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Research Project: Development of Technologies and Strategies for Sustainable Crop Production in Containerized and Protected Horticulture Systems

Location: Application Technology Research

Title: Research priorities of the environmental horticultural industry founded through consensus

item OWEN JR., JAMES - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item LEBUDE, ANTHONY - North Carolina State University
item CALABRO, JILL - Horticultural Research Institute - Washington, Dc
item Boldt, Jennifer
item GRAY, JENNIFER - Horticultural Research Institute - Washington, Dc
item Altland, James

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Horticulture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/10/2019
Publication Date: 12/1/2019
Citation: Owen Jr., J.S., Lebude, A.V., Calabro, J., Boldt, J.K., Gray, J., Altland, J.E. 2019. Research priorities of the environmental horticultural industry founded through consensus. Journal of Environmental Horticulture. 37(4):120-126.

Interpretive Summary: A national cross section of nursery and greenhouse specialty crop producers strategized with the leadership of Horticulture Research Initiative in New Mexico to create a roadmap directing research objectives and public funding for environmental horticulture production (EHP). Total public funding of over $116 million annually is directed at EHP research in the U.S. Currently, there is a 36% gain per year on the rate of return (ROR) for specialty crops research investments indicating that research dollars directed toward EHP provides economic impact for producers. Due to their applied nature, however, research findings and their benefits may take years or even decades to be realized because adoption and change lag behind the status quo. Additionally, social and long term benefits from research that “spill over” across state and regional boundaries and across sectors have not heretofore been a focus for EHP research. The roadmap laid out here can be used to direct public nursery and greenhouse specialty crops research funding to maximize ROR across EHP, as well as, provide direction and guidance for funding agencies to use for determining what stakeholders, constituents, allied companies, and support networks envision as necessary priorities to invest their research dollars.

Technical Abstract: Environmental horticulture production (EHP) generates approximately one-third of all specialty crop revenue and its workforce. In recent years, however, EHP received only 12% of federal funds earmarked for specialty crops research from USDA-Agricultural Research Service or USDA-Specialty Crops Research Initiative. To increase leverage and accumulate more resources for EHP, stakeholder driven consensus of research priorities needed to be constructed. Therefore, the Horticultural Research Institute lead a professionally facilitated stakeholder roundtable discussion to achieve these priorities. Stakeholders identified trends and forces affecting EHP, its current state, a vision, and needed outcomes for success. Through consensus, four equal research priorities were constructed: 1) Quantitate and validate the ecosystem services and benefits of plants on human health and wellness; 2) Innovations in biological, mechanical, and technological systems that provide efficient, productive, and profitable solutions relevant to producer size and segment; 3) Evaluate consumer-driven preferences that optimize industry-wide profitability and growth; 4) Solve ongoing and emergent industry challenges. These priorities and the successful future of EHP will be made possible by strong leaders and advocates placed throughout industry, successfully communicating the human health, social, and economic benefits of plants, state-of-the-art technological and efficiently-designed systems, and understanding of current and future consumers.