Dr. Gary W. Knox
Evaluation of new or improved plants for the nursery and landscape industries, including evaluation for invasive potential
The introduction of new plant material, whether through traditional breeding programs or plant discovery, is an integral part of the current Green Industry and gardening trends. Unfortunately, some releases are not widely tested and most have not been independently evaluated in unbiased trials. Overall goals of the plant evaluation program are to evaluate, introduce and promote plants that minimize potential impacts from diseases, pests and invasive plants, and improve the quality and diversity of plant material for the Green Industry and Florida gardeners.
Formal, replicated plant evaluations (i.e., Arachis glabrata, Lagerstroemia, Magnolia, Nandina, Rosa, and Ligustrum) are usually performed in cooperation with other faculty and/or at other sites to assess statewide or regional impact. In particular, multi-site collaborations are characterizing the potential invasiveness (growth rate, flowering period, seed production, germination requirements) of nonnative ornamental species in Florida with the goal of identifying and promoting non-invasive selections of otherwise invasive ornamentals. Finally, propagation and production protocols are being developed to conserve rare and native species.
Nursery production and management focusing on sustainability and IPMResearch efforts in this area have focused on container nursery production strategies that offer greater environmental sustainability while reducing costly inputs of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, imported potting substrate components and water. One of these strategies is to use plants that inherently have fewer pests or diseases or otherwise require fewer inputs. This strategy nicely dovetails with plant selection and evaluation programs cited previously. Accordingly, collaborations with entomologists and plant pathologists evaluate pest and disease resistance of new plants and comparative resistance of cultivars within a genus.