrogen management plans represent a relatively new strategy to curb contamination of groundwater and are being enacted in certain, regional areas. Often the nitrogen management plans are factored around agricultural commodities, such as grapes; however, these plans are more challenging to develop for nursery production. This project will assess the fate of nitrogen applied in production and then identify best management practices to prevent environmentally harmful nitrogen discharge.

Optimizing Management Guidelines for the Non-Native Azalea Lace Bug on Rhododendron Species in Western Washington (University of Washington)

Azalea lace bug is one of the most serious insect pests of Rhododendron species, especially azalea and was introduced to the U.S. on infested nursery stock. Previous research conducted in the Eastern U.S. has not been relevant to the Pacific Northwest. This work will refine growing degree-day models to better fit conditions in the Pacific Northwest to more accurately predict timing of control measures.

Controlling Amber Snail in Containerized Nursery Stock (Tennessee State University)

Amber snails have been reported as problematic in nursery production throughout the U.S. They are generalist feeders on foliage, flowers, and fruit and cause damage to a wide variety of crops. Control options are limited, with molluscicides, pesticides that target snails and slugs, being the preferred method. However, molluscicides vary in their level of efficacy. This research will evaluate commercially available molluscicides specifically in both a high and low moisture environment for comparison.

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