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Chris Frank, Eric Simonne, Robert Nelson, Amarat Simonne and Bridget Behe

Most bell peppers produced and consumed in the United States are green in color. However, red, yellow, orange, brown, white, black, and purple bell pepper are also available. While bell pepper consumption has been increasing in the past 10 years, limited information is available on how color, retail price, and vitamin C influence consumer behavior. A conjoint analysis of 436 consumer responses showed that color (75%) and retail price (23%) were more important than vitamin C (3%) in shaping consumer purchase decision. Six consumer segments were identified. Segments II to V preferred green bell pepper, while segments I and VI favored the orange and brown color, respectively. Demographic variables were not good predictors of segment membership. However, previous purchases of bell pepper significantly affected the probability of membership in at least one segment. These results suggest that while green is the preferred color, a market exists for orange, red, and yellow peppers. Results on price sensitivity suggest that profits at the retail level are likely to increase by increasing the price of green peppers, and decresing that of the colored ones.

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Suzanne O’Connell, Cary Rivard, Mary M. Peet, Chris Harlow and Frank Louws

Organic and heirloom tomatoes are high-value products with growing demand but there are many challenges to successful cultivation. A systems comparison study was carried out to evaluate the production of the popular heirloom tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’ (Solanum lycopersicum L.) under high tunnel and open field systems in North Carolina from 2007 to 2008. Management of the high tunnel (i.e., temperature and irrigation), weather events as well as pest and disease pressure influenced crop quality and yield. The high tunnel and field systems achieved similar total yields (100 t·ha−1) the first season but yields were 33% greater in the high tunnel system than the field system in the second year (100 t·ha−1 and 67 t·ha−1, respectively). Both years, the tomatoes were planted in high tunnels 1 month earlier and harvested 3 weeks earlier than the field. The accumulation of ≈1100 growing degree-days (GDD) was required in both systems before 50% of the fruit was harvested. Fruit cracking, cat-facing, blossom-end rot, and insect damage were the major categories of defects in both systems. Incidence of both Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) and Gray Leaf Spot (GLS) were lower in the high tunnel compared with the field in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Results of this study suggest that with proper management techniques, high tunnels can optimize yields, increase fruit quality, and provide season extension opportunities for high-value horticultural crops.

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Olha Sydorovych, Cary L. Rivard, Suzanne O’Connell, Chris D. Harlow, Mary M. Peet and Frank J. Louws

In this study, we conducted an economic analysis of high tunnel and open-field production systems of heirloom tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) based on a two-year study at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) located in Goldsboro, eastern North Carolina. The research site was transitional organic using organically certified inputs and practices on land not yet certified. Production costs and returns were documented in each system and provide a useful decision tool for growers. Climatic conditions varied dramatically in 2007 compared with 2008 and differentially affected total and marketable yields in each system. Profits were higher in the open-field system and the high tunnels in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Sensitivity analysis was conducted using a range of market prices from $1.60/lb to $3.60/lb and a range of fruit marketability levels from 35% to 80%. Both systems were profitable except at the lowest price point and the lowest percent marketability level in high tunnel in 2007. At $2.60/lb, seasonal average sale price reported by growers for this region, and depending on percent marketability levels, the payback period for high tunnels ranged from two to five years. Presented sensitivity tables will enable decision makers to knowledgably estimate economic potential of open-field and high tunnel systems based on expected local prices and fruit quality parameters.