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  • Author or Editor: Patricia R. Knight x
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Using results of a socioeconomic survey of nurseries and greenhouses, Tobit regression analysis was used to estimate empirical models to measure the socioeconomic impact of automation or mechanization on annual gross sales, annual employment, and workers' earnings, safety, and retention. The survey was conducted among 87 randomly selected nurseries and greenhouses located in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, from Dec. 2003 to Mar. 2005. About 20% of all the identified major tasks were performed by workers in nurseries and greenhouses with some form of mechanization or automation. Regression results showed that nurseries and greenhouses that experienced higher levels of sales also demonstrated higher levels of automation or mechanization. The employment impact of automation or mechanization was neutral, indicating that any improvement in automation or mechanization did not necessarily lead to a reduction, but instead to a more efficient use of labor by nurseries and greenhouses. Improvements in automation or mechanization resulted in higher total workers' earnings reported by participating nurseries and greenhouses. Further Tobit regression results showed that automation or mechanization had neutral effects on the length of training period, workers' safety, and retention rates and enabled nurseries and greenhouses to hire less-skilled workers.

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Due to difficulty in monitoring insect pests, applications of insecticides are frequently conducted on a calendar schedule. However, seasonal variability in pest populations leads to these calendar schedules sometimes being inaccurate. Threshold-based insect management strategies, including use of thresholds with conventional pesticides and with use of organic pesticides only, were compared with a conventional calendar approach for yield, management cost, and production value of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). Effect of cultivar was considered by inclusion of the long season cultivar Celebrity and the short season cultivar Early Girl Bush. These factors were compared for spring and fall seasons during two production years. Greatest total and marketable yields were obtained from use of conventional pesticides according to action thresholds. Use of organic insecticides according to thresholds did not affect yields in comparison with a calendar-based approach. Proportion of fruit rated unmarketable was greater with use of organic insecticides due to reduced efficacy and residual of control. Production costs for the organic threshold-based approach were greater due to increased number of insecticide applications required. Gross margin for both conventional and organic threshold-based insect pest management was greater than for the conventional calendar method. Increased economic return for conventional threshold-based management was due to increased yields. Increase in return for organic threshold management was based on premiums received for organically grown tomatoes. Adoption of conventional threshold-based insect pest management by small-scale producers has the potential to increase production efficiency and value, as well as increase environmental sustainability of production. Economic feasibility of organic production requires access to markets willing to pay significant premiums for organic produce. Further research to evaluate economic and yield impacts of production practices for small-scale farms is needed.

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