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The 2011 ASHS Annual Conference

Economic Potential of Using High Tunnel Hoop Houses to Produce Fruit and Vegetable Crops

Sunday, September 25, 2011: 3:15 PM
Queens 6
Jon T. Biermacher, Agriculture Division, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc., Ardmore, OK
Jeri Donnell, Agriculture Division, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc., Ardmore, OK
Steven D. Upson, Agriculture Division, Noble Foundation, Ardmore, OK
Hoop house plasticulture has been promoted as a production technology that allows fruit and vegetable crops to be grown in the cooler months between late fall and early spring as well as the warmer months of the growing season.  At this time, though, little information regarding the economics of hoop house plasticulture is available to profit-mined growers or cost-conscience enthusiasts.  Two fruit and vegetable production systems were developed for growing conditions in south-central Oklahoma. The first system has annually produced strawberry (Fragaria spp) followed by yellow and zucchini squash (Cucurbita pepo) and the second system has a spinach (Spinacia oleracea) crop followed by field tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Crop production data for each system were collected in a randomized and replicated experiment in the 2007/08, 2008/09 and 2009/10 growing seasons. The objectives of the study were: 1) to determine the expected cost of production for each crop and systems; 2) to determine the breakeven price for each crop in each system; and 3) to determine how robust breakeven prices are to a number of crop marketing scenarios. On average, there were 518 pounds of strawberry, and 452 and 318 pounds of yellow and zucchini squash produced per house, respectively. For the spinach/tomato system, the average yield was 648 pounds of spinach and 1,918 pounds of tomatoes per house.  The total cost of production were $1,968 and $1,652 per house for spinach and tomato crops, respectively; and $2,749, $359, and $353 per house for strawberry and yellow and zucchini squash, respectively.  Assuming that 100 percent of the total quantity of marketable crops harvested are sold, the breakeven prices for spinach and tomato were $3.32 and $0.83 per pound, respectively, and $6.16, $0.92, and $1.40 per pound for strawberry and yellow and zucchini squash, respectively. Calculations of breakeven prices do not account for the costs associated with marketing (i.e., market fees, marketing labor and transportation).  From a standpoint of practicality, breakeven price for strawberries appears to be greater than what most consumers would be willing to pay in most cases.  Furthermore, breakeven price for each crop and system was most sensitive to the total quantity of each crop harvested that is sold in the marketplace.  This result implies that grower management of crop waste due to after-harvest spoilage is important to the economic success of both systems. The results indicate that profit-minded growers would prefer the spinach/tomato system over the strawberry/squash system.