The Coordinated Education and Marketing Assistance Program (CEMAP)
A Case-Study in Cooperative Industry / University State-Wide Plant Trials and Promotion**

Michael A. Arnold, Associate Professor of Horticulture
Department of Horticultural Sciences
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2133)

Wayne Mackay, Associate Professor and Research Horticulturist
Texas A&M Research and Extension Center
17360 Coit Road
Dallas, Texas 75252-6599

Steven W. George, Associate Professor and Horticulture Extension Specialist
Texas A&M Research and Extension Center
17360 Coit Road
Dallas, Texas 75252-6599

Greg Grant, Lecturer and Horticulture Specialist
Stephen F. Austin University, Nacogdoches, Texas

Tim Davis, Resident Director and Professor of Horticulture
Texas A&M Research and Extension Center
17360 Coit Road
Dallas, Texas 75252-6599

Dan Lineberger, Professor of Horticulture
Department of Horticultural Sciences
Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2133)

Jerry M. Parsons, Professor and Horticulture Extension Specialist
3427 Northeast Parkway, San Antonio, Texas 78218

**Major excerpts of this paper are from a paper in the Proceedings of the 10th Metropolitan Tree Improvement Alliance Conference held in St. Louis, MO, September 30 and October 1, 1998, co-sponsored by the Landscape Plant Development Center and the Society of Municipal Arborists.

The Texas based Coordinated Education and Marketing Assistance Program (CEMAP) is described as a case-study in cooperative industry / university state-wide plant trials and plant promotion programs. Distinguishing features of CEMAP compared to other plant promotion programs are emphasized. A detailed narrative of the program's procedures are included. Potential issues impacting future success of the program are discussed.

The Coordinated Education and Marketing Assistance Program (CEMAP) is an industry - university cooperative program in which university and industry leaders partner in the identification of superior landscape plants for Texas and their subsequent promotion in the market place. The stated purposes of the CEMAP program are to "provide highly effective marketing assistance to growers and retailers, particularly during slower periods of the nursery year" and to "ensure that consumers utilize the very best and most environmentally responsible plant materials, products and horticultural techniques". To date the program has concentrated on the plant materials and marketing portion of the objectives.

One of the key points that distinguishes this program from similar plant promotion programs in other states is the coupling of evaluation / selection processes with statewide testing in a state with climate zones as diverse as most nations. CEMAP has assembled the talent and horticultural mentality to discover, modify and/or create plants which have a characteristic or characteristics that make these plants easy to popularize to the majority of consumers. Seventy percent of all past, present and future plants to be marketed were discovered, modified, enhanced and/or created by the CEMAP team. Other states such as Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana have copied the CEMAP program and philosophy, and have even used CEMAP plants (Hamelia patens - Firebush, New Gold lantana, Blue Princess verbena, V.I.P. petunia, SuperSun coleus, Eubi-type purslane) for promotions. CEMAP differs from all other university and seed company plant testing programs in that we are not merely testing seed company gene pools -- we recognize superior genetics in old and new plant materials, proliferate these selections and popularize them, for the first time or again if need be, using all available mass media. We also provide product names which emphasize the plants benefits (Mari-Mums are marigolds with mum size flowers; Surefire tomato rather than the GS12 variety name; Texas Gold columbine as opposed to Hinckley's columbine) rather than confuse consumers with botanical or numerical nomenclature. Any sales-only and quantity-available bias is eliminated when professional horticulturists evaluate materials on production and field performance rather than new and novel using only one year's data. Promises by breeders of northern-developed varieties such as heat-tolerance, drought resistance and winter hardiness (not from cold only but from severe fluctuations in temperatures as well) pale in comparison to the challenges of survival in Texas' growing conditions.

One of the key characteristics of this program is the ability of the plant to be mass produced -- CEMAP insists on the availability of a substantial (hundreds of thousands) supply of the selected plants before the promotion is undertaken. There is a coordinated marketing effort for each plant that provides producers, wholesalers, and retailers an opportunity to fill the production pipeline in advance of planned promotions. The plants are tailored to Texas and are so well adapted and versatile that the majority of the customers will have a positive experience with the plant. Any and all possible strengths as well as weaknesses of the CEMAP plants that are discovered while testing are explained not only to nursery professionals but to the customers as well before the purchase is made.

Finally, industry is truly a full partner in every component of the effort along with university personnel.

The plant promotion/plant availability/hortibusiness cooperation program was initiated by Dr. Jerry Parsons in San Antonio over 20 years ago. Efforts were then expanded to include the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex. Eventually, state-wide participation with guidance by Dr. Jerry Parsons' and Dr. Steven George began in 1989. The program has grown to encompass 20 sites across the state from Amarillo to Beaumont to San Antonio and El Paso.

Materials and Methods
How does CEMAP work? Of critical importance is the continuing identification of promising new or overlooked taxa suitable for use in large regions of the state. This activity has employed contributions from industry, extension, research, and teaching personnel throughout the state. In addition to industry personnel and Texas A&M University faculty and staff, important plant contributions have been contributed from other educational institutions, such as the Stephen F. Austin State University, and botanical gardens and arboreta throughout the state.

Preliminary trials are often conducted by the sponsor of a plant prior to inclusion in the CEMAP trials. Once a plant is sponsored by a cooperator in the CEMAP trials, that sponsor supplies initial plants for informal evaluation at the primary cooperator sites (mostly Texas A&M University sites and a few key industry locations). If the plant is deemed successful enough for more widespread evaluation, sufficient numbers of plants are propagated by the CEMAP coordinators or the plant sponsor and plants are distributed to all cooperators for replicated trials. While protocols vary somewhat among sites due to varied environments and available testing facilities, sponsors of plants supply suggested cultural conditions for the trials. Each phase will require at least one and often several years of landscape performance data. Evaluations of replicated trials are made by the CEMAP coordinators and industry representatives based on landscape performance and market potential. If propagation or production problems are encountered for superior landscape taxa, research cooperators assist with experimentation to overcome the impediments to production.

Truly outstanding plants are selected long enough in advance of promotion to allow growers time to produce sufficient plants to meet anticipated increases in demand. This may be as short as one year for easily propagated annuals or fast growing perennials, but can be several years for some woody plants. Growers are briefed on recommended production practices when research indicates that these differ from standard production regimes. Retailers in the promotion areas are notified at least six months in advance to permit time for order placement with wholesalers and to determine if sales training is needed. At four to five months prior to the promotion period, employee training seminars are conducted and point-of-sale publications and promotional items are prepared. Past, present and future (for next three years) plant promotions are listed on the Internet site. This site contains a complete description of each plant to be promoted and write-ups for press releases as well as digitized photos.

Coordinated and aggressive media campaigns are mounted for each plant that is promoted including television, radio, and print media. Mass media promotions are typically begun a week before the anticipated sales period begins and are continued throughout the sales campaign. For some plants the media campaigns will begin earlier in the season in one region of the state versus another region due to weather conditions. Promotions are timed to hit the ideal planting times for the plants.
The process is not completed until an assessment of the impact or success of the campaigns are measured. Typically this is done by comparing pre-promotion sales with sales during the promotion and post-promotion sales. Post-promotion sales may be measured for periods extending several years after the initial selection as a CEMAP promotion (see subsequent discussion of designation as a Texas Superstar TM).

Some changes occur periodically in participating sites, but CEMAP cooperators from Texas A&M University include Dr. Steven George (Dallas), Dr. Timothy Davis (Dallas), Dr. Jerry Parsons (San Antonio), Dr. Wayne Mackay (El Paso / Dallas), Dr. Don Wilkerson (College Station), Dr. Michael Arnold (College Station), Dr. Larry Stein (Uvalde), and several Texas Agricultural Extension Service County Horticulturists. Key cooperators outside of TAMU include Mr. Greg Grant (Nacogdoches), Dr. David Creech (Nacogdoches), Peterson's Brothers Nursery (San Antonio), the late Mr. Eddie and John Fanick (Fanick's Nursery in San Antonio), Verstuyft Brothers Farms (San Antonio - Von Ormy), and other industry locations.

Results and Discussion:

State-wide promotions have focused primarily upon herbaceous plants during early phases of the program as these plants required the least time in testing to assess landscape performance. Examples of herbaceous plants that have been promoted in the CEMAP program include: the Texas Gold Columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana (Munz) H, Lott 'Texas Gold', new color ranges of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis Hooker, use of Tagetes erecta L. as fall transition season annuals marketed under the name of Mari-mums, Sun tolerant Coleus (Coleus x hybridus Voss 'Plum Parfait' and 'Burgundy Sun', and vegetables such as the Surefire Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. 'Surefire'. Some woody plants have been promoted as well including Mexican Firebush (Hamelia patens Jacq., and Satsuma Orange (Citrus reticulata Blanco as container plants for colder climates, while the only tree promoted was Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis Bunge. which was well received. Chinese Pistache had become one of the most widely recommended trees in the state (Arnold, 1998; Garrett, 1996; Groom, 1997; Sperry, 1991).

Numerous taxa are in current trials for possible release in the future including a Blue Plumbago with a denser growth form and darker blue flower than the species type. This selection has been tentatively named Plumbago auriculata Lam. 'Hullabaloo'. The large flowered forms of Yubi Series Purslane (Portulaca oleracea L., old-fashioned, single flowered Bunny Bloom Larkspurs (Consolida ambigua (L.) Ball and Heyw., and Bush Morning Glories (Ipomoea fistulosa Mart. ex Choisy, are also under testing. A couple of promising small trees under consideration are Possumhaw (Ilex decidua Walt., valued for its vibrant winter fruiting effects and Lacy Oak (Quercus glaucoides Martens and Galeotti, which is a widely adapted native small oak with outstanding blue-green summer foliage and newly emerging pink shoots in spring.

Even with successful programs challenges are inherent. One of the challenges of the program is balancing the needs and priorities of the varied participating parties. Balancing the need for short-term profits from a constant flow of new plants for industry with the need to be certain of performance prior to recommendation by university personnel is an on-going give and take proposition. Retaining the enthusiasm for the program needed to ensure on-going efforts at individual test sites, where the program is only one of several competing priorities for time and resources, presents a recurring challenge. Many participants ameliorate this problem by dove-tailing their CEMAP efforts with one or more of their primary responsibilities. During the past few years the expansion efforts of CEMAP have been financed principally by grant funds. A permanent source of funds to finance the continuance of CEMAP efforts are needed. One possible solution being explored is the sales of Texas Superstar TM marketing materials, such as pot tags and point of sale promotion materials, which would return a few cents per tag to the program. The attractive feature of this financing mechanism is that funds are raised for the program only if sales of promoted plants occur. Once recognition of the Texas Superstar TM designation becomes widespread among the gardening public, the tags and other promotional materials should help boost sales of plants so designed in previous years in addition to the current seasons promotion. Another concern over the long term is that there are likely a limited number of plants that can be recommended on a state-wide basis. One solution may be to go to regional promotions, but there would need to be a mechanism for distinguishing the region of designation from the state-wide designation as a regionally promoted plant may be less than a "superstar" in another region of the state. Finally, coordinators and cooperators in CEMAP must find ways to ensure that the program remains in agreement with university and departmental objectives and plans, adapting to changes in administrative direction.

Literature Cited
Arnold, M.A. 1998. Landscape Plants for Texas and Environs. Stipes Publ., Champaign, IL. p. 599.

Garrett, H. 1996. Howard Garrett's Plants for Texas. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. p. 170.

Groom, D. 1997. Texas Gardener's Guide: The What, When, How, and Why of Gardening in Texas. Cool Springs Press, Franklin, TN. p. 424.

Sperry, N. 1991. Neil Sperry's Complete Guide to Texas Gardening. Taylor Publ. Co., Dallas, TX. p. 388.