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Social and Economic Aspects of Water Use in Specialty Crop Production in the USA: A Review

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Clemson University, E-143 Poole Agricultural Center, Clemson, SC 29634-0310, USA
Department of Horticulture, Plant and Soil Science Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA
Department of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M University, 2133 TAMU, College Station, TX, 77843-2133, USA
Department of Horticulture, University of Kentucky, N-308F Agri. Science Center, Lexington, KY 40546-0091, USA
Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, University of Georgia, 132 Four Towers, Athens, GA 30602, USA
Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, University of Florida, PO Box 112060, Gainesville, FL 32611-2060, USA
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(11), 2337;
Received: 27 September 2019 / Revised: 1 November 2019 / Accepted: 5 November 2019 / Published: 8 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Irrigation and Water Resources Management of Landscape Plants)
Understanding human behavior is a complicated and complex endeavor. Academicians and practitioners need to understand the underlying beliefs and motivations to identify current trends and to effectively develop means of communication and education that encourage change in attitudes and behavior. Sociological research can provide information about how and why people make decisions; this information impacts the research and extension community, helping them formulate programs and present information in a way that increases adoption rates. Life cycle assessment can document how plant production impacts the environment. Production of ornamental plants (greenhouse, container, and field produced flowers trees and shrubs) accounted for 4.4% of the total annual on-farm income and 8.8% of the crop income produced in the United States in 2017, representing a substantial portion of farmgate receipts. Greenhouse and nursery growing operations can use this information to increase production and water application efficiency and decrease input costs. Information related to the environmental impacts of plant production, derived from life cycle assessment, can also inform consumer purchase decisions. Information from water footprint analysis quantifies the relative abundance and availability of water on a regional basis, helping growers understand water dynamics in their operation and informing consumer plant purchases based on water availability and conservation preference. Economics can motivate growers to adopt new practices based on whether they are saving or making money, and consumers modify product selection based on preference for how products are produced. Specialty crop producers, including nursery and greenhouse container operations, rely heavily on high quality water from surface and groundwater resources for crop production; but irrigation return flow from these operations can contribute to impairment of water resources. This review focuses on multiple facets of the socioeconomics of water use, reuse, and irrigation return flow management in nursery and greenhouse operations, focusing on grower and consumer perceptions of water; barriers to adoption of technology and innovations by growers; economic considerations for implementing new technologies; and understanding environmental constraints through life cycle assessment and water footprint analyses. Specialty crop producers can either voluntarily adapt practices gradually to benefit both economic and environmental sustainability or they may eventually be forced to change due to external factors (e.g., regulations). Producers need to have the most current information available to inform their decisions regarding water management. View Full-Text
Keywords: carbon footprint; life cycle assessment (LCA); water footprint; consumer preference; specialty crop; greenhouse; nursery; sociology carbon footprint; life cycle assessment (LCA); water footprint; consumer preference; specialty crop; greenhouse; nursery; sociology
MDPI and ACS Style

Majsztrik, J.C.; Behe, B.; Hall, C.R.; Ingram, D.L.; Lamm, A.J.; Warner, L.A.; White, S.A. Social and Economic Aspects of Water Use in Specialty Crop Production in the USA: A Review. Water 2019, 11, 2337.

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