Over the last decades, greenhouse growers have been faced with resource management issues, particularly related to fuels for heat and water for irrigation, that have significantly impacted their livelihoods. Energy prices (oil in particular) have risen dramatically and as a result of shortages in some parts of the country, water (used mainly for crop irrigation) has not always been available in sufficient quantities to grow horticultural crops using traditional production practices. While year-round crop production in greenhouse facilities often requires significant amounts of water and energy, the fact that all aspects of the growing environment can be accurately controlled typically results in much higher resource use efficiencies per unit produced compared to outdoor field production. Hence the optimized resource management is vital for the successful future of greenhouse operations. Greenhouse and nursery facilities are high input systems using vast amounts of water, fertilizers, chemicals, plastics, and labor to produce crops. Consumers are exhibiting greater degrees of environmental awareness, mass marketers are adopting strict purchasing guidelines that encourage environmental sustainability, and government policies to reduce carbon emissions have resulted in a demand for crops that not only meet aesthetic expectations but are also produced, distributed, and marketed using sustainable methods. The use of renewable and biodegradable inputs while growing an aesthetically pleasing and healthy plant will meet these demands. Green industry stakeholders have identified production practices which reduce plastic and water use as a major focus to increase sustainability even though the environmental and economic costs associated with these specific practices are undetermined. The members of our team represent a complementary knowledge base that is absolutely essential for solving the resource management challenges facing the greenhouse industry. Members include greenhouse engineers, plant scientists and an economist with diverse areas of expertise and all have experience solving problems in multidisciplinary environments. Team members have frequent interactions with a wide variety of industry stakeholders and communicate regularly through presentations at regional and national meetings, trade publications, onsite grower visits, and informal contacts resulting from grower questions. In addition, they work closely with a large number of Extension agents in their respective states. Our team proposes to address resource management issues related to water and nutrient applications, as well as to energy use. We propose to use sensors to collect improved information about the plant status, the growing environment and outdoor conditions. Thus, the whole continuum in the greenhouse and crop system is considered, evaluated, and decisions are made for optimized resource use. We want to develop and implement environmental control strategies that optimize resource management and maximize crop quality and yield, while also maximizing the economic return to the grower.
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