Protocol voted on June 1994

Request for Establishment of SERA IEG-27, October 1996

I E G 63

Landscape Plant Evaluation Program

Protocol voted on and approved at Raleigh meeting June/1994

The nursery industry in the United States and in the southeast is of considerable economic importance. In 1988 the greenhouse industry made up about ten percent of total crop receipts in the U.S. with receipts of approximately $6.9 billion. The southeastern region accounted for one-third of U.S. receipts or approximately $2.3 billion. This represented 12.4 percent of total crop receipts received in the southeast.

The need and demand for superior landscape plants by the private, public and business sectors for functional and aesthetic use is increasing. The availability of plant material with improved performance will result in increased landscape value, reduced maintenance costs, better landscape appearance and greater satisfaction and enjoyment by the public with their outdoor environment. Nurserymen producing superior and unique plant material could benefit by better production efficiency and broader product line, thereby improving market competitiveness.

Plant evaluation programs are currently being conducted by many commercial firms and public and private institutions. Among these are the USDA National Arboretum, Soil Conservation Service, public and private universities, public and private gardens, and nurseries.

Many valuable plants have been found through plant evaluation programs. Plants that are new, different and an improvement of currently available plant material, create more interest in plants and therefore more sales.

Nurserymen may not have plant material with proven potential in production because the plant is unknown to them. Its merit, potential, and uniqueness or superior characteristics have not been sufficiently evaluated. It can be too costly and time consuming for nurserymen to individually find and cultivate new material. Also considerable risks and costs are involved to produce and market plant material with unknown value.

Much of the information generated by landscape plant evaluation programs in the northeast, Pacific Northwest and southwest is not applicable in the southeast without further testings.

The development of a comprehensive regional evaluation program to evaluate plant material generated by current individual plant evaluation programs would be beneficial in introducing plants to the nursery industry in the southeast.

Climate patterns in the southeast are very diversified. for example, USDA Hardiness zones for the southeast range from zone 11, above 40 degrees F, Florida Keys; zone 10, 30 - 40 degrees F, Southern Florida; zone 9, 20 - 30 degrees F, Southern Texas, Louisiana, and Central Florida; zone 8, 10 - 20 degrees F, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, North Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; zone 7, 0 - 10 degrees F, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia; and zone 6, -10 - 0 degrees F, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Virginia.

The objective of this program is to collect, evaluate, introduce and disperse new and superior landscape plants for nursery production in the Southern U.S. Adaptability, desirable and limiting characteristics of plant materials, will be established for a state or region within the southeast. the introduction and dispersal of new, interesting and functional plant material will create greater appreciation and use of plants by the consumer which will result in increased plant production.

Procedure: Each cooperating state will collect plant material with potential for production and use for initial evaluation. Only plant material evaluated as promising by cooperators in each state will be selected for regional evaluation. Plants selected for regional evaluation will be dispersed to participating states as 2 inch to 3 inch pot liners in April of each year. Four plants per cultivar will be shipped to each state. Cultural procedures used for evaluation will be determined by the cooperator in each state. However, some standardization of growing procedures is encouraged. It is suggested that all four plants of a cultivar will initially be grown in one-gallon containers for 1 or 2 years in light shade or full sun. The second or third year the plants will be planted in soil field evaluation. Plant material received for evaluation may, at any time, be destroyed or dispersed to nurserymen at the discretion of the cooperator in each state.

Plants will be evaluated using uniform evaluation forms (see attached evaluation form). Items 1 through 7 are to be filled out by the dispensing cooperator for each plant. Receiving cooperators are responsible for completing items 8 through 20 and forwarding annual evaluation forms for each cultivar to the dispensing cooperators. The cooperator that dispersed the cultivar is responsible for publishing results obtained after a minimum of four years of evaluation.

Statistical analysis will be a conventional ANOVA using SAS. Plants dispersed annually for evaluation will be grown in a completely randomized design at each state. Statistical analysis will be conducted separately with each plant replicated 4 times at each state with states being treatments.

Plant evaluation programs can balloon into a excessively expensive program and become detrimental to a researcher's overall effort. The program must be designed in a manner that is effective but will not discourage participation and can be maintained within budget limitations of cooperators. to accomplish this only material with real potential should be distributed to each state.

Literature Cited.
Foshee, K.H., T.D. Phillips, A.J. Laiche, Jr., and S.E. Newman. 1990. Cost of production estimates for container grown landscape plants, climate zones 7 and 8, 1990. Ag. Ec. Res. Rept. 189, MAFES p. 72.

Explanation of I E G 63 Plant Evaluation Form (attached)

8. Number survived . . . . .
9. Low temp. range . . . . .
10. High temp. range . . . . .
11. Growth rating . . . . .
12. Flower rating . . . . .
13. Fruit rating . . . . .
14. Plant size ht/wd . . . . .
15. Production potential . . . . .
16. Landscape potential . . . . .
17. Insect damage rating . . . . .
18. Disease damage rating . . . . .
19. Cold damage rating . . . . .

Visual ratings of: Growth, Flowering, Fruiting, Nursery production potential, and Landscape use potential 10 = excellent, 1 = very poor.

Visual ratings of: Insect, Disease, and Cold damage - 10 = none, 1 = very severe

October, 1996

I. Title: Nursery Crop and Landscape Systems

II. Justification: With an average annual growth rate of about 10%, commodity cash receipts for the nursery/landscape industry more than doubled from a vaule of $4.0 billion in 1982 to a value of $8.4 billion nationwide in 1991, making it one of the most robust segments of agriculture. According to Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin 384 (1995), 24 state account for 79% of nursery receipts. Of that group, 11 states in the Southeast account for 33.2% or receipts. Recent Gallup polls show that gardening is one of the top leisure time activities for U.S. consumers and interest in gardening is at an all time high. New germ plasm continues to be discovered or created in the ornamental plant realm. For example, Leyland Cypress is now one of the most popular screening plants in much of the Southeast but was practically unheard of twenty years ago. The ruby-leaved red-flowered loropetalum cultivars are one of the hottest new blooming shrubs in the south but were unknown ten years ago and still are not widely tested. While past growth has been fueled by technological advances, continued future growth of the nursery/landscape industry is being driven to a considerable degree by the introduction of new plant materials such as these. The Southern Plant Conference, a biennial meeting showcasing new plants, has completed its fourth cycle. Attendance increased at each conference, demonstrating widespread continuing interest. In 1996, the Southern Nurserymen's Association featured a "new plant introduction" venue for the first time. Some large nurseries have invested in discovery and development of new plant releases and are using this technique to gain market share. Unfortunately some releases are not widely tested and most have not been independently tested in unbiased trials. Problems have arisen as with some of the new "disease resistant" roses for example. A coordinated plant evaluation system throughout the Southeast could rapidly provide unbiased information on performance and adaptation of selected new introductions, thus benefitting producers and consumers alike.

III. Objective: The objective of the SERA-IEG is to identify, evaluate, select and disseminate information on superior environmentally sustainable landscape plants in nursery crop production and landscape systems in the Southeast. This will be accomplished by implementing the protocol for plant evaluation that was developed by IEG 63 (attached) to identify superior performers and pinpoint problems. Information gained from the plant evaluation system such as cold hardiness, heat tolerance, growth rate, environmental adaptation limits, etc. will be disseminated collectively and individually to a wide variety of audiences, from scientific articles to industry trade magazines and conferences to extension and popular information channels. This should increase nursery revenues and reduce landscape losses.

IV. Procedural Plan: The protocol that has been developed will be implemented. State representatives and invited guests will meet annually to exchange plant information results, distribute plant material for future evaluation, and select candidates for future evaluation. Plants will be evaluated for not less than three years at participating sites in the Southeast Region. Responsibility for timely reports (at the annual meeting) rests with the evaluator. The introducer will then provide a finished summary to the chair. For each plant that the group judges worthy of regional approval, the chair will appoint a committee to develop and disseminate propagation information and production protocols to the nursery industry. The same committee will compile and distribute landscape use information on the plant to the nursery and landscape industry and to the gardening public.

V. Kinds of Participation in the Activity: Cooperating horticulturists will be responsible for establishing and maintaining evaluation sites in their respective states. As the protocol is written, participation is not limited to the state representative. Horticulturists who nominate new plants for evaluation will be responsible for obtaining or propagating sufficient material for distribution to cooperating evaluation sites, and for collating evaluation results as they come in. Entomologists and plant pathologists may be enlisted to identify insect and disease problems as they arise. The USDA National Arboretum should be a cooperator and a participant in the group. Interfaces may need to be developed with various botanic gardens and arboreta. Agriculture economists may be useful in developing survey instruments to determine the impact of the program. Extension horticulturists and nursery specialists will be invaluable in developing written information about the approved plants as outlined above in the procedural plan. This program will exclude bedding plants and will concentrate on woody ornamentals but may involve herbaceous plants such as perennials, ground covers, or vines that normally move in nursery production and marketing channels.

VI. Duration: This is a long term project. This SERA-IEG should be approved for five years with anticipation for renewal.

Click here to return to the SERA-27 homepage.