An Economic Comparison of High Tunnel and Open-Field Strawberry Production in Southeastern Virginia

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2022-12-02

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MDPI

Abstract

High tunnels have been reported to extend the harvest season for fruits and vegetables in several North American regions. This study was conducted to evaluate whether there are additional economic returns from strawberries produced in high tunnel structures compared to open-field in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A total of eight strawberry cultivars were evaluated in a randomized complete block under high tunnel and open-field conditions. Total costs were estimated for all eight cultivars under high tunnel and open-field, and gross and net revenues from all cultivars were estimated over three marketing strategies (pre-pick wholesale, pre-pick retail, and U-pick) for both high tunnel and open-field. The average net revenues per hectare in the high tunnel were −$62,077 (−$25,122 ac−1), −$15,151 (−$6131 ac−1), and −$27,938 (−$11,306 ac−1) for pre-pick wholesale, pre-pick retail, and U-pick, respectively, compared to open-field net revenues of $39,816 ($16,113 ac−1), $112,102 ($45,366 ac−1), and $81,850 ($33,123 ac−1) for wholesale, pre-pick retail, and U-pick, respectively. Net revenues in the high tunnel were lower due to lower yields and higher production costs including overhead cost of the high tunnel structure. Almost all cultivars in the high tunnel generated negative net revenues regardless of the marketing strategy. The exceptions were ‘Camino Real’ which generated positive net revenues with U-pick and pre-pick retail marketing and ‘Merced’ which generated positive net revenues for pre-pick retail marketing. In contrast, net revenues from open-field cultivars were always positive. Results imply that growers should focus on open-field rather than high-tunnel strawberry production. Results are from one season of production. Replication of the study under one or more production seasons would contribute to more robust findings of the economic viability of strawberry production under a high tunnel.

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Mbarushimana, J.C.; Bosch, D.J.; Samtani, J. An Economic Comparison of High Tunnel and Open-Field Strawberry Production in Southeastern Virginia. Horticulturae 2022, 8, 1139.