Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) are popular fresh market vegetable crops. In western Washington, there is interest in growing them in high tunnel production systems because of the region’s mild, coastal climate. The objectives of this study were to contrast the economic potential of growing lettuce and tomato under high tunnel and open-field production systems, and identify the main factors affecting profitability within each production system. Economic data for this study were collected by interviewing experienced lettuce and tomato growers in western Washington during focus group sessions. Costs of production varied by crop and production system, and findings indicated that it was five times more costly to grow lettuce and eight times more costly to grow tomato in a high tunnel than in the open field in western Washington. For lettuce, the labor cost per square foot of growing area was found to be 6 times greater in a high tunnel than in the open field; and for tomato, labor costs were 10 times greater in a high tunnel than in the open field. Total labor cost comprised more than 50% of the total production costs of lettuce and tomato in both the high tunnel and open-field systems. The percentage of total labor cost was similar in both the high tunnel and open-field production for lettuce, but was higher in high tunnel tomato production than in the open field. Tunnel-grown lettuce and tomato had three and four times greater marketable yield compared with field-grown, respectively. Given the base crop yield and average price, it was 43% more profitable to grow lettuce in the open field than in the high tunnel, while in contrast, high tunnel-grown tomato was three times more profitable than open-field tomato production.
Growers need reliable information on costs and returns they can expect for a cider apple (Malus ×domestica) orchard suitable for mechanization because specialty cider apples can only be used for making cider, and returns are expected to be lower than for fresh table apples. This study estimates the costs, returns, and net profit that growers may realize by planting cider apples in either a freestanding or tall spindle system that use a mechanical harvester (both systems) and mechanical hedger (tall spindle system only). Results show that both production systems have positive net returns during full production, and their respective break-even returns are lower than the current market price, demonstrating that both systems are potentially profitable investments. Results also show that the tall spindle system is potentially more profitable due to the advantages of earlier start of fruiting and higher crop yield. The estimated net returns of the tall spindle system during full production are nearly 4 times higher than that of a freestanding system. At a discount rate of 10%, the net present value (NPV) of the tall spindle system is positive and payback period is 13 years, whereas the NPV of the freestanding system is negative. The discount rate represents the time value of money and reflects the perception of risk for the investment. The break-even discount rates (i.e., NPV = 0) are ≈6.88% for the freestanding system and 10.78% for the tall spindle system. Sensitivity scenarios found that when all else was constant, profitability increased as market price, crop yield, and production area increase and also when the cost of the harvester decreased. Because mechanical harvesters are expensive, profitability tends to be more favorable for larger farms due to economies of scale. Also, a high picking efficiency is important because fruit that falls on the ground is considered crop yield loss and reduces the gross income from cider apples.
Apple maggot (Rhagoletis pomonella) is an insect pest of apple (Malus domestica) that is currently limited in extent in the commercial production areas of Washington State thanks to a quarantine program. We estimate the costs to the Washington economy if this pest were to spread more widely. Apple maggot control costs are related to the pressure of codling moth (Cydia pomonella), the most prevalent insect pest in commercial apple production in Washington State. It was found that the losses for the Washington apple industry’s range from $510 million to $557 million, depending on the codling moth pressure. Our findings underscore the importance of an efficient quarantine program that minimized the risk of spreading the pest along with additional costs associated with quarantined areas.
To mitigate the environmental harm associated with the disposal of polyethylene (PE) (plastic) mulches after use—incineration, dumping at landfills, tilling into the soil, and onsite stockpiling—biodegradable plastic mulches (BDMs) are proposed as an environmentally friendly alternative. These mulches are designed to degrade in the field, thereby reducing negative impacts. We conducted discrete choice experiments to evaluate willingness to pay (WTP) for BDM attributes using data collected from a survey of stakeholders in the agricultural sector (e.g., farmers, crop advisors, educators, and others) in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Results obtained using a mixed logit model show that respondents assign the greatest value to BDM attributes that provide a price premium opportunity for the product grown, improve soil health, or reduce field-borne residue, thereby enhancing sustainability. We found heterogeneity in preferences for the attributes of plastic residue and soil health: the cost of BDMs is more important to nonfarmers and noncrop advisors, whereas soil health is more of a concern for crop advisors. In addition, respondents who are less risk averse and less sensitive to cost are more willing to adopt BDMs. Results from this study have implications regarding the best ways to introduce and support sustainable practices as a part of green technology in the agricultural sector, particularly for new BDM products.
Hard cider, made by fermenting apple (Malus ×domestica) juice, was at one time the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in America. Largely abandoned after Prohibition, within the past 2 decades the rise in popularity of craft beverages has led to the reemergence of hard cider as an alternative to beer, wine, and spirits. Today, hard cider represents one of the fastest growing sectors within the craft beverage industry. The recent interest in cider presents additional marketing opportunities for apple growers and businesses currently involved in, or considering entering, the apple cider or craft beverages industries. However, the lack of a strong history or experience in selecting, producing, and using cider apples poses a significant challenge to this emerging market. This article reviews the current state of research in cider apple production, including economic feasibility, mechanized management, and cultivar evaluation and improvement.