2018 marks our second year recognizing incredible industry leaders through our Horticultural Industry Leadership Awards (HILA), which has become one of my favorite projects of the year. After whittling down the nominees to six outstanding greenhouse and nursery growers, we sit down with the winners to learn how they rose to their leadership positions, and who inspired them along the way.
One of the commonalities among the greenhouse winners this year was having one or two mentors or a specific person who came into the HILA winners’ lives and motivated them to go into horticulture. And, interestingly, all three of these winners said that they had originally anticipated moving into a different field — fashion, photography or even professional golf. That is, until that person came along and helped them to realize that they belonged in horticulture.
It got me thinking about how much difference one person can make, whether they intend to or not, and how simply sharing a love of plants can impact someone’s life. Some of you may remember my column last July, when I was thrilled to have inspired my tenant to create her own little garden, and happy to support her new hobby. While I certainly am not claiming to be a mentor or of a similar caliber to the horticulture industry greats our HILA winners mentioned, I am excited to have been a part of what sparked her inner green thumb. She’ll be moving to her newly purchased home soon, and is already telling everyone that she’s going to have “the best-looking yard on the street.” I shared some annuals, perennials and shrubs to get her started, and she tends to them with great care as she prepares to move, even going out in the middle of a late-night storm to check on them.
Perhaps one day, she’ll have the same opportunity to share her love of plants with someone and inspire the next gardener in the neighborhood. All it takes is one person to make the difference.
And if you’re looking for some inspiration, don’t forget to read the profiles of our HILA winners at greenhousemag.com — I guarantee you won’t be able to read their stories without stopping to reminisce about your own path into horticulture.
In May 2018, the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI) announced that it was going to invest more time and resources into Plasmopara obducens — the causal agent for impatiens downy mildew (IDM). According to HRI, IDM’s spread has caused a decline in sales of impatiens; the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that impatiens sales dropped from more than $266 million in 2009 to just under $215 million in 2014.
As a result, a team of researchers is looking further into IDM and how growers can best treat it. Some, like Margery Daughtrey from Cornell University and Dr. Mary Hausbeck from Michigan State University, are researching which products best treat IDM. Others, such as Dr. Cristi Palmer from Rutgers University and Dr. Catalina Salgado-Salazar from the USDA, are looking into the disease’s history to determine what makes it such a problem. And others, such as Dr. Nina Shishkoff from the USDA, are working to better understand IDM’s life cycle.
The history of IDM
Plasmopara obducens was first reported in the United States in the 1880s when it was spotted on a native impatiens called orange jewelweed. Impatiens walleriana, the most common host of IDM and considered to be the most susceptible of the roughly 1,300 impatiens species, was introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s, according to HRI.
But IDM was not a significant issue for the green industry until 2004 when widespread infections were reported in multiple states for the first time, says Dr. Jill Calabro, the research and science programs director at HRI. It’s also unclear exactly why it took more than a century for the disease to wreak havoc on impatiens in production.
“It quickly grew from a minor problem,” Calabro says. “There are reports of businesses going out of business because of this one disease. And that all happened within a decade. That’s an extremely quick shift.”
While Calabro says the answer is still unclear, there is one cause researchers are exploring.
“One theory is that there was a population shift among the pathogen, Plasmopara obducens,” Calabro says. “There is one team of researchers right now [working on this project] that is able to go in and compare the genetic population of modern times — genetic isolates from now — to isolates from the late 1800s. It’s a powerful molecular technique that can provide a lot of information. They are still working through this, but early indicators seem to indicate that the populations are very distinct.”
How to spot IDM and how it spreads
According Calabro, IDM has defining characteristics that are telltale signs a plant has been infected. Growers, Calabro says, should also understand that once a plant is infected, it’s going to die.
“Impatiens downy mildew starts as really slightly chlorotic leaves,” she says. “There might be a bit of stippling associated with it, but it quickly advances and leaves quickly become yellow and then they’ll eventually fall off. There will be a dramatic leaf drop. IDM will kill the whole plant, but first you’ll start seeing these yellow leaves, the leaves will drop, it will kill the flowers and basically it will leave nothing but these stems — sad, little sticks of impatiens — sticking out of the ground devoid of flowers and stems.”
Calabro adds that, in some cases, a white powdery substance will appear on the undersides of the leaves.
“That doesn’t always happen with [IDM], unfortunately, but if you see the white downy on the underside of leaves, that’s a pretty good indication that you’ve got impatiens downy mildew,” she says. “It’s very much dependent on the environmental conditions.”
IDM spreads across the greenhouse in a number of ways, including wind, rain splash and irrigation splash. Cool, wet conditions are also the most common characteristics that allow downy mildew to appear.
“Shaded areas tend to be hot spots, just because they stay wet for long periods of times,” Calabro says.
Growers should also be aware of two types of IDM spores. On the underside of leaves are the short-lived spores that will not survive the winter. But there are long-term resistant spores that are formed in infected plant material — meaning they cannot be spotted. Once they infect a plant, and kill it, the spores are released into the soil.
“Those spores can last years,” Calabro says. “One of the unknowns right now is how long these spores can survive, but it’s thought that it could be as long as five to 10 years.”
What the research hopes to accomplish
Since 2004, impatiens has gone from being the No. 1 bedding crop in annual sales to No. 3 because of IDM, moving it behind petunias and geraniums. According to Calabro, IDM research matters because impatiens are still a major crop in the green industry, with growers, landscapers and homeowners looking for a solution.
“Impatiens is a very important crop in our world,” Calabro says. “But it has kind of fallen since the rise of impatiens downy mildew.”
Researchers face a few different difficulties. With the estimated 1,300 varieties, there are species like Impatiens walleriana that are highly susceptible to IDM and others (like New Guinea impatiens) that are not entirely resistant, but more resistant. The hope is also that new products can be found to replace some of the fungicides that IDM is becoming resistant to. Calabro also hopes that the inoculate point of the disease can be found, as no one is currently sure how exactly IDM gets started each year.
“That’s a long list [of topics] and there are probably more,” Calabro says.
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Hispanics make up the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, and those numbers continue to grow. With a buying power totaling $1.4 trillion, the Hispanic consumer carries significant economic clout. To benefit from this demographic, the green industry needs to ditch the heavy Caucasian influence on the hobby of gardening and make it multicultural.
According to Simmons Research, in 2017, 17.4 percent of Americans aged 6 years and older identified as Hispanic or Latino, up from 15.3 percent in 2010. The Hispanic population is increasing across all age groups, with nearly a quarter of Americans age 6 to 34 today being Hispanic, compared with about 10 percent among those age 50 and older. This points to the continued growth and influence of this segment on the American economy.
In 2016, U.S. Hispanic buying power was larger than the gross domestic product of Mexico, according to “The Multicultural Economy,” a report from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business published by the Selig Center for Economic Growth.
“As America grows more diverse, minority groups are reaping great economic dividends, and business owners would do well to pay attention,” says Jeff Humphreys, director of the Selig Center. “Minority buying power is growing at a faster pace than the white consumer market for a number of reasons, such as demographics, increases in educational attainment and entrepreneurial activity.”
The report states that more than one in six Americans claims Hispanic origin, which helps explain rapid gains over the past few years. From a buying power estimate of $495 billion in 2000, that number has jumped 181 percent to $1.4 trillion in 2016. That accounts for nearly 10 percent of total U.S. buying power in 2016 and means the U.S. Hispanic market is larger than the GDP of Mexico and bigger than the economies of all but 14 countries.
The report provides national buying power estimates for seven selected groups of Hispanic consumers, with Mexican-Americans representing the largest group and accounting for $797 billion worth of buying power, followed by Puerto Ricans, who account for $146 billion.
While each of these subset groups has a distinct purchasing trend, their growth has some things in common, Humphreys says.
“The most important trend in favor of Hispanic buying power growth is favorable demographics,” he adds. “The Hispanic population is growing much more rapidly than the total population, thanks to natural increases and strong immigration. The population is also increasingly better educated and has increased its entrepreneurial activity.”
U.S. Hispanic buying power is more geographically concentrated than that of non-Hispanics. In 2016, California alone accounted for 26 percent of Hispanic buying power, and just 10 states accounted for 78 percent. The states with the largest Hispanic markets in 2016 were California with $359 billion, Texas with $269 billion, Florida with $144 billion, and New York with $101 billion. New Mexico, Texas, and California had the highest Hispanic shares of buying power with 33 percent, 22 percent and 20 percent respectively, according to Nielsen.
Make the connection
Businesses and brands willing to benefit from this demographics’ spending power must design ads that align with their values, culture and purchasing behavior.
To connect with the U.S. Hispanic population, businesses are launching multiethnic or multiracial marketing campaigns targeted at the bilingual, Latino and English-speaking community, according to Ultim Marketing. But it’s critical to understand that appealing to the Hispanic community goes way beyond translating English ads or social media posts into Spanish. That’s a shallow attempt at connecting with this demographic.
According to Ultim, here are some persuasive reasons to adopt a Hispanic marketing strategy.
- An average Hispanic household is usually young and large — made up of at least two generations i.e. nuclear family, grandparents, cousins — and will spend at least $96 daily compared to $95 or below spent by non-Hispanic families (i.e. Whites, African-Americans, Asians).
- Hispanics spend more time online surfing the web socializing, buying and viewing videos on their phones and tablets. This means they are exposed to more mobile ads and online content which turn into leads and higher site traffic.
- Since Hispanics spend more time exposed to ads, they are easily influenced by compelling advertisements. This means they buy more stuff online than other races in the U.S. Online store owners or service providers interested in having increased Hispanic patronage should consider creating a multilingual site.
- If you want devoted Latino or Hispanic customers, communicate with them in Spanish, create your product ads in Spanish and provide Spanish customer service. Hispanics are proud of their heritage, and are naturally drawn to brands that promote their culture — even third-generation U.S. Hispanics.
Nielsen’s “Latina 2.0” reports that Hispanic women are strongly influenced by celebrities, designers, trends and media, but they are also brand influencers in many regards, including being early adopters, rating or reviewing products online, and recommending products to others.
To truly win over the Hispanic consumer, marketing ads should have an authentic appeal to the Hispanic consumer’s unique behaviors and tastes by employing unique products and marketing strategies, according to an IBM Market Indicator report. Some multicultural ad campaigns that are popular within the Hispanic community by notable companies include the Pepsi NEXT campaign, Wendy “Mucho mejor” ad, Domino Pizza “power of simpatico” campaign, CVS Pharmacy “CVS y más” initiative, as well as ads by McDonald’s and other top brands, according to Ultim.
Understanding language preferences will help businesses and brands create better marketing campaigns. According to Simmons Research, among all Hispanics there is about an even split between the percentage who prefer to speak mostly or only English versus only or mostly Spanish. However, when we look at Hispanics by generation, those born outside the United States (first generation) favor speaking Spanish by a wide margin. Among second-generation Hispanics, those born in the United States to at least one foreign-born parent, a clear majority prefer to speak either all or mostly in English. Even though 48 percent of third-generation Hispanics, those born in the United States to American-born parents, say they prefer to speak only in English, the remainder say that they still prefer to speak Spanish at least some of the time.
Advertising in Spanish matters, even among English-dominant Hispanics, reports Simmons Research. Hispanics, even many English-dominant Hispanics, still have emotional ties to the Spanish language that carry over to companies that advertise in Spanish. For instance, 49 percent of Spanish-dominant Hispanics and 27 percent English-dominant Hispanics say, “When I hear a company advertise in Spanish, it makes me feel like they respect my heritage and want my business.” Spanish-language advertising can drive purchase decisions and brand loyalty for this group.
Bridget Behe, professor of horticulture at Michigan State University, conducted research about 10 years ago that examined the role of ethnicity on gardening purchases and satisfaction. The research revealed that a greater percentage of Asians participated in gardening with fruits, vegetables and herbs compared with African-Americans. A greater percentage of Hispanics participated in outdoor water gardening compared with Caucasians, African-Americans and Asians. No persons of Asian descent purchased trees or shrubs in her study, but substantially more persons of Hispanic descent did, compared with Caucasians and African-Americans. In her research she concludes, “Ethnicity could be used as a basis for market segmentation, and differences are indeed present. This could be a result of different ethnic groups having common characteristics and perceptions about gardening. For example, it could be the case that a great deal of African-Americans and Hispanics are most comfortable with vegetable gardening as a way to produce vegetable crops than flower gardening. This may indicate a need for greater advice and communication about flower gardening practices or a better use of positioning vegetable gardening. If Caucasian consumers are the most targeted consumer and the variability of knowledge and education varies for these mainstream customers, imagine the same frustration with the variability of other ethnic consumers. More could be done to improve the level of satisfaction and reduce regret among non-Caucasian customers.”
Since that research was completed, Behe has witnessed the continued impact and influence that Hispanics and their subcultures have had on American culture.
“It only takes some simple research to understand some key demographics in your own backyard,” she says. “Businesses can use American Fact Finder, enter a ZIP code, and get some key information. Then ask yourself, ‘I wonder what plants these communities are interested in or could be interested in.’”
She cautions not to single anyone out, but instead be welcoming and understanding with your marketing message.
“For far too long gardening has been a Caucasian activity. And expanding your marketing message shouldn’t end with the Hispanic community. The green industry could and should be serving other ethnic communities,” she says.
Behe’s research, “Evaluating the Role of Ethnicity on Gardening Purchases and Satisfaction” can be found in HortScience Vol. 42(2), April 2007.
The female consumer
The Hispanic female population in the U.S. is not only expanding in influence, but in sheer numbers as well, according to Nielsen’s report. Their population grew 37 percent between 2005 and 2015 compared to 2 percent for non-Hispanic white women during the same time period. There are now 28 million Hispanic females living in the U.S. (17 percent of the total U.S. female population and 9 percent of the total U.S. population) and 77 percent of their growth over that 10-year span came not from immigration, but from Hispanic girls being born in the U.S. Almost half (45 percent) of U.S.-born Hispanic females are under the age of 18, with 94 percent of Hispanic females under the age 18 now being U.S.-born. A full 25 percent of all U.S. females under the age of 18 are now Hispanic. This increase in U.S.-born Hispanic females represents not only a dramatic shift in culture within the Hispanic community, but within the nation and its future workforce (and future consumers), as being ambicultural and bilingual from birth become more prevalent.
As the Hispanic female population grows rapidly in many communities across the U.S., their impact and influence is becoming the primary driver of consumer behavior in an expanding footprint, Nielsen reports. In many cities in California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, for example, Hispanic females are now the majority of the total female population. Six states are home to more than 1 million Hispanic females. California has the most at over 7.5 million, followed by 5.3 million in Texas, and more than 2.5 million in Florida. Hispanic females in California and Texas represent 38 percent of the total female population in each of those states. Los Angeles and New York are the metropolitan areas where the most Hispanic females live, with 3 million+ and more than 2.4 million, respectively. In Los Angeles, Hispanic females are 45 percent of the total female population and in New York they are 24 percent of the total female population.
At 3.23 people per household, Hispanics have the largest average household size of any ethnic or racial group in the nation, meaning they are appealing consumer targets for many industries. In comparison, non-Hispanic white households have an average size of 2.30, Asian households have 2.92, black households have 2.47, and the nation, as a whole, has 2.49. Although the average Hispanic household is larger, more likely to be multigenerational and more likely to contain a married couple, the average household income is at just over $65,000 per year. However, the average Hispanic household income has grown 29 percent since 2005, slightly ahead of the national average. One reason for the lower household income is that Hispanics are relatively younger than other ethnic and racial segments, so for the majority, their careers are still in the growth phase, according to Nielsen.
Sources: Nielsen; University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth; Simmons Research “The State of the Hispanic-American Consumer;” Refuel Agency “2017 Hispanic Explorer;” Ultim Marketing, Bridget Behe; Michigan State University