GAINESVILLE, FL—The U.S. Green industry, including nursery and greenhouse producers, landscape services firms, and wholesale and retail distributors, has grown dramatically during the past two decades, becoming an increasingly important sector of American agriculture.
In 2002, the Green Industry generated 1.96 million jobs and $147.8 billion in sales. In 2006, sales of U.S. nursery and greenhouse crops reached $16.9 billion. Despite its growing importance, however, the production and management practices followed in this industry have not been well-documented.
To help fill the information void on management characteristics of the nursery industry, the National Nursery Survey was introduced in 1988. Every five years since then, a multi-state research committee on economics and marketing called the Green Industry Research Consortium conducts the survey to provide a state and regional analysis of nursery production practices.
Alan W. Hodges, Charles R. Hall, Bridget K. Behe, and Jennifer H. Dennis published the results of the most recent survey in the October 2008 volume of the American Society of Horticultural Science's journal HortScience.
The researchers recognized that practices and technology use differ across regions due to varying economic and environmental conditions. According to the research team, the results of this survey are of particular interest given the recent emphasis on producing plants in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Eight geographic regions were identified for analysis of pooled data, including: Appalachia, Great Plains, Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Pacific, South Central, and Southeast. The regions represented agroclimatic zones, were subject to state boundaries, and closely correspond to the USDA "Farm Production Regions".
The information gathered in the study covered eight main topics: permanent and temporary employment figures, nursery rooting media systems, irrigation, native plant production, integrated pest management, brokerage, production contracting, and computerization. In-depth findings that can benefit the nursery and greenhouse industries were contained in the comprehensive report.
Analysis of the national survey data for the nursery and greenhouse industry in the United States showed that there are distinct regional differences in production practices and technology use. For instance, nurseries in the northern and interior regions reported using seasonal labor more than nurseries in other regions.
The Southeast region was found to practice integrated pest management more prevalently due to the warm and humid conditions. Most regions had a significant share of total production from Native American plants, approaching or exceeding 20% of total sales, except for the Pacific region, which had 13%. In computerization, the Mountain region had the highest level of adoption of computer technologies for production, marketing, and management.
Interestingly, data on water use and irrigation technology indicated no clear pattern with respect to regional differences in water scarcity. "Water conservation and quality issues are increasingly affecting the ability to produce and market nursery products, so it is important to document and track the efficiency of water applications in the industry, along with other 'green' concerns", reported the researchers.
The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/43/6/1807
Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at ashs.org
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