Research in Real Time: Integrating Social Media and Landscape Research

Wednesday, July 24, 2013: 10:15 AM
Desert Salon 4-6 (Desert Springs J.W Marriott Resort )
Bert Cregg , Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Social media is becoming an increasingly important means for university extension and research personnel to disseminate research-based horticultural information to their clientele.  Social media also provides an opportunity to increase the interactivity of information flow among researchers, extension specialists, and their audience.  In Summer 2012, I solicited input for the design of a research trial on tree transplanting techniques from readers of the Garden Professors’ blog, a multi-institutional blog focused on the science of gardening and landscaping hosted by four university horticulture professors: Linda Chalker-Scott (Washington State University), Jeff Gilman (University of Minnesota), Holly Scoggins (Virginia Tech), and myself. The overall objective of the project was to provide blog readers with an opportunity to participate in a landscape research project and gain insights into the research process.  Garden Professors’ blog readers were surveyed to identify topics or issues related to transplanting of container-grown shade trees.  In an on-line Survey-Monkey poll, readers identified root-ball manipulation prior to planting (e.g., "shaving" root-balls) and fertilization at planting as their top research interests.  An additional subject, mulching at planting, was added to the project based on subsequent discussion on the blog.  The resulting project was installed in July 2012 as two separate experiments.  In each experiment eight replications of #25 (105 L) container-grown shade trees (Plantanus ×acerifolia ‘Bloodgood’) were assigned at random to one of six treatments.  In Experiment 1 the treatments were arranged in a 3 x 2 factorial of three root-ball manipulation and two fertilization treatments.  The root-ball treatments were: 1) root-ball shaved to remove outer, circling roots; 2) roots teased apart to eliminate circling roots; and 3) control.  Fertilizer treatments were 1) 400 g of controlled release fertilizer (Osmocote Plus, 15N–4P–10K, 5–6 month release) per tree and 2) no fertizer added. In Experiment 2 the treatments were arranged in a 3 x 2 factorial of the three root-ball manipulations and two mulching treatments (with or without 3” of pine bark mulch).  During the growing season images and details of the plot establishment were posted on the blog as well as initial study results.  Readers were able to post comments and questions on the blog about study installation, data collection and analysis.  In this presentation I will present initial results from both tree planting experiments.  In addition, I will discuss the logistics and pitfalls of interacting with the public while sharing ongoing research in real time.