Economic Viability of Steam as an Alternative to Preplant Soil Fumigation in California Strawberry Production

in HortScience

One challenge of conducting research regarding agricultural production systems is that field trials are time consuming and expensive, limiting their scale and scope. Thus, policymakers and producers benefit from researchers extracting as much information as possible from each trial. We used the Monte Carlo techniques and the sensitivity analyses to enhance our analysis of the competitiveness of steam as an alternative to fumigation for preplant soil disinfestation in California strawberry production. Chloropicrin + 1,3-dichloropropene 59.6:39 (CP + 1,3-D) resulted in higher mean net returns than did steam. However, the Monte Carlo analysis showed that in one field trial there was a high probability that steam would be more profitable, whereas in the other it was quite unlikely. We also assessed the change in economic performance of steam when it was applied combined with soil amendments of mustard seed meal (MSM). Switching from steam to steam + MSM would have reduced mean net returns. The Monte Carlo results showed that steam + MSM performed at least as well as steam alone around half the time. We evaluated factors that were likely to affect the net returns, defined as total returns minus treatment, weeding, and harvest labor costs, of using steam in the near future. Reductions in application time increased net returns. A decrease in the price of propane increased net returns.

Contributor Notes

This analysis was conducted as part of Yan Xu fulfilling degree requirements for a Master’s of Science in Agricultural and Resource Economics, supervised by Goodhue, Chalfant, and Fennimore.

Funding for this study was from support awarded in USDA NIFA Methyl Bromide Transitions grants 2010-51102-21648 and 2013-51102-21524.

Member of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics, University of California.

Corresponding author. E-mail: goodhue@primal.ucdavis.edu.

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    Box plots of returns net of treatment costs, weeding costs, and harvest labor costs by treatment (US$/ha): MBA, in 2011–12 production season, in annual strawberry plasticulture production system in Central Coast region of California.

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    Box plots of returns net of treatment costs, weeding costs, and harvest labor costs by treatment (US$/ha): Spence, in 2011–12 production season, in annual strawberry plasticulture production system in Central Coast region of California. CP + 1,3-D = chloropicrin + 1,3-dichloropropene 59.6:39.

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    Box plots of returns net of treatment costs, weeding costs, and harvest labor costs by treatment (US$/ha): trials at a commercial research field, in 2012–13 production season in annual strawberry plasticulture production system in Central Coast region of California. CP + 1,3-D = chloropicrin + 1,3-dichloropropene 59.6:39, MSM = mustard seed meal.

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