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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Conservation Systems Research for Improving Evnironmental Quality and Producer Profitability Title: Net returns and risk for cover crop use in Alabama tomato production

Authors
item Duzy, Leah
item Kornecki, Ted
item Balkcom, Kipling
item Arriaga, Francisco -

Submitted to: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 24, 2013
Publication Date: October 27, 2014
Citation: Duzy, L.M., Kornecki, T.S., Balkcom, K.S., Arriaga, F. 2014. Net returns and risk for cover crop use in Alabama tomato production. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 29(4):334-344.

Interpretive Summary: Tomato producers are faced with uncertain yields and prices, and adopting a production system that will reduce risk while maintaining yield may keep tomato producers economically sustainable into the future. A conservation tillage production system with high biomass cover crops may be more profitable for tomato producers in Alabama. USDA-ARS scientists in Auburn, AL compared different production systems using cereal rye and crimson clover, and different subsoiler shanks for fresh-market tomato production as compared to a plastic mulch system to determine the most profitable production method. Revenues and profits from tomato production using a rye cover crop were higher than tomato production using plastic mulch in two of the four years. For the clover cover crop, revenues and profits were higher in one out of four years. Under tomato prices and weather conditions observed during 2005 to 2008, the preferred treatment for a risk neutral producer was planting tomatoes into a rye cover crop without a shank. For a strongly risk averse producer, a rye cover crop, regardless of shank, and a clover cover crop without a shank or with a slim shank were preferred to plastic mulch. The use of a cover crop in tomato production has the potential to be an equally profitable, less risky alternative to plastic mulch in Alabama.

Technical Abstract: Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) producers are faced with uncertain yields and prices, and utilizing a production system that will reduce risk while maintaining yield may keep tomato producers economically sustainable into the future. A conservation tillage production system with high biomass cover crops may be an economically viable alternative for tomato producers in Alabama. The objective of this study was to compare the economics of alternative production systems using different cover crops, such as cereal rye (Secale cereal L.) and crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), and different subsoiler shanks for fresh-market tomato production relative to a commonly used plastic mulch system to determine the preferred treatment. Gross revenues and net returns from tomato production using a rye cover crop were higher than tomato production using plastic mulch in two of the four years. For the clover cover crop, gross revenues and net returns were higher in one out of four years. Under tomato prices and weather conditions observed during 2005 to 2008, the preferred treatment for a risk neutral producer was planting tomatoes into a rye cover crop without a shank. For a strongly risk averse producer, a rye cover crop, regardless of shank, and a clover cover crop without a shank or with a slim shank were preferred to plastic mulch. The use of a cover crop in tomato production has the potential to be an equally profitable, less risky alternative to plastic mulch in Alabama.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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