December 8, 2011
Academic Team Dedicated To Sustainability Research
Purdue University’s Roberto Lopez, the University of New Hampshire’s Brian Krug, the University of Maine’s Stephanie Burnett and Cornell University’s Neil Mattson established the Floriculture Sustainability Research Coalition (FSRC) three years ago. The FSRC’s goal is to provide information to the greenhouse industry about sustainable growing and business practices through multi-state research and Extension activities. Here’s a look at yet another research group worth supporting and some of the projects they’re working on: Low Or No-Heat Bedding Plant Production Multi-year and collaborative research at Cornell and Purdue is shedding light on how growers in temperate climates can finish high-quality, sustainably produced bedding plants and hanging baskets with low or no heat for the Mother’s Day market. Mattson, Lopez and their students are quantifying time to flower and growth difference between bedding plants produced in a greenhouse with a temperature set point of 65°F and an unheated high tunnel. Figure 1, […]
October 31, 2011
‘Sustainability’ That Boosts The Bottom Line
Erik Runkle, right, interviewing experts at Wageningen University. Growers who think investments in sustainability techniques and technologies are a drain on the bottom line should make time to view a new series of videos. The series, live on TheSustainabilityInitiative.org, features Michigan State University’s Erik Runkle interviewing greenhouse growers in the United States and Holland about their sustainable practices. The project involved more than 20 greenhouse growers and industry experts who share their experiences and insights in a series of more than 40 videos. The interviews explore major issues in sustainability today, including energy, lighting, water, automation, pest control, logistics and profitability. In dozens of candid conversations shot on location in greenhouses, labs and garden centers, Runkle delves into the ways the trade is investing in sustainable solutions to increase productivity and profitability, with a sharp eye on return on investment. “We talked to a lot of people and asked tough questions,” […]
April 29, 2011
How Appealing Are Biodegradable Containers?
One of the most widely discussed topics in the floriculture industry stemming from consumers exhibiting greater degrees of environmental awareness is the issue of environmental sustainability. The sustainability movement has led to a desire for products that not only solve the needs of consumers, but are also produced and marketed using sustainable production and business practices. Consumers increasingly place a greater emphasis on product packaging, and the emphasis has carried over to the greenhouse and floral sectors in the form of biodegradable pots. Although various forms of eco-friendly pots have been available for several years, their marketing appeal has been limited. But with the recent availability of more attractive biodegradable plant containers, a renewed interest in their suitability in the floriculture sector and their consumer acceptance has emerged. The Study The objective of our study, funded by the American Floral Endowment and the Horticultural Research Institute, was to determine the […]
April 25, 2011
Consumer Interest In ‘Green’ Plants
The ornamental plant industry consists of a few large- and many medium- and small-scale growers. In recent years, the intense competition from large domestic and international growers has forced medium- and small-scale farmers to identify and explore new niche markets for their products through value-added marketing. Discovering a profitable niche market is a complicated task because consumer demand is highly diversified. Organically grown and locally grown food products have become increasingly popular in recent years. There is a belief that the demand for organic and sustainable floral products is increasing in the United States due to an emerging consumer segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living and social justice. Our research focused on two questions: 1) Are some consumers more interested in ornamentals, vegetable transplants and herbs produced in sustainable ways than conventionally grown plants? and 2) Do some consumers have different levels of interest […]
February 22, 2011
Reader Reaction: Sustainable Standard Process A Controversial One
The development of a sustainable agriculture standard for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to adopt has been the subject of criticism since Leonardo Academy began facilitating the developmental process back in 2007. The very idea that a standard is being developed to represent all of agriculture is at the core of why so many people are so vocal in their criticisms. There are also concerns that the standard being developed is too focused, perhaps too much so on organics. Then there are those specifically in floriculture who are concerned their industry is being lopped into the standard as a “me too” to agriculture. In the two-plus years the committee has pursued a standard, progress has been slow going. Committee and subcommittee members are continually resigning and Leonardo Academy, as a result, is continually searching for others to take their places. The most recent slew of resignations–Ball Horticultural Company’s Will […]
February 18, 2011
On Sustainability: No Two Consumers Are Alike
Savvy marketers rely on the principles of customer segmentation and product targeting to more efficiently allocate scarce resources and effectively reach groups of consumers with similar preferences or demands. It would appear as though many people have jumped on the eco-train, but to what extent have people who purchased plants, many of them gardeners, adopted eco-practices like recycling and composting? Previous research shows some consumers are willing to pay a premium price for green products and share attitudes that are favorable toward the environment. Premium-priced products are assumed to be more profitable, and often are. Still, relatively little is known about gardeners and their ecological attitudes, practices or behaviors. Our objective was to identify and profile consumer segments with regard to their gardening purchases. Are gardeners more eco-friendly? We sought to determine whether there were differences in their eco-friendly attitudes and behaviors, such as recycling. Our underlying belief was that […]
February 18, 2011
Organic Fertilizers In Greenhouse And Nursery Production
Chemicals that have the potential to contaminate may become contingent environmental liabilities for businesses that are identified to potentially cause harm to the environment. The potential expenses associated with cleaning up pollution may weigh heavily as more agricultural enterprises come under new EPA clean-up regulations and are scrutinized for pesticide and nutrient violations. The issue of how horticulture grows crops in the future can be seen as a threat to an ossified paradigm, or as a challenge and opportunity to better serve the needs of society. One of the tenets of sustainability is continuous improvement. Whatever noble strides growers have made at present will seem inadequate in years to come. Growers interested in developing more sustainable growing practices will eventually adopt organic nutrients into their fertility management programs. While few growers are interested in organic certification today, exploring the beneficial possibilities that organics provide is well worth the effort. I […]
January 19, 2011
What Are Growers Doing About Sustainability?
Consumer and market interest in green, environmentally friendly, organic, local and sustainable products has encouraged much discussion and debate about sustainable production practices and certification in the commercial floriculture industry. Many ask: “What is sustainable production and why should I become certified?” Depending on who you ask, you will get a variety of opinions and answers. Broadly defined, the goal of sustainable production is to reduce environmental degradation; maintain, enhance agricultural productivity and profitability; promote economic viability; conserve resources and energy; and maintain stable communities and quality of life. As we all know, the floriculture industry is not alone when it comes to selling ornamental plants. It is part of the collective $148 billion green industry that includes nursery and greenhouse producers and landscape service providers, as well as wholesale and retail distributors. Therefore, it is important for us to determine what the entire green industry is doing in terms […]
January 13, 2011
D.S Cole First To Be MPS-GAP Certified In U.S.
D.S. Cole Growers has been awarded another sustainable certificate from MPS, becoming the first greenhouse grower in the United States to earn GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification. The MPS-GAP certificate is based upon the criteria formulated by supermarket organizations, which require high-quality products that have been cultivated in a sustainable manner. Traceability is also part of the certification scheme. Moreover, MPS-GAP has been benchmarked with the GlobalGAP flowers and plants scheme. D.S. Cole is the first MPS-GAP certified company in North America. MPS-GAP is also part of the MPS-Florimark Production, the label for sustainability combining environmental, social and quality aspects. “Most of the requirements of MPS-GAP are satisfied by the fact that in the U.S., we conduct business via modern and regulated procedures that ensure quality working conditions for our staff,” says Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers. “What makes the certificate worthwhile is that many of us in […]
January 4, 2011
Sustainable Fertilizers Are Getting Greener
Until recently, the sustainability of a greenhouse plant nutrition program wasn’t really much of an issue. “Looking back 10 or 15 years, I think growers related the concept of ‘sustainable’ to ‘organic.’ At the time, organic production was so difficult and had so many regulations, no one really wanted any part of it,” says Janet Curry, National Key Accounts Manager for Daniels Plant Food. But that’s no longer the case. Whether it’s pressure from big retail customers, pull-through interest from consumers, a better understanding of sustainable practices, or just a desire to “do something for the environment,” organic and sustainable plant nutrition programs seem to be on the rise in greenhouses across the country. “With better education and some new products coming on the market, growers have gradually realized it’s attainable. I think we now see growers really looking for ways to grow sustainably,” Curry says. episode of Floricast. Organics […]
December 22, 2010
Biodegradable Containers: How Appealing Are They?
One of the most widely discussed topics in the floriculture industry stemming from consumers exhibiting greater degrees of environmental awareness is the issue of environmental sustainability. The sustainability movement has led to a desire for products that not only solve the needs of consumers, but are also produced and marketed using sustainable production and business practices. Consumers increasingly place a greater emphasis on product packaging, and the emphasis has carried over to the greenhouse and floral sectors in the form of biodegradable pots. Although various forms of eco-friendly pots have been available for several years, their marketing appeal has been limited. But with the recent availability of more attractive biodegradable plant container. The Study The objective of our study, funded by the American Floral Endowment and the Horticultural Research Institute, was to determine the characteristics of biodegradable pots that consumers deem most desirable, and to solicit their willingness to pay […]