Essays in Greenhouse/Nursery Economics

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This dissertation focuses on the greenhouse and nursery industry in the United States. Two major issues are explored: irrigation and plant disease. The first two essays examine wireless soil-moisture sensor networks, an emerging technology that measures soil moisture and optimizes irrigation levels in real time. The first essay describes a study in which a nationwide survey of commercial growers was administered to generate estimates of grower demand and willingness to pay for sensor networks. We find that adoption rates for a base system and demand for expansion components are decreasing in price, as expected. The price elasticity of the probability of adoption suggests that sensor networks are likely to diffuse at a rate somewhat greater than that of drip irrigation. In the second essay, yields, time-to-harvest, and plant quality were analyzed to measure sensor network profitability. Sensor-based irrigation was found to increase revenue by 62% and profit by 65% per year. The third essay investigates greenhouse nursery growers’ response to a quarantine imposed on the west coast of the United States from 2002 to present for the plant pathogen that causes Sudden Oak Death. I investigate whether growers choose to 1) improve their sanitation practices, which reduces the underlying risk of disease without increasing the difficulty of detecting the pathogen, 2) increase fungicide use, which also prevents disease but makes existing infections much harder to detect, or 3) change their crop composition towards more resistant species. First, a theoretical model is derived to formalize hypotheses on grower responses to the quarantine, and then these predictions are empirically tested using several public data sources. I do not find evidence that growers improve their sanitation practices in response to the quarantine. I do, however, find evidence that growers heavily increase their fungicide use in response to a quarantine policy that requires visual (as opposed to laboratory) inspection for the disease before every crop shipment, suggesting that the quarantine may have the adverse effect of making the pathogen harder to identify. I also do find evidence that growers shift away from susceptible crops and towards resistant crops.