Monday, November 13, 2006

The Potato Systems Planner: Cropping System Impacts on Profitability, Income Variability, and Economic Risk.

John Halloran, C. Wayne Honeycutt, Robert Larkin, and Tim Griffin. USDA-ARS, New England Plant, Soil, & Water Laboratory, Orono, ME 04469-5753

Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) producers recognize the benefits of crop rotation; however, the economics of producing a high value crop, such as potato, create incentives for continuous potato production.  Our USDA-ARS interdisciplinary team evaluated cropping systems of potato in two and three year rotations with barley (Hordium vulgare L.), sweet corn (Zea mays L.), green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.), soybean (Glycine max L., Mer.), and canola (Brassica napus L.) in central and northern Maine.  Enterprise budgets were developed for each crop.  These data were used, along with historical prices and yields, in a Monte Carlo simulation to determine the impact of rotation crop on whole-farm profitability and income risk.  In the two year rotations, probability of economic loss ranged from a low of 3% for sweet corn-potato to a high of 37% for continuous potato.  Inclusion of either sweet corn or green bean in the rotation substantially reduced grower risk, reduced income variability, and increased net income relative to continuous potato.  These results provide direction for developing specific markets to accommodate those potato-based cropping systems having optimal productivity, profitability, and disease suppression attributes.