Comparison of Plastic Mulch and Bare-ground Production and Economics for Short-day Onions in a Semitropical Environment

in HortTechnology
Authors: C.S. Vavrina1 and F.M. Roka1
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  • 1 University of Florida, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, 2686 State Road 29 North Immokalee, FL 34142.

In 4 years of research comparing production of short-day onions (Allium cepa L.) on plastic mulch versus bare ground in southern Florida, greater marketable yields were obtained when onions were grown on plastic mulch. Results showed that in a semitropical environment, white-on-black plastic mulch provided the greatest yield enhancement from increased weight and bulb size. Yield loss due to splitting, while apparent, was not sufficient to reduce the impact of mulch on the increase in individual bulb weight. Adopting plastic mulch for sweet onion production will add between $400 and $500/acre ($988 and $1,235/ha) of additional operating expenses. While this may increase cash-flow burdens and heighten overall financial risks, the added value from increased yields by weight and greater percentages of jumbo sized bulbs suggest that plastic mulch has an excellent chance to increase a grower's overall net return. Using conservative yield and market price assumptions, an economic analysis showed an increase in grower's net return of more than $120/acre ($296/ha).

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