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Robin G. Brumfield

Since World War II, U.S. agriculture has reduced production costs by substituting petrochemicals for labor. Adverse impacts from chemical intensive agriculture include increased pest levels, groundwater and surface water contamination, soil erosion, and concerns about harmful levels of pesticide residues. Sustainable farming programs such as integrated crop management (ICM) and organic farming encourage farmers to use systems that reduce the adverse impacts of chemical agriculture. However, before farmers adopt an alternative system, they must determine that economic benefits from the alternative farming activities exceed the costs incurred. Unfortunately, relatively few studies have compared the cost of organic crop production with conventional production systems. Results of these studies are mixed. In some studies, organic systems are more profitable than conventional systems with organic price premiums, but are not economically viable without price premiums. In one long-term study, the organic system was more profitable than a conventional one if the cost of family labor was ignored, but less profitable if it was included. In some studies, net returns were higher for ICM than for conventional or organic systems, but in others, they were higher. Results also vary on a crop by crop basis.

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Justin G. Gardner, David B. Eastwood, Charles R. Hall, and John R. Brooker

The University of Tennessee developed a flowering dogwood tree (Cornus florida) that is resistant to powdery mildew (Microspaera pulchra). A simulated cooperative game was created to estimate a university fee and predict the behavior of nursery growers and nursery product retailers. The simulation suggests a university fee of $3.51, leading to an average retail price premium for the resistant tree of $10.41. At this price level the simulation predicts that 62 percent of all retail dogwood trees sold would be powdery mildew resistant. Based on 1998 sales of 1.475 million dogwood trees nationwide, 914,500 were predicted to be the powdery mildew resistant varieties, resulting in $3.2 million in revenue for the university. Given this level of sales and markup pricing, the cost of the trees will rise in subsequent stages of the distribution channel, and revenues will increase as well. The simulation suggests nursery revenue will increase by nearly $4 million and costs by $3.2 million, resulting in a net nursery gain of $0.8 million. Similar computations for the retail level are $9.5 million in revenue and a net increase of $5.5 million.

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Edmund J. Ogbuchiekwe, Milton E. McGiffen Jr., and Mathieu Ngouajio

Economic analysis compared the returns of cropping systems and management practices for production of fall lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and spring cantaloupe (Cucumis melo) following summer cover crops. The cover crop treatments included: cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] incorporated into the soil in the fall, cowpea used as mulch in the fall, sorghum sudangrass [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] incorporated into the soil in the fall, and a bare ground control. Lettuce and cantaloupe were managed using conventional, integrated, and organic practices. The effect of each cropping system and management practice on crop yield, cost of production and net return was determined. In 1999 and 2000, yield and net return were greatest for cantaloupe and lettuce when the cowpea cover crop was incorporated into the soil before planting. The effect of crop management practice varied with type of cover crop. When lettuce was planted into cowpea-incorporated treatment in 1999, conventional management had the highest cash return followed by integrated crop management. In 2000, organically-grown lettuce after cowpea incorporated had the highest net return followed by integrated crop management grown under cowpea incorporated treatments. In 1999 and 2000, integrated cantaloupe following cowpea-incorporated treatment had the highest yield and cash-return. A 20% price premium for organic produce increased the net returns for the organic-grown lettuce and cantaloupe. Organic lettuce following cowpea-incorporated treatments produced a high net of $2,516/ha in 1999 and $5,971/ha in 2000. The net returns due to 20% organic premium price varied between 1999 and 2000 in cantaloupe production. They were highest for organic cantaloupe after bareground with a net return of $4,395 in 1999 and $3,148 in 2000 for organic cantaloupe after sudangrass.

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Otho S. Wells and Michael R. Sciabarrasi

High tunnels (unheated walk-in structures) are widely utilized in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East for early vegetable production. There are relatively few high tunnels used for vegetable production in the U.S. In a 2-year study, determinate tomatoes matured up to 32 days earlier than the same cultivars under standard field culture. Earliness was gained through 16 days earlier planting and 16 days earlier maturity than in the field. In tunnels, when ground grown, yield was 7.4 kg m-1; and when grown with a basketweave trellis, yield was 6.8 kg m-1. Even though these yields (for a 30-day period) were less than the yields from the field, the earlier harvest provides an extra marketing opportunity at premium prices. Under current production and marketing conditions in New Hampshire, at a conservative average selling price of $1.60/lb, the net return is $0.71/1b. By using relatively low cost tunnels, growers are able to economically extend their growing and marketing season without a high capital outlay.

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Jeanine M. Davis and Randolph G. Gardner

Eight staked, determinate tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) cultivars were harvested when green (before breaker stage) or when pink (breaker stage and riper) in two replicated field studies. In general, total yield and average fruit size were reduced when fruit were harvested at the green stage. Harvest maturity had only a small effect on occurrence of most fruit defects, except fruit cracking, which was more severe for pink than for green fruit in the early season experiment. Although total yields for pink harvested fruit were higher than for green harvested fruit in the early season study, the high incidence of fruit crack in pink fruit resulted in similar yields of U.S. combination grade (U.S. no. 1 and U.S. no. 2) fruit for both treatments. Because the largest fruit often bring a premium price, harvesting fruit when pink probably will result in a higher price per kilogram than harvesting fruit when green. Fruit harvested green, however, are generally firmer, more crack resistant, and require fewer harvests than fruit harvested pink.

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William E. Klingeman, David B. Eastwood, John R. Brooker, Charles R. Hall, Bridget K. Behe, and Patricia R. Knight

A survey was administered to assess plant characteristics that consumers consider important when selecting landscape plants for purchase. Visitors to home and garden shows in Knoxville and Nashville, Tenn.; Detroit, Mich.; and Jackson, Miss., completed 610 questionnaires. Respondents also indicated their familiarity with integrated pest management (IPM) concepts, pest control philosophy, recognition of flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) pests and diseases, including dogwood powdery mildew (Microsphaera pulchra), and willingness-to-pay a price differential for a powdery-mildew-resistant flowering dogwood. Fewer than half of the respondents in any city indicated familiarity with IPM, although they were familiar with organic farming and pest scouting components of an IPM program. Willingness-to-pay was relatively consistent across all four locations. The uniformity of average tree premiums, which ranged from $11.87 in Jackson to $16.38 in Detroit, supports the proposition that customers are willing to pay a substantially higher price for a landscape tree that will maintain a healthier appearance without the use of chemical sprays. Factors affecting consumer demand for landscape nursery products and services can be paired with consumer awareness of IPM terminology and practices to create an effective market strategy for newly developed powdery-mildew-resistant dogwood cultivars.

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Michael E. Bartolo and Frank C. Schweissing

Colorado-grown watermelons command a premium price on the market based on their sweetness and overall flavor. Unfortunately, melon production is limited to mid-August through early September. This study was conducted to determine whether intensive production methods could enhance the traditional marketing period. The effects of different combinations of establishment methods, mulches, and rowcovers on `Arriba' (Hollar Seeds) watermelon growth and productivity were investigated in a field trial at the Arkansas Valley Research Center in Rocky Ford, Colo. In 1997, the combinations of transplanting, clear plastic mulch, and perforated or slitted rowcovers produced the earliest harvest and highest yield and fruit weight. The first harvest of the earliest treatments occurred on 4 July. Direct-seeding through clear plastic mulch, both with and without rowcovers, also enhanced earliness relative to the traditional marketing period. However, compared to transplanting, yield and fruit weight were less if the crop was direct-seeded. Intensive plasticulture techniques could substantially increase the earliness of Colorado-grown watermelons. The increased cost of production would be easily off-set by higher productivity and early season prices

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C. Catanzaro and S. Bhatti

Twenty-one cultivars of poinsettia [Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. Ex Klotzsch] were evaluated by respondents who voluntarily completed a paper survey (n=293) at TSU. Rooted cuttings from five major U.S. suppliers were potted and grown during the preceding 4 months according to standard industry practices. Cultivars were displayed without their names for the survey, and respondents were asked to rate each cultivar on a Likert-type scale, where 1=strongly dislike and 5=strongly like. The top eight rated cultivars (mean > 3.9) were all traditional red forms, which included the new cultivar `Red Dragon', followed in descending preference by `Christmas Spirit', `Freedom Red', `Cortez Electric Fire', `Prestige Red', `Premium Red', `Novia Red', and `Candlelight'. For each cultivar, the price respondents indicated they would be willing to pay was highly correlated with the Likert-type scale score. When asked about purchases in the prior year, 89% of respondents bought at least one red poinsettia. Retail outlets and prices paid varied among respondents. Color was by far the most popular criterion respondents used to determine whether they like or dislike a cultivar, followed by foliage and price. Consistent with recent trends for value-added products, consumers indicated that they would be willing to pay significantly more for a purple-painted plant with glitter than for a white-flowered plant that was otherwise of comparable quality. These results suggest that, while red poinsettias continue to dominate the poinsettia market, niche markets exist for unique flower and foliage traits created through breeding and through enhancements such as paint and glitter.

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Catherine S.M. Ku and John C. Bouwkamp

Potted `Boaldi', `Red Akron', and `Yellow Boaldi' growth performance were evaluated in eight substrates and four N rates. The substrates included Sunshine Mix 1, Pro Gro 300S, and six compost blends. The compost feedstocks were polymer dewatered biosolids (PDB) blended with poultry litter (PL) or yard wastes (YW) and peat:perlite at final ratios of 4:2:1:1, 3:3:1:1, and 2:4:1:1. Plants received N at 75, 100, 150, or 200 mg•L-1 from 21N-2.2P-16.6K twice a week. Number of flowers, height, diameter, and grade of plants that received N at 200 mg•L-1 treatment were significant better than those received the other N treatments. For all compost blends, premium-quality plants were produced with N at 200 mg•L-1 treatment and good-quality plants were obtained with the remaining N treatments. The control substrates produced good quality plants with N treatments at 150 and 200 mg•L-1, the remaining N treatments resulted in plants that were only salable at reduced price. `Red Akron' is a free-branching spray cultivar, had more flowers and branches than the other two cultivars.

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Brent Rowell, Terry Jones, John Snyder, and William Nesmith

We began trials of vine-ripened, staked tomato cultivars in 1998 to identify a variety suitable for marketing as a premium “Kentucky Tomato”. In conversations with marketing specialists at the Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture and merchandising managers at the Kroger Company's regional distribution center, we identified essential qualities of our ideal Kentucky tomato. A carefully selected group of 16 varieties was evaluated at two locations for yields, appearance, quality, disease tolerance, and taste. New varieties were compared with commercial standards like `Mountain Spring'. Yields of different sizes and grades of marketable fruit were multiplied by appropriate real-market prices for a given harvest date and summarized in a single income-per-acre variable for each variety. Some of the highest yielding varieties in eastern Kentucky (`Fabulous' `Sunbeam') appeared to have some tolerance to early blight; other varieties in this highest-yielding group included `Emperador', `Enterprise', `Sunleaper', and `Sunbrite'. All of these had fruit quality we considered acceptable for commercial markets with the exception of `Sunbrite'. `Fabulous', `Emperador', `Sunleaper', `SunGem', and `Sunpride' were the highest yielding varieties in central Kentucky. `Sunleaper' and `Sunpride' appeared somewhat tolerant to tomato mosaic virus (ToMV), which occurred at this location. Preliminary taste tests identified six varieties that were evaluated further by consumers at a local farmers' market. `Mountain Fresh' and `Floralina' were considered the best tasting varieties overall. The search continues in 1999.