Profitable and Sustainable Productionof Floral Products to Assure Quality and Target Consumer Satisfaction
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Ornamental plant production value has held steady over the last 10 years at approximately $4 billion based on a survey of the top-15 producing U.S. states. This revenue pattern indicates a mature market, characterized by low margins, consolidation, and increasing competition. Bedding and potted plant production has a higher input cost on a square foot basis than any other sector of agriculture. Therefore, efficient use of resources (such as labor, capital, water, and other natural resource inputs) is critical to control costs and increase profitability and sustainability. The bedding and potted plant industry is now a globally integrated production and value chain, where products accumulate value as they begin from a seed or unrooted cutting produced offshore through to the final consumer product on the retail shelf. Quality issues, inefficiencies, and losses at each step increase costs and negatively impact supply downstream. Maintaining quality during shelf life of the final product until it reaches the consumer is essential for consumer satisfaction and repeat sales.Wilting during shelf life is a major cause of postharvest shrink for bedding plants shipped long distances from production greenhouses to retail outlets. Hardening off, or toning, at the end of the greenhouse production cycle by reducing fertilizer rate, temperature, light intensity, and soil moisture levels is a practice that has long been known to increase shelf life of floriculture crops. Reducing irrigation volume during the entire greenhouse production cycle rather than only at the end of production, may serve to acclimate floriculture crops to drought stress during marketing. Reduced irrigation during production could make it easier for growers to limit water during production to only that needed by the plant to maintain quality and plant health that is sustainable throughout the market channels. Knowledge of plants consumers can be successful growing in their geographical region is a key step to reducing postproduction waste and consumer dissatisfaction. Knowledge of floral crop adaptability to climatic conditions, such as excessively high temperatures, allows growers to produce the right plant for the right place and to educate consumers on species adapted to their region so they can be successful growing the flowers they purchase.