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Tatiana Borisova and Pilar Useche

The effectiveness of 2-hour extension workshops focused on residential water conservation is examined. We used a sample of irrigation water-use data for 57 workshop participants and 43 nonparticipants, and applied a fixed effect regression analysis method. The results show that the workshops were effective in reducing attendees’ irrigation water use; however, the effect was short-lived. Furthermore, the effect of the workshop attendance depended on the household sample considered, and for a subsample of low-use workshop participants, water use tended to increase following the workshop.

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Skyler Simnitt, Tatiana Borisova, Dario Chavez, and Mercy Olmstead

The study focuses on frost protection for early-season (early-ripening) peach (Prunus persica) varieties, which are an important crop for producers in the southeastern United States. Using in-depth interviews with four major Georgia peach producers, we explore their frost protection management strategies. This information is the first step in developing a comprehensive research agenda to advise cost-effective frost protection methods for peach cultivation. We found that peach producers are concerned about frost impacts on their crops. Although early-season peach varieties are particularly susceptible to frost impacts, producers still dedicate significant acreage to these varieties, aiming to extend the market window, satisfy sales contracts, and meet obligations for hired labor. However, early-season varieties do not result in high profits, so producers prefer to concentrate on frost protection for mid- and late-season varieties. Producers employ a variety of frost protection methods, including passive methods (such as planting sensitive varieties in areas less susceptible to frost and adjusting pruning/thinning schedules) and active methods (such as frost protection irrigation and wind machines). The choice among active frost protection methods is based on factors such as the planning horizon, initial investment needs, frequency of frost events, and the effectiveness of the frost protection method. Problem areas that producers identified included improving the effectiveness of frost protection methods; reducing initial investments required to install frost protection systems; and employing better spatial targeting and configuration of frost protection strategies (to reduce investment costs while maintaining or improving the effectiveness of frost protection). Although the initial investment costs of enhanced protection systems may limit producers from actually adopting such methods, the operating costs of such systems are relatively low and have a limited effect on the decision to employ frost protection during a particular frost event. However, producers use information about critical temperatures for different bud stages, and hence, improving the quality of information regarding frost susceptibility can help producers make better frost protection decisions (and potentially reduce electricity costs and water use for frost protection).

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Elizabeth Conlan, Tatiana Borisova, Erick Smith, Jeffrey Williamson, and Mercy Olmstead

Freeze events between January and April can result in major crop and economic losses for growers of low-chill, early-ripening varieties of blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) in Florida and Georgia. The objective of this research was to determine current responses by blueberry growers to freeze events. Blueberry growers in Florida and Georgia were surveyed about frost protection decision criteria. Growers had differing opinions on when to make the decision to frost-protect blueberry crops. Almost all (98.9%) of the respondents (n = 94) who reported using at least one method of active frost protection reported using irrigation. Farm size, as measured by blueberry acreage, did not influence decisions regarding the use of active frost protection measures. Blueberry growers, on average, reported that a loss of up to 30% to 39% of their crop could be tolerated and still produce a marketable crop. However, they may have been overly cautious at the early bud stages, with ≈40% and 55% of respondents protecting at the bud swell and tight cluster stages, respectively. Understanding the use of irrigation as a frost protection practice in the southeastern United States can aid in improving frost protection recommendations, helping growers maximize yield and saving water and money.

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Lucas G. Paranhos, Charles E. Barrett, Lincoln Zotarelli, Tatiana Borisova, Rebecca Darnell, and Kati Migliaccio

Seepage is characterized as an inefficient irrigation method with regard to water and nutrient use. There is a need for an economically viable irrigation alternative to seepage, which increases crop productivity and profitability in Florida. The use of plastic mulch and drip irrigation for cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata) production increases plant population per area and reduces the irrigation water requirement. However, plasticulture has a high capital investment and operating cost. The objectives of this study were to compare the profitability of plasticulture cabbage production and traditional seepage bare ground irrigation systems for Florida cabbage production, and to determine the breakeven point for cabbage grown under plasticulture given a range of market prices. The preharvest cost per acre for the plasticulture system was significantly higher than the cost for the seepage system ($4726 and $3035 per acre, respectively). However, for all planting dates considered in this study, the plasticulture system resulted in a significant increase in marketable yields when compared with the seepage system. The resulting increase in potential revenue offset the increase in preharvest costs and assured a positive net return on investment over the whole range market prices. It was also observed that low air temperatures combined with reduced solar radiation can prevent optimum plant development for cabbage transplanted between November and mid-December. Therefore, the return on investment may be reduced during less favorable climatic conditions for cabbage growth, making the plasticulture system less economically desirable for certain planting dates.