Worldwide commercial blackberry (Rubus subgenus Rubus) production was 140,292 Mg planted in over 20,000 ha in 2005 (Strik et al., 2007). North America represented 42%, Europe 31%, Asia 19%, and other regions 8% of the total world production (Strik et al., 2007). The United States was the leading producer with 23% of the total blackberry production in 2005. Oregon (72%), California (7%), and Arkansas (4%) were the three main producing states; all other states accounted for the remaining 17% of the total blackberry production (Strik et al., 2007). Arkansas produced 1400 Mg in 243 ha (Strik et al., 2007). The release of cultivars with improved fruit quality and a growing consumer demand of blackberries for its associate human health benefits have caused an increase in production in the United States (Clark, 2005; Safley et al., 2006). Although blackberry production is small in Arkansas compared with other regions (e.g., the Pacific northwestern United States), it is growing. The area devoted to blackberry production in Arkansas increased 277% between 1997 and 2007 (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2011).
The University of Arkansas (UA) has one of the largest blackberry breeding programs in the United States (Rom et al., 2010). In 2004, the UA released ‘Prime-Jan®’, a primocane-fruiting blackberry (Clark et al., 2005). This thorny, erect cultivar forms terminal flowers in late summer and fruit during the autumn. A detailed description of this genotype is given by Clark et al. (2005). Clark (2008) highlighted the physiological and economic potential of primocane-fruiting blackberries. Although a new primocane-fruiting blackberry cultivar (Prime-Ark® 45) was released by the UA breeding program in 2009 (J.R. Clark, personal communication), this analysis focused on the earlier Prime-Jan® cultivar.
Strik et al. (2008) and Thompson et al. (2009) described management techniques to maximize yield and extend the fruiting season of primocane-fruiting blackberry under a maritime west-coast condition. Researchers at the UA have demonstrated that primocane-fruiting blackberry harvest can be extended with the use of high tunnels (Rom et al., 2010) and by using pruning techniques similar to those described on primocane-fruiting red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) by Oliviera et al. (1998) and Pritts et al. (1999). Drake and Clark (2003) indicated that “soft tipping” of the primocane in Arkansas delays flowering. With these methods, flowering can be delayed until there are more suitable temperatures, beginning in September. The harvest season can be maintained through November and possibly December with no or minimal additional heating. Researchers at UA have demonstrated that primocane-fruiting blackberries in high tunnels can be harvested later into the season than from open-fields (Rom et al., 2010). Previous studies indicate fruit quality and yield from out-of-season protected cultivation systems are as good as or of better quality than that produced during the normal harvest season (Koester and Pritts, 2003; Oliviera et al., 1998; Pritts et al., 1999).
Producers could benefit from out-of-season production by sustaining cash flow during more of the year and expanding markets. However, biological factors (e.g., climate, site, soil, plant spacing, disease, etc.) and economic decisions (i.e., allocation of capital, land, and labor) must be taken into consideration before producing blackberries. The objective of this study was to estimate the break-even probabilities of covering the TCs of production for extending the harvest season of the blackberry primocane-fruiting cultivar Prime-Jan® under open-field and high tunnel conditions in northwestern Arkansas. We accomplished this objective by simulating PV outcomes under each production system.
In general, production of blackberries is considered to be risky because of a high initial investment and associated fixed costs, a delay for 2 years or more in returns, and the potential weather extremes. Commercial production with high tunnels offers promise for those producers willing to make the necessary capital investment for early season production, late season production, or both. There are only a few studies documenting U.S. high tunnel research on blackberry crops (Demchak, 2009; Gaskell, 2004; Heidenreich et al., 2009; Lamont, 2009; Thompson et al., 2009). As far as we know, there are no documented studies combining high tunnel and primocane-fruiting blackberry production in the southeastern United States. Consequently, a method that helps producers to estimate break-even probabilities is an important contribution for planning and for the financial management of extending the harvest season of blackberry production in northwestern Arkansas.
In this study, PVs of GRs, defined as yield times price, are computed for both open-field and high tunnel production systems. Because of the aforementioned factors, revenues depend on uncertain yields. For this reason, they can be characterized by a cumulative distribution function (CDF) that can be used to determine whether revenue outcomes fall below the TCs of production (Albright et al., 2006). A break-even point is defined as the point at which the blackberry enterprise makes neither a profit nor a loss, or the point at which TCs are covered. In its simplest form, the break-even probability in this study is defined as a numerical representation of TCs to the GR distribution (Baumol and Blinder, 2006). TCs are the total amount of money spent on producing blackberries including variable and fixed costs.
Sensitivity analyses are used to estimate the effect of a specified change in blackberry price, a yield level, or a combination of both. The sensitivity analysis is more meaningful for decision-making when the level of events (variation on prices and yields) relates to the probabilities for such events.
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