We've just completed the newest UC ANR sample cost and return study on conventional strawberry and attached it here.
Giant effort on the part of colleague Laura Tourte along with Jeremy Murdock and Daniel Sumner from the Agricultural Issues Center with UC ANR.
HUGE round of applause for the growers who worked with us to true our work - many hours spent poring over this document with so much great advice and input. Thanks all!!
Document is posted below, crack it open and learn what it takes these days to grow and harvest a crop of conventional strawberries on the Central Coast with all of the new challenges included and updated.
This question was floated at our recent Plant Nutrient lunch. In view of the fact that Miracle Gro is such a great fertilizer in home gardens and similar settings, would it be worth the while to use it in strawberries? Excellent solubility, fast plant response, good concentrations of the macronutrients and a complete diet of micronutrients to boot.
Going to the 2011 Cost and Return study for strawberries, we see that total nitrogen use for strawberries is 140 lbs, consisting of 500 lbs of 18-8-13 slow release and another 350 lbs of CAN17 (by the way this is NOT a recommendation for fertilizer use in strawberries, these two materials are simply to be used as a general guide to obtain cost information). In order to obtain the same level of nitrogen out of Miracle Gro (24-8-16), we would need to use 625 lbs which, since it is a soluble fertilizer, would be injected through the drip tape and spread over the life of the crop.
Total cost of 18-6-13 pre-plant and CAN17 works out to be $488, or 1% of the total operating cost per acre to produce strawberries. Miracle Gro, on the other hand, retails for $20 per 10 lb carton on Amazon (checked Alibaba, more expensive at $11.55 - 13.55 per 5 lb carton, minimum 40 carton pallet out of Malaysia from what seemed to be sort of a sketchy operation), meaning our total cost would be $1166 (0.24 x 583 lbs = 140 lbs; 583 lbs x $2 per lb = $1,166) or 4% of the total operating cost for an acre of berries.
It is hard to believe that the plant response to Miracle Gro, even if markedly improved over current practices, will make it anything worth the near 3x rise in cost, so it is probably not worth the while to pursue this idea any further.
The new edition of "Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Fresh Market Blackberries Study" is now available from UCCE.
This is another great cost and return study in berries authored by Laura Tourte, Rich De Moura, Karen Klonsky, and yours truly.
We certainly weren't in alone in writing this study, and this work could not have been accomplished without the substantial input and contributions from local blackberry growers - thank you all!