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

Michael A. Arnold, Associate Professor of Landscape Horticulture
Steven W. George, Associate Professor and Horticulture Extension Specialist
Jerry M. Parsons, Professor and Horticulture Extension Specialist

Texas A&M University, Department of Horticultural Sciences, College Station, Texas 77843-2133

A paper from the Proceedings of the 10th Metropolitan Tree Improvement Alliance (METRIA) 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 Educational 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 Educational 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 marketplace. 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 state-wide testing in a state with climatic zones as diverse as most nations. The second distinguishing feature of this program is the coordinated marketing effort for each plant that provides producers, wholesalers, and retailers an opportunity to fill the production pipeline well in advance of planned promotions. Finally, industry is truly a full partner in every component of the effort along with university personnel.

The program was initiated by Dr. Jerry Parsons in San Antonio 21 years ago. Efforts were then expanded to include the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Eventually, state-wide participation with Dr. Jerry Parsons’ and Dr. Steven George’s direction began in 1989. The program has grown to encompass over 20 test sites across the state from Amarillo to San Antonio and from Beaumont to 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 over large areas 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 across Texas.

Informal 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 preliminary 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 cooperators across the state 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 preferably 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 far 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.

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 a campaign is measured. Typically this is done by comparing pre-promotion sales with sales during the promotion. Post-promotion sales may also be measured for periods extending several years after the initial selection as a CEMAP promotion (see subsequent discussion of designation as a Texas SuperstarTM).

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), Dr. Don Wilkerson (College Station), Dr. Nancy Roe (Stephenville), and Dr. Brent Pemberton (Overton) and several Texas Agricultural Extension Service County Horticulturists. Key cooperators outside of TAMU include Mr. Gregg Grant (Nacogdoches), Dr. David Creech (Nacogdoches), Mr. Pete Peterson (Peterson’s Greenhouses), the late Mr. John Fanick (Fanick’s Nursery), Verstuyft Brothers Farms, Mr. John Peters (Fort Worth), and other industry locations.

Results and Discussion

State-wide promotions have focused primarily on 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:

Some woody plants have been promoted as well including Mexican Firebush (Hamelia patens Jacq., and Satsuma Orange (Citrus reticulata Blanco, as summer annuals or container plants, 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, 1999; 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'.

Others under testing include

Two promising small trees under consideration are

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 a 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 is needed. One possible solution being explored is the sales of Texas SuperstarTM marketing materials (The Texas Nurseryman, 1998), 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 funding mechanism is that funds are raised for the program only if sales of promoted plants occur. Once recognition of the Texas SuperstarTM designation becomes widespread among the gardening public, the tags and other promotional materials should help boost sales of plants so designated in previous years, in addition to the current season's 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 as a Texas SuperstarTM 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.

Literture Cited

Arnold, M.A. 1999. Landscape Plants for Texas and Environs. Stipes Publ., Champaign, IL. p. 596.

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.

The Texas Nurseryman. 1998. Introducing the Texas Superstar™. The Texas Nurseryman, 28(9):12-13.

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Format updated July 24, 2009