Farmers who are considering growing romaine hearts or organic strawberries in California's Central Coast region can get some help determining whether the crop will pencil out for them.
UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension have released sample costs to produce and harvest organic strawberries for fresh market and romaine lettuce hearts in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.
A major difference between growing strawberries organically and the conventional practice is in weed control.
“Weed management is especially challenging for organic strawberry production because soil fumigation and most herbicides are not allowed under organic regulations,” said Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor in Santa Cruz County. “Weeds in furrows between the beds can be mechanically cultivated during the growing season, but most of the weeding will need to be done by hand from December through September.”
The cost analyses are based on hypothetical well-managed farming operations using practices common to the Central Coast region. The costs, materials and practices shown in the studies will not apply to all farms and are intended to assist growers in estimating their own costs.
The organic strawberry study assumes a farm with conventionally grown strawberry transplants planted on 27 contiguous acres of rented land. “Organic strawberry transplants are part of the picture now, but not standard by a long shot,” said Bolda, who co-authored the cost studies. The strawberry crop is harvested by hand and packed into trays containing eight 1-pound clamshells, from April through early October with peak harvest in June and July.
For romaine lettuce for the hearts market, the cost study assumes a farm of 1,500 non-contiguous acres of rented land, with romaine planted on 250 acres and rotated with other lettuce and cool season vegetable crops to assist with pest management and soil fertility. Lettuce is planted continuously from late December to mid-August along the Central Coast. To manage lettuce mosaic virus, Monterey County has a host-free period (December 7 – 21), during which time lettuce may not be planted. In this study, lettuce is planted in January.
For both the organic strawberries and romaine, ranging analysis tables show net profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs. The authors describe the assumptions they used to identify current costs for production material inputs and overhead.
The authors have also expanded the section on labor, which includes information on California's minimum wage and overtime laws.
Growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of both studies.
Free copies of these and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.
For more information about calculations used in the romaine hearts and organic strawberriesstudies, contact the Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651 or Mark Bolda at UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Cruz County at (831) 763-8025.
The cost and returns studies program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension, which are part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
A new costs and returns study for strawberries has been released by UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension to help growers make farm management decisions. The study presents sample costs to produce and harvest strawberries for fresh market in Santa Cruz andMonterey counties. The cost study is in Spanish at http://ucanr.edu/files/269041.pdf.
“The study also has an expanded section on labor, which includes information on California's new minimum wage and overtime laws,” said Laura Tourte, UC Cooperative Extension farm management advisor in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, who co-authored the study.
The analysis is based upon a hypothetical well-managed farming operation using practices common to the Central Coast region. The costs, materials, and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC ANR Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.
The study assumes a fairly flat farm operation of 50 contiguous acres of rented land. Strawberries are planted on 45 acres. From April through early October, the crop is harvested by hand and packed into trays containing eight 1-pound clamshells. Harvest peaks in June and July.
The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for production material inputs, cash and non-cash overhead. Ranging analysis tables show net profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
Free copies of “Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Strawberries in the Central Coast Region-2016” and other sample cost-of-production studies for many other commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu
The cost and returns studies program is funded by the UC Agricultural Issues Center and UC Cooperative Extension – both of which are part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources – and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the study, contact the UC Agricultural Issues Center at (530) 752-4651, Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Santa Cruz County, at (831) 763-8025 or Tourte at (831) 763-8005.
UPDATED Sept. 13, 2017, to add link to Spanish version of cost study.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
- Author: Jim Downing
2016 is the final year for the soil fumigant to be used in California crop fields.
For many years, California growers relied on methyl bromide to kill a wide range of soil-borne pests, from fungi to insects to weeds, before planting crops. 2016 marks the last year in which the highly effective soil fumigant will be available.
The University of California's peer-reviewed journal California Agriculture examines the impact of the methyl bromide phaseout on strawberries, California's third most valuable crop, behind only almonds and grapes, with annual farmgate sales of $2.5 billion.
First identified as an ozone-depleting compound in 1991, methyl bromide was scheduled for phaseout in the United States by 2005 under the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer.
While methyl bromide was used for many crops, California strawberry growers found it irreplaceable, which helped the industry win exemptions that have allowed a significant, though declining, quantity of the chemical to be used through 2016. Despite years of research into alternatives, no equally effective replacement has emerged.
Berry industry grows dramatically
In the first research article, UC Cooperative Extension advisors Laura Tourte and Mark Bolda and Karen Klonsky, emeritus UC Cooperative Extension economics specialist, review economic data on the berry sector — blackberries and raspberries as well as strawberries — in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. They look ahead to factors, including water, consumer demands, labor, invasive pests, and the full phaseout of methyl bromide, that are likely to shape future growth.
Methyl iodide controversy
In a paper chronicling events leading up to the 2012 withdrawal of methyl iodide, once promoted as a viable methyl bromide substitute, Julie Guthman, UC Santa Cruz professor in the Department of Social Sciences, reports survey findings that point to a variety of reasons why strawberry growers did not move quickly to adopt the chemical after it was approved by state regulators. Concerns about public opposition topped the list, followed by a variety of other factors, including concern about methyl iodide's toxicity, and a lack of strong incentive to switch to the new chemical because of the availability of other fumigants, including methyl bromide.
Managing soilborne pests
Three articles look at new approaches to managing soilborne pests without methyl bromide.
“It now seems likely that no single measure will suffice to meet the challenge of soilborne pathogens,” write Margaret Lloyd, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, and Tom Gordon, UC Davis professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, in this issue's Outlook. “Rather, a multi-faceted approach will be required, one that integrates advances in disease resistance through breeding with closer attention to the factors that influence the survival, activity and spread of pathogen populations in soil.” They make the case for using a suite of strategies to manage soilborne pathogens — including collective action among growers to help limit the spread of pathogens between fields.
A news item on research at the UC ANR Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center covers ongoing research on anaerobic soil disinfestation, a chemical-free technique that is being used in a growing number of commercial fields. Project scientist Amanda Hodson and UC Davis professor Edwin Lewis, both in the Department of Entomology and Nematology, review a variety of approaches to managing for soil health — in strawberries and other crops — as a pest suppression strategy.
Other soil fumigants
Fumigants other than methyl bromide, such as chloropicrin, remain widely used in California strawberry production. Rachael Goodhue, UC Davis professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, examines how increasingly stringent buffer zone requirements for chloropicrin application have an uneven impact on growers, depending on their proximity to developed land. In another article, a group of UC Cooperative Extension and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists report on the effectiveness of several fumigants at dosages lower than the maximum label rate.
Food safety and nutrient management on the farm
The issue also includes two research papers focused on general production practices for crops. One report discusses on-farm food safety practices based on a survey of produce growers. The researchers found that practices such as exclusion fencing and vegetation clearing, which may negatively impact wildlife, remain widespread despite a lack of clear evidence that they enhance food safety. Finally, Daniel Geisseler, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources at UC Davis, and Gene Miyao, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, review the use of soil testing to guide the management of soil phosphorus and potassium in California cropping systems.
To read California Agriculture, a peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources published by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, visit http://calag.ucanr.edu. For a free subscription, sign up on the website or write to email@example.com.
View this story in Spanish:
¿Qué hará la industria de la fresa sin el bromuro de metilo? http://ucanr.edu/sites/Spanish/noticias/?uid=6887&ds=199. Video on UCANR Spanish YouTube: California Agriculture: el bromuro de metilo en cultivos de fresa https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5D4FwLqjaLk.
Each analysis is based upon a hypothetical farm operation using practices common to the region. Input and reviews were provided by growers, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and other agricultural associates. The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for individual crops, material inputs and cash and non-cash overhead. A ranging analysis table shows profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
The studies for establishing orchards to produce lemons and oranges estimate costs for growing in Kern and Tulare counties. Revenue for the citrus is based on estimated sales to the fresh packaging market.
The study for organic strawberries takes into consideration growing conditions on the Central Coast of California and complying with the National Organic Program. In particular, it focuses on growing organic strawberries in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties for the fresh packaging market.
The study for producing paddy rice in the Sacramento Valley focuses on the costs of growing medium-grain rice, under a rice-only rotation in Butte, Colusa, Glenn and Yolo counties.
The field corn study focuses on the production costs of a full-season corn crop in the Sacramento Valley and the northern San Joaquin Valley. This region would include Colusa, Glenn, Sacramento, Sutter and Yolo counties. The study based costs on a farm using furrow irrigation and Roundup Ready-GMO seed.
The study on silage corn, double cropped under conservation tillage methods, focuses on production costs of corn silage using minimum tillage operations in the northern San Joaquin Valley. The corn is planted in the spring after a winter forage crop is harvested. The study is based its costs on a farm using border/flood irrigation and Roundup Ready-GMO seed.
- “Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Lemons in the San Joaquin Valley-South-2015”
- “Sample Costs to Establish an Orchard and Produce Oranges in the San Joaquin Valley-South-2015”
- “Sample Costs to Produce Organic Strawberries in the Central Coast Region-2014”
- “Sample Costs to Produce Rice in the Sacramento Valley-2015”
- “Sample Costs to Produce Field Corn in the Sacramento Valley and Northern San Joaquin Valley-2015”
- “Sample Costs to Produce Silage Corn-Conservation Tillage Practices in the Northern San Joaquin Valley-2015”
These cost-of-production studies can be downloaded for free from the UC Davis Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics website http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample costs are also available for many other commodities. Many earlier production cost studies for agricultural commodities are also available at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu/archived.php.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Don Stewart, staff research associate in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis at (530) 752-4651, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Koike, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, studies vegetable, fruit and ornamental crop diseases, particularly strawberry diseases. Koike earned his M.S. in plant protection and pest management from UC Davis in 1980. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Service Award for outstanding research conducted by a UC Cooperative Extension academic. Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Monterey and San Benito counties for strawberries and caneberries. Bolda received his M.S. in plant protection and pest management from UC Davis in 1996, after serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Paraguay as an agricultural extensionist.
This informal lunch-time session allows home gardeners, commercial growers and others an opportunity to ask questions and seek advice from two of the most knowledgeable strawberry professionals in California. All individuals are invited to participate in this informative online brown-bag session.
Find us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/ucanr. More information about this session and instructions on how to participate can be found at www.ucanr.edu/facebookchat. More information about the Organic Strawberry Production Manual can be found at www.ucanr.edu/strawberry.