Analysis of economic and social costs of growing Petunia × Hybrida in a greenhouse production system using alternative containers

Robin G. Brumfield, Laura B. Kenny, Alyssa J. Devincentis, Andrew K. Koeser, Sven Verlinden, A. J. Both, Guihong Bi, Sarah T. Lovell, J. Ryan Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Greenhouse growers find themselves under increasing pressure to respond to consumer preferences to use environmentally sustainable practices and materials while maintaining profitable operations. These consumer preferences reflect a mounting awareness of the environmental issues, such as climate change and their associated social costs. Ideally, sustainable horticultural production accounts for both traditional economic considerations and such social costs, some of which can be explained through the calculation of global warming potential (GWP). An obvious candidate for a sustainable intervention is the traditional plastic pot, which growers can replace with alternative biocontainers with varying degrees of GWP. This study calculates the variability of direct costs of production using alternative containers to offer a comparison of social and economic costs. We evaluated these direct costs of producing petunia (Petunia3hybrida) grown in pots made of traditional plastic, bioplastic, coir, manure, peat, bioplastic sleeve, slotted rice hull, solid rice hull, straw, wood fiber, and recycled reground plastic containers used in a previous assessment of GWP. Our analysis of the costs when using a traditional plastic pot showed that the highest contributors to GWP were different from the highest contributors to direct costs, revealing that the price does not reflect the environmental impact of several inputs. Electricity, the plastic shuttle tray, and the plastic pot contributed most to GWP, whereas labor, the plastic container, and paclobutrozol growth regulator contributed most to direct cost of production (COP). At 64% of total cost, labor was the most expensive input. Watering by hand added another $0.37–$0.54 per plant in labor. When we analyzed input costs of each alternative container separately, container type had the largest impact on total direct costs. Before adding container costs, the direct COP ranged from $0.56 to $0.61 per plant. After adding containers, costs ranged from $0.61 to $0.97 per plant. Wood fiber pots were the most expensive and recycled reground plastic pots were the least expensive in this study. Based on our assessment and the observed small variation in GWP between alternative containers, growers would benefit from selecting a container based on price and consumer demand. Some social costs that we are not aware of yet may be associated with some or all biocontainers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1179-1185
Number of pages7
JournalHortScience
Volume53
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Horticulture

Keywords

  • Biocontainers
  • Carbon footprint
  • Cost analysis
  • Global warming potential
  • Social cost
  • Sustainable

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