Skip to main content Accessibility help

Net returns and risk for cover crop use in Alabama tomato production

  • Leah M. Duzy (a1), Ted S. Kornecki (a1), Kipling S. Balkcom (a1) and Francisco J. Arriaga (a2)


Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) 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 cereale 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 2 of the 4 years. For the clover cover crop, gross revenues and net returns were higher in 1 out of the 4 years. Under tomato prices and weather conditions observed during 2005–2008, the preferred treatment for a risk neutral producer was planting tomatoes into a rye cover crop with a wide shank. For a strongly risk averse producer, all cover crop treatments 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.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding author:


Hide All
1 Darby, K., Batte, M.T., Ernst, S., and Roe, B. 2008. Decomposing local: A conjoint analysis of locally produced foods. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(2):384395.
2 Dimitri, C. 2012. Use of local markets by organic producers. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 94(2):301306.
3 Thilmany, D.D. and Low, S.A. 2012. Will local food influence American diets? Choices 27(1). Available at Web site (verified June 17, 2013).
4 USDA. 2012. Quick Stats. National Agricultural Statistics Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Available at Web site (verified June 27, 2012).
5 USDA. 2011. ARMS III Farm Production Regions Map. National Agricultural Statistics Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Available at Web site (verified June 27, 2012).
6 Ducamp, F., Arriaga, F.J., Balkcom, K.S., Prior, S.A., van Santen, E., and Mitchell, C.C. 2012. Cover crop biomass harvest influences cotton nitrogen utilization and productivity. International Journal of Agronomy, Article ID 420624, doi: 10.1155/2012/420624. Available at Web site (verified June 27, 2013).
7 Kelton, J.A., Price, A.J., and Mosjidis, J.A. 2012. Allelopathic weed suppression through the use of cover crops. In Price, A.J. (ed.). Weed Control. Intech Press, Rijeka, Croatia. ISBN 978-953-51-0159-8.
8 Kornecki, T.S. and Arriaga, F.J. 2011. Impact of different cover crops and types of transplanter mounted subsoiler shanks on tomato yield. HortScience 46(5):715720.
9 Sainju, U.M., Singh, B.P., and Whitehead, W.F. 2001. Comparison of the effects of cover crops and nitrogen fertilization on tomato yield, root growth, and soil properties. Scientia Horticulturae 91:201214.
10 Snapp, S.S., Swinton, S.M., Labarta, R., Mutch, D., Black, J.R., Leep, R., Nyiraneza, J., and O'Neil, K. 2005. Evaluating cover crops for benefits, costs and performance within cropping system niches. Agronomy Journal 97:322332.
11 Teasdale, J.R. and Abdul-Baki, A.A. 1997. Growth analysis of tomatoes in black polyethylene and hairy vetch production systems. HortScience 32(4):659663.
12 Abdul-Baki, A.A., Teasdale, J.R., Goth, R.W., and Haynes, K.G. 2002. Marketable yields of fresh-market tomatoes grown in plastic and hairy vetch mulches. HortScience 37(6):878881.
13 Campiglia, E., Mancinelli, R., Radicetti, E., and Caporali, F. 2010. Effect of cover crops and mulches on weed control and nitrogen fertilization in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.). Crop Protection 29:354363.
14 Iráizoz, B., Rapún, M., and Zabaleta, I. 2003. Assessing the technical efficiency of horticultural production in Navarra, Spain. Agricultural Systems 78:387403.
15 Kelly, T.C., Lu, Y., Adbul-Baki, A.A., and Teasdale, J.R. 1995. Economics of a hairy vetch mulch system for producing fresh-market tomatoes in the Mid-Atlantic region. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 120(5):854860.
16 Wu, S., Liu, Y., Mills, D.J., Coffman, C.B., and Teasdale, J.R. 2002. Economic evaluation of alternative production systems for fresh-market tomatoes in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Journal of Vegetable Crop Production 8(1):91107.
17 Sterrett, S.B., Hohlt, H.E., and Savage, C.P. Jr. 2005. Alternative management strategies for tomato affect cultural and economic sustainability. HortScience 40(3):602606.
18 Richardson, J.W., Schumann, K.D., and Feldman, P.A. 2011. SIMETAR: Simulation and Econometrics to Analyze Risk. Simetar, Inc., College Station, TX.
19 Hardaker, J.B., Richardson, J.W., Lien, G., and Schumann, K.D. 2004. Stochastic efficiency analysis with risk aversion bounds: A simplified approach. Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics 48(2):253270.
20 Archer, D.W. and Reicosky, D.C. 2009. Economic performance of alternative tillage systems in the Northern Corn Belt. Agronomy Journal 101:296304.
21 Lien, G., Hardaker, J.B., and Flaten, O. 2007. Risk and economic sustainability of crop farming systems. Agricultural Systems 94:541552.
22 Smith, E.G., O'Donovan, J.T., Henderson, W.J., Turkington, T.K., McKenzie, R.H., Harker, K.N., Clayton, G.W., Juskiw, P.E., Lafond, G.P., Grant, C.A., Brandt, S., Edney, M.J., Johnson, E.N., and May, W.E. 2012. Net return for malting barley production in Western Canada as influenced by production strategies. Agronomy Journal 104:13741382.
23 Upadhyay, B.M., Smith, E.G., Clayton, C.W., Harker, K.N., and Blackshaw, R.E. 2006. Economics of integrated weed management in herbicide-resistant canola. Weed Science 54(1):138147.
24 Varner, B.T., Epplin, F.M., and Strickland, G.L. 2011. Economics of no-till versus tilled dryland cotton, grain sorghum, and wheat. Agronomy Journal 103:13291338.
25 Watkins, K.B., Hill, J.L., and Anders, M.M. 2008. An economic risk analysis of no-till management and rental agreements in Arkansas rice production. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 63(4):242249.
26 Williams, J.R., Llewelyn, R.V., Pendell, D.L., Schlegel, A., and Dumler, T. 2010. A risk analysis of converting Conservation Reserve Program acres to a wheat-sorghum-fallow rotation. Agronomy Journal 102:612622.
27 Brown, C. and Miller, S. 2008. The impacts of local markets: A review of research on farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA). American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90:12981302.
28 Wixson, S.E., Katchova, A.L., Woods, T.A., and Hu, W. 2011. The role of specialty food stores and farmers' markets in the procurement of local foods. In Selected Paper Presented at the Southern Agric. Econ. Assoc. Annual Meeting, Corpus Christi, TX, February 5–8, 2011. Available at Web site. (accessed June 24, 2013).
29 USDA. 2012. Fruit and Vegetable Market News. Agricultural Marketing Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Available at Web site (verified June 25, 2012).
30 MSU. 2009. Traditional and organic vegetables 2009 planning budgets. Budget Report 2009–01. Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University (MSU).
31 SAS Institute. 2008. SAS Enterprise Guide. Release 4.2. SAS Inst., Cary, NC.
32 Bishop, C.D., Curtis, K.R., and Kim, M. 2010. Conserving water in arid regions: Exploring the economic feasibility of alternative crops. Agricultural Systems 103:535542.
33 Ribera, L.A. and Cattaneo, M. 2008. Economics of variety selection for cotton cultivars in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas. Journal of Extension [Online] 46(5): 5RIB3. Available at Web site (accessed June 24, 2013).
34 Rodríguez, H.G., Popp, J., Thomsen, M., Friedrich, H., and Rom, C.R. 2012. Economic analysis of investing in open-field or high tunnel primocane-fruiting blackberry production in northwestern Arkansas. HortTechnology 22(2):245251.
35 Richardson, J.W., Klose, S.L., and Gray, A.W. 2000. An applied procedure for estimating and simulating multivariate empirical (MVE) probability distributions in farm-level risk assessment and policy analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 32(2):299315.
36 Harwood, J., Heifner, R., Coble, K., Perry, J., and Somwaru, A. 1999. Managing Risk in Farming: Concepts, Research, and Analysis. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC.
37 Abdul-Baki, A.A., Teasdale, J.R., Korcak, R., Chitwood, D.J., and Huettel, R.N. 1996. Fresh-market tomato production in a low-input alternative system using cover-crop mulch. HortScience 31:6569.


Net returns and risk for cover crop use in Alabama tomato production

  • Leah M. Duzy (a1), Ted S. Kornecki (a1), Kipling S. Balkcom (a1) and Francisco J. Arriaga (a2)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed