Table of Contents
O'Dell, C.R., S.B. Sterrett, B.M. Young, and A.M. Borowski. 1990. Evaluating
production potentials and developing extension recommendations for new
vegetable crops. p. 57-61. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in
new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Evaluating Production Potentials and Developing Extension Recommendations for New Vegetable Crops*
Charles R. O'Dell, Susan B. Sterrett, Barbara M. Young, and Alicia M. Borowski
- JUSTIFICATIONA CASE HISTORY
- THE EVALUATION SYSTEM
- New Crops Exploration Teams
- Commodity Overview and Field Research
- Chronological Elements of the New Crops Exploration Production Study (Fig. 1)
- The Production Analysis Checklist
- Production Budget Format and Its Generation
- Table 1
- Fig. 1
Vegetable cultivars and cultural practices often exhibit a narrow region of
optimum performance compared to animal and agronomic enterprises. In the past,
extension workers and growers have struggled with the introduction of new
horticultural crops because they did not have sound extension recommendations
based on prior local research. The purpose of this paper is to outline a
workable standard procedure and checklist to determine the potential success of
new horticultural industries, and to present a plan to determine and solve
major potential production problems prior to first commercial production
attempts. Emphasis is placed on reducing grower risks by satisfying new crop
production research needs for local conditions before growers attempt pilot
The Virginia Farmers' Market Board was funded and authorized by 1988
legislative budget approval to implement and administer a network of farmers
markets and wholesale shipping point markets across the state to offer expanded
horticultural production opportunities. Publications were developed to help
producers and marketing organizations make decisions concerning trying new
crops, and to improve the initial production ability or profitability with new
crops (O'Dell 1986, O'Dell et al. 1987, Runyan 1986). The production
methodology presented herein is compatible with but does not substitute for
equally important new crop economic feasibility studies including market-window
analyses and the discovery and development of new crop market niches.
In 1983, a group of Piedmont Virginia tobacco farmers interested in
agricultural diversification, assisted by Extension and U.S. Department of
Agriculture workers, decided to begin production/marketing of fall broccoli, a
new crop in Virginia. A well-conceived marketing plan was implemented, but
little or no prior broccoli production research had been conducted in Virginia
or the mid-Atlantic region with the exception of cultivar trials conducted at
the Virginia Tech Horticulture Research Farm near Blacksburg on heavier clay
soil types in a mountain climate and at the Tidewater Agricultural Experiment
Station on lighter sandy soils in a coastal climate. When Extension workers
recommended a cultivar that had performed well at both the above research
sites, it proved, at growers' expense, to be a very poor choice for Piedmont
Virginia. Similarly, some cultural recommendations adopted by supposition from
major far-west production areas of the U.S. also produced poor results. In
1985, locally-based on-site research with outside grant funds was initiated in
desperation to reduce growers' risks and improve profits with broccoli. Many
growers gave up on this new crop because of poor yields in the period of
1983-1986. Many innovative growers were lost, credibility of the Extension
Service and Virginia's land-grant universities was jeopardized, and very little
was gained from this production-before-research approach.
In contrast, the assimilation and demonstration of on-site adaptive field
research from 1985-1988 has greatly improved grower profits and 'turned around'
the poor production records of earlier years. Determination of correct
planting dates based on local historical weather data avoided late-season
freezes that had destroyed much of earlier years' fall broccoli crops.
Establishment of correct fertilizer application rates for area soils improved
yields and quality while reducing fertilizer costs, leaching losses, and
residual or "carryover" nitrogen levels for tobacco and other crops in
rotation. Better stand establishment with fewer irrigations was achieved by
modifying seeding depth based on local research results. In addition,
heat-tolerant cultivars adapted to Piedmont Virginia conditions were identified
from locally conducted trials. Now, with accurate horticultural information
this new crop industry is positioned for growth whenever area economic
conditions warrant diversification.
Two new crops exploration teams are needed, a crop production team and a
marketing team. The crop production team of multidisciplinary talents should
include research/extension workers in the fields of horticulture, agricultural
engineering and food science and technology as well as pest management
specialists in the fields of entomology, plant pathology, and weed science.
The marketing team should consist of research and extension workers in the
Agricultural Economics Departments of land-grant universities, specialists in
the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Virginia departments of agriculture.
This market development team win evaluate the economic and market potentials of
targeted enterprises and develop a standard procedure and checklist for
economic analyses. Close cooperation between these teams, along with critical
input from growers, is essential for effectiveness of this new methodology.
Production and marketing teams construct a priority list of potential new
enterprises that appear worthy of research and developing for the university
administrations, departments of agriculture, and other participating agency
administrations. These new-crop exploration/development teams need to be
planned for multi-year research and extension demonstration thrusts. The
long-range plan should be continued to include enterprise demonstrations with
targeted farm families and the production/marketing pilot project efforts.
Data collection on these initial commercial areas provides information for
developing realistic production cost budgets based on actual production
A study of targeted commodity production potentials should involve a detailed
evaluation of production methods and production costs in major producing
regions; and an analysis of all data and acquired information to help minimize
time and money spent on field tests. All considerations in the overview are
designed to act as a further screening process for potential new crops.
The new-crop exploration production committee must gather production data
including latest cultural practices in use or cultural recommendations from all
the known worldwide areas producing the targeted crop. This team must reduce
such information to a reasonable production system suitable to adaptive testing
under area conditions.
These recommendations would then be evaluated in test plots for a minimum of 2
years for their area adaptability and adjusted to maximize production
opportunities. Equipment and seed/plant requirements/availability also should
be evaluated in this phase. As part of this study, members of the
extension/research production team and representative growers should travel to
major production regions of the targeted crop for first-hand
technology-transfer-information and to gain further ideas for adapting the
potential crop to local conditions.
Both an Integrated Pest Management System (IPM) and crop insurance potentials
should be investigated for the targeted commodity beginning during its initial
research testing phase. Providing such support through interagency cooperative
efforts is vital for faster grower enterprise adoption through risk reduction
if field testing and economic analyses team results show commercial promise.
The production team must determine for each potential new crop whether
technologies being developed could enhance our state or regional competitive
position relative to competing areas of production. These and other
considerations are developed into a checklist and should include the
- Assess potential crops and define the potential geographic state (or regional)
area of production.
- Examine worldwide production trends of a proposed commodity, its consumption
trends, and its marketing potentials.
- Study production practices used worldwide and determine the most reasonable
production system for adapting to the area under consideration; evaluate
previous research efforts.
- Conduct preliminary adaptive field plot research to determine production
practices needing further study for development of research-based extension
production recommendations. This research should be conducted at
- With technical assistance, station/campus based research must be refined at
locally-based test sites in the proposed geographic production area. Funded
technical assistance is required to achieve this goal.
- Construct initial tentative commodity production budgets from locally
state-based research verified above, and with grower input.
- If new crops production research efforts yield favorable results, and if market
demand warrants, Cooperative Extension Service should then publish production
recommendations for initial commercial grower use. Publish results to identify
high risk crops to assist decision-making by growers and marketing
organizations even if production or marketing analyses are unfavorable for
educational purposes. Successful crop diversification is a result of favorable
production research results, favorable economic analyses and good potential
market demand, competitive market facilities, and a high number of farm
families actively seeking diversification and who are able to deliver a
critical mass of volume and high-quality product to attract and maintain
buyers' commitment to the new organization.
The production cost numbers generated by the production research team need to
be organized to facilitate accurate comparison and analysis. From actual
locally-based costs of production and marketing under area conditions, a
comparative budget can be developed to evaluate production costs against those
of distant producing areas. This will further help to determine production
feasibility and potential market share competitiveness. A sample budget format
is provided in Table 1.
What are the benefits of following this procedure in the course of assisting
with the development of a new crop industry in your county, area, state, or
region? The innovative growers will have the necessary facts pertinent to
their area for correct production practices, cultivars, planting and harvesting
dates, management an labor needs, and equipment needed, including irrigation,
to increase the probability of financial success in their initial production
- Estimate, from tentative production budgets from other production areas showing
calendar activity, the economic impact this new production/marketing activity
may have on the area being considered for new crop production. Specifically,
estimate if sufficient labor, irrigation water and equipment, production
tillage equipment, management, and all other inputs are available without
adversely affecting established and/or regulated agricultural industries, or
without creating competition for available resources.
- Review previous research efforts at universities and other research centers on
the targeted new crop. Consult with specialists and agents at State
Departments of Agriculture and State Cooperative Extension Services. The
review should include both applied and basic approaches on a national and
international basis. Grower oriented publications should also be included in
- Review and study production equipment needs, plant/seed supply requirements and
availability, and review crop production budgets from other regions and
determine their per unit cost of production.
- Visit other major production regions for technology transfer of best cultural
production practices and for ideas.
- Identify aspects of size, color, or form of the harvestable commodity under
study that could distinguish it from the same commodity produced in other areas
to provide a special niche with state or regional consumers. Work with the
market development team to investigate the potential to develop new markets for
a locally produced (e.g. "Virginia style") commodity distinctly different in
form, size, or color from that produced in competing areas. In cooperation
with state department of agriculture, consumer polls would determine if there
is a consumer quality preference or demand for a locally produced commodity
distinctly packaged and displayed to identify its local origin. Estimate such
local, state, or regional demand using population figures and per capita
- Conduct preliminary and intensive field research and grower demonstrations to
develop/maximize a state production system. From initial grower efforts,
fine-tune production costs budgets.
- Determine whether intensive Extension agent, grower, and labor training will be
necessary with the targeted new crop.
- Examine the possibilities of this commodity being utilized in such a way as to
enhance production/marketing of other local or regional commodities, including
opportunities for value adding within the state or region.
These first efforts are always closely watched by neighboring farm families who
are wondering whether they too should try the new crop. If these first new
crop growers are financially successful, the new industry will grow and
succeed. If they stumble and fall in yield and quality, and therefore in
profitability, the new crop industry will stall or eventually fail.
Successful initial production efforts result in higher initial volumes of high
quality marketable products. Only volume and high quality products attract
buyers and maintain buyers' commitment and loyalty to the growers' new
By reducing grower risk through prior information, potential production of a
new crop is improved while economic and rural community stability is maintained
and enhanced rather than jeopardized by the introduction of a new-crop
industry. The Cooperative Extension Service and its supporting land-grant
universities and the United States Department of Agriculture, as well as
cooperating agencies assisting new-crop industry development, also receive
favorable community, area, state, and regional good will in the public eye.
Success breeds success, opening the way for additional new industry efforts,
building on the confidence from this "we can do it" experience.
O'Dell. C.R. 1986. Selected production costs budgets for 27 horticultural
crops plus Shiitake mushrooms. Va. Coop. Ext. Serv. Pub. 438-898.
- O'Dell, C.R, R.D. Morse, P.R. Ramsey, and A.M. Borowski. 1987. Direct seeded
fall broccoli production, a guide for southside Virginia farmers. Va. Coop.
Ext. Serv. Pub. 438-011.
- Runyan, J.L, J.P. Anthony, K.M. Kesecker, and H.S. Ricker. 1986. Determining
commercial marketing and production opportunities for small farm vegetable
growers. USDA, AMS Mktg. Res. Rpt. 1146.
*We thank research coworkers Ron Morse and Dave Vaughan; extension coworkers
Charlie Coale, Joel Plath, Larry McPeters, Bobby Stump, Henry Maxey, Dick White
and Phil Ramsey; vegetable growers Bobby and Lucy Conner, Hudson and Pat Reese;
Mr. Stan Duffer, VDACS; and Dr. Hal Ricker, USDA Agricultural Marketing
Service, for helpful assistance as reviewers of this publication. Thanks also
to George Criner, Duane Smith, Cathy Sage and Ralph Weeb 11, Maine Cooperative
Extension Service Agricultural Economists, for permission to use portions of
their C.E.S. Misc. Pub. 688.
Table 1. A sample budget format.
zMore columns may be needed depending on the number of areas that are
|Budget ||Competing |
|Estimate for area |
|Costs: (per acre or other relevant unit)|
|___________________ || ||$||$|
| ||Sub total|| ||______||______|
| || ||Packaging||______||______||______|
| || ||Cooling||______||______||______|
| || ||Inspection and grading||______||______||______|
| || ||Cold storage||______||______||______|
| || ||Brokers fees||______||______||______|
| || ||Shipping||______||______||______|
| ||Sub total||______||______||______|
|Interest on operating capital ||______||______|
|Marketable yield per acre||______||______|
|Per unit total cost||______||______|
|Cost per market unit||______||______|
|Average price/market unit over marketing period||______||______|
|Potential gain (loss) per unit||______||______|
Fig. 1. Chronological flow of elements of new crops production study.
Last update August 26, 1997