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Socioeconomic determinants of the level of mechanization of nurseries and greenhouses in the southern United States

Coastal Research and Extension Center, Mississippi State University, Biloxi, MS, United States

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As horticulture production increases over time, growers are expected to improve efficiency, adopt appropriate technologies, improve working conditions and workers’ safety, and enhance markets. Mechanization decisions are made to maximize production under a least-cost combination of inputs including mechanization. The objective of this paper is to determine the socioeconomic factors influencing the level of mechanization among nurseries and greenhouses. The results will provide more profound insights into the empirical relationships between the level of mechanization and the economic and technical characteristics of nurseries or greenhouses. Results will also describe the influences of owners or operators’ characteristics on mechanizations decisions. The level of mechanization shows the extent by which nurseries or greenhouses have currently mechanized each of the significant workers’ tasks involved in the production of horticulture products. A regression equation was estimated using the socioeconomic database collected from a survey of 215 randomly selected wholesale nurseries and greenhouses in eight Southern states. The regression results explained 69% of the variation in the level of mechanization among participating nurseries or greenhouses. Younger owners or operators tend to approve of higher mechanization in horticulture operations. Significant differences in the levels of mechanization were observed among owners or operators with different levels of formal educational attainment. Workers’ tasks in greenhouse-only operations tend to be more mechanized than nursery-only operations. Workers’ tasks in operations with higher annual gross sales were more mechanized than smaller operations. The shortage of permanent or part-time workers would encourage owners or operators to shift to more mechanized horticulture production activities. Corporate-run horticulture organizations provided more mechanization options for their workers than the other business operations.
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