COOPER.AT1IVE EXTENION WORK IN AlRICUIATUR ND HOME~ EONOMICS
AGRICUTURAL EXTENSION SERVICES, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA FORIDlA STATE COLLEGE FOR WOMEN ANTD UJNITED STATES DEPATMEVtNT OF AGRICULTURE COOPERATING' WILMON NEWELL, Director.
COST OF PRODUCING CELERlY ON EVERGLJADES ORGJaiIC SOILS, S "ASON 1937-38,
* By R. H. Howard~, Assistant Extension Economist in Fa'rm Maagoment.
AGRICULTURAL ECONOMICS DEAT11N AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA GAIN\ESVILLE,, FLORIDA
Celery 2E. March, 1939,
COST OF PRODUCING CELLARY ON EVERGLADES ORGANIC SOILS, SEASON 1937-38
By R. H. Howard
In order to assist growers in determining costs of producing celery on peat and muck soils of Palm Beach County, the Agricultural Extension Service surveyed the operations of four grower-operators at the close of the 1937-3S crop year. There were only five grower-operators during this year. The survey covered 4O of the 420 acres planted in the area.
The first commercial acreage planted to celery on the Everglades
muck soil, sufficient for car-lot shipments, was about a decade ago. However, it was not until 1933-34 that any real expansion of celery acreage occurred. According to the Everglades Experiment StationVI the muck soils are particularly well adapted to various truck crops, and especially to the leaf crops in which celery is included. "The rapidly increasing utilization of Everglades organic soils for the production of celery is, therefore, a logical development.H This bulletin further points out some of the more important characteristics of the Everglades organic soils for celery production. Among the important factors are: With adequate drainage, the level of the water table can be regulated during the growing season; more efficient utilization
of fertilizer materials because of water control and the adsorptive capacity of the organic soils; high nitrogen content which is gradually released in forms available to plants; and soils are not highly acid and applications of limestone or hydrated lime are not necessary.
There are certain disadvantages inherent in the organic soils of the
Everglades for celery production. The greatest disadvantage is probably the necessity of adequate drainage facilities consisting of drainage ditches and mole drainage in the fields. When the muck soils are comparatively dry, there is danger of fire which would materially reduce their value for crop production. Then too, these soils are deficient In potassium and phosphorus. These
soils are also deficient in available manganese, zinc, and copper. Experiments conducted by the Everglades Experiment Station in which these deficien-, cies were discovered aided materlelly in the profitable production of celery
and many other truck crops on the muck soils,
Until recent years, string beans were a comparatively sure money crop on the muck soils of the Everglades, With increased plantings, competition of other producing areas, and relatively lower purchasing power of consumers, profit have been materially reduced. For this and other reasons, farmers in this area have been forced to try other possible crops.
IJ A Fertility Program for Celery Production on Everglades Organic Soils,
Experiment Station Bulletin 333, by Dr, J, R. Beckenbach, Truck Crop
Among the more recent and rapidly expanding truck crops in the muck soils are white potatoes, Lima beans, and celery. There were only five carloads of celery reported as being shipped from Palm Beach County during the 1928-29 season. By 1937-38 the car-lot loadings had increased to 347, according to Florida State Mrketing Bureau reports (Table I). There has been a steady increase in number of car-lot shipments from this area since 1933-.34. Shipments of celery have increased more than 500 percent during the five-year period ending with the 1937-38 season.
TABLE I.-ANNUAL CAR-LOT SHIPMENTS OF FLORIDA CELERY FROM THE FOUR LEADING C0OUNTIES.WI
Counties 1933-34 1934-35 : 1935-36 : 1936-37 : 1937-3g
Seminole 5062 5191 5263 6225 5890
Sarasota 2273 1245 1401 15S8 1631
Manatee 641 481 565 503 396
Palm Beach 54 57 82 191 37
SExclusive of boat shipments. Compiled from reports of the
Florida State Marketing Bureau.
Of the 420 acres planted in celery, according to the survey, 376
acres were harvested for market. Based upon the average yield obtained of 448 packed crates per acre (Table III), total production for the season amounted to better than 168,000 packed crates. The gross income to growers amounted to about $180,000.00. The gross income from 3olery is small in relationship to many other truck crops grown on the madck soils of the Everglades. However, due to the profitableness of this crop when compared with other crops of the area for the past few years, indications are that it is likely to become of much greater economic importance in the future. The acreage of celery in 1937~-38 ranked eighth among the truck crops grown in Palm Beach County, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Division of Crop and Livestock Estimates (Table I).
TABLE II.-ACREAGE OF PRINCIPAL VEGETABLES GROWN IN P M BEACH
COUNTY, FLORIDA, SEASONS 1933-34 TO 1937-38.I
Kind 1 1933-34 ; 1934-35 ; 1935-36 : 1936-37 : 1937-39
Beans (string) 36,soo 36,700 26,000 25,100 2s,so00
Peas, green 4,ooo00 4,500oo 7,700 5,800 5,800
Tomatoes 2,000 4,750 10,500 3,800 S,00
Potatoes 4oo 1,150 900 2,400 3,000
Cabbage 1,590 1,400o 2,000 1,800 2,000
Lima beans ? / 500 700 1,500
Peppers 125 175 75 250 40o
Celery 100 50 100 180 350
i. Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Division of Crops and Livestock
21 Not reported separately. Included in string bean acreage.
COSTS AND RETURNS
The average costs of production and returns from celery grown in
the Everglades during the 1937-39 season are shown in Table III. These data were obtained by the survey method, with the exception of costs of marketing and returns from celery, a large part of which were obtained from packinghouse records,
It should be noted that the data were obtained from farm operators rather than growers. Two operators who had celery acreage of their own also grew additional acreage with someone else but supervised the farm operations. Then too, all operators grew two or more crops during the year, which made it difficult to allocate accurately depreciation on equipment, repairs, gas and oil, and other fars expenses chargeable to celery productive. For this
reason, most items of cost include labor, power, and equipment involved in performing the operations. The average costs are based upon acreage planted. Low prices were primarily responsible for the unharvested acreage.
Apparently one of the more important factors affecting profitable production of celery on the muck soils of the Everglades is well prepared land, including proper drainage for seedbeds and fields where it is to be grown. The necessary expense of preparing new lands for celery has made it difficult for the growers who rent their lands for only one year to compete with the owner-operators and those who lease their celery lands for several years. If
facilities for adequate water control through means of mole drainage with ditches and motor pumps have to be provided on new land each year, the cost of producing celery is proportionately greater. Too much water can be as harmful as ai insufficient amount. "Except at the time of sowing the seed and at the time of setting plants to the field, the water table should be kept at a depth of from 16 to' 24 inches throughout the entire growing period of the crop. A high water table shuts necessary soil air from the plant roots and will result in drowningl the crop, and a very low water table maV result in a water deficiency."
Naturally, one might expect considerable variation in costs incurred in growing celery in a comparatively new area, and particularly so for a crop about which until recently little information was known as to profitable practices. dince the production of this crop previously has been confined to a few operators, the practices have been fairly uniform.
The cost of producing plants sufficient to set an acre of celery in the field ranged from $21.79 to $28.05. The average cost was $22.69 per acre for all operators. Variation in average cost for the different operators was
due principally to expense for labor, as most other items of cost were fairly uniform. Seedbeds, with the exception of one operators', were 4 feet wide and 300 feet long, Sufficient plants were grown on these beds to set an acre of celery consisting of approximately 50,000 plants.
Costs of growing and harvesting an acre of celery delivered to the
packinghouse ranged from $163.47 to $179.98, and the average for all operators
11 Experiment Station Bulletin 333.
TABLE III.-AVERAGE COSTS AND RETURNS FOR AN ACRE OF
CELERY, BELLE GLADE AREA, FLORIDA, SEASON 1937-38.
Number of Operators
Acres Planted 40s
Average Yield of Harvested Acreage (Orates) 4g
P er Arej
Costs of Growing Plants
Rent on land $ .54
Preparing seedbed 5,73
Fertil izer 2s86
Applying fertilizer and seeding .32
Spraying including materials 1.33
Labor (Weeding and covering beds) 4.2
Depreciation on seedbed frames and covers 5.50
Costs of Growing and Harvesting:
Rent on land $10.91
Growing cover crop 3.58
Preparing land for celery 6,07
Fertilizer 3)4 77
Applying fertilizer .s6
Transplanting from seedbed to field 14.03
Water control 2.88
Cultivating and weeding ll.64
Spraying including materials 16.17
Applying and removing paper 11.38
Depreciation on paper and wire 9.30
Cutting celery and field stripping 3).36
Hauling to packinghouse 15.6s
To tal $171.63
Costs of Marketing:
Total Cost Excluding Production Interest
and Operator's Supervision $406.22
Returns from Celery Marketed 497.76
Net Returns to Operator 81.54
was $171.63 per acre. On the average, fertilizer represented the largest single item of cost in producing celery, and also exhibited the greatest per acre differenc es in expense. Two operators used the same mixture of fertilizer but used different rates per acre. The other operators used a wide variation in percentage of different plant nutrients as well as rate of application. This accounts, in part, for the great variation in cost of fertilizer which ranged from $31.50 to $47,50 per acre. Among the plant nutrients used in the commercial mixed fertilizers were; phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, copper, sulphur, and boron. Operators surveyed did not use any nitrogen. All operators used phosphorus in the form of superphosphate, and potassium as muriate or sulphate of potash. The available phosphorus applied in a ton of fertilizer ranged from 10 to 12 percent, while the potassium varied from 18 to 30 percent, The ratio of these nutrients
ranged from 0.12-1 to 0-10"30, and the mixtures were noplied at the rate of about one ton per acre.
Celery growers in the Everglades would probably do well to obtain a copy of a recent bulletin published by the Agricultural Experiment Station entitled "A Fertility Program for Celery Production on Everglades Organic Soils" and follow the recommended fertilization practices which are based upon experiments carried on over a period of years.
In brief, the Experiment Station recommends a fertilizer analyzing
3 percent nitrogen, 6 percent phosphate, and 12 percent potash, broadcast (distributed with a seed'-drill) at the rate of one ton per acre when the strippings of the previous crop have been retained on the l=d. If strippings are removed from the field for sanitary reasons, it would probably be advisable to continue the use of the 3-6-12 fertilizer but at the rate of approximately one id one-half tons per acre, It may be beneficial to apply a side dressing of nitrate of soda or nitrate of potash if during the growing season it should be unseasonably wet and cold on unburned soils,
In addition, it was found that small quratities of manganese, zinc, and copper, and possibly boron in some areas, added to the mixture of fertilizer would be beneficial. However, the experiments carried on by the Station showed a definite deficiency of manganese in these soils. Recommendations are that 100 pounds of manganese sulphate be applied per acre with the fertilizer provided no application has been previously added to the land. After the first years application, 25 pounds per acre will probably be sufficient. Celery requirement for zinc is comparatively small. The addition of 25 pounds of zinc sulphate per acre in the fertilizer the first year celery is grown on the land, and thereafter 10 to 15 pounds per acre will probably be sufficient. copperr was found to be not so much of a problem with celery if Bordeaux spres are used, copper being the normal base for this insecticide. However, the first year that celery is grown on the land, it might be well to add 100 pounds of some snow-form of copper sulphate per acre along with the fertilizer. If synthetic fertilizers are used exclusively in making up the mixed fertilizer, 'it might be well to add 10 to 15 pounds of borax per ton of fertilizer as an insurance against a deficiency of boron4. Based upon present knowl-edge1 no other elements are needed or should be added to the muck soils where celeryis to be grown, according to the Everglades Experiment Station rereommendat ions.
All operators incurred expenses for all items listed under "costs
of growing and harvesting" (Table 111) except growing a cover crop. Because most operators rent their celery land each year and obtain possession of it too late for planting a cover crop, this practice of growing a leguminous cover crop prior to setting celery has not been followed by most growers. However, the operator who obtained the largest yield planted a crop of velvet beans and turned them under prior to setting the 1937-38 crop. It was the opinion of growers that a leguminous crop grown on the land before setting celery would help to put the soils in a good state of tilth.
Naturally, the total cost of marketing an acre of celery would vary directly with yield per acre when most operations are hired by the crate. Based upon the average yield of 449 crates per acre, the average cost of marketing was approximately $o,47 pdr crate. Of the $0.47 total, grading amounted to 13 cents, pre-cooling S, crates 19, and selling 7 cents per crate.
The total cost, excluding interest on production capital used and
operator's supervision, was $0O6.22 per acre or 90.6 cents per crate marketed. The average return was approximately $1.09 per crate or $497.76 per acre. Net returns per crate to operator amounted to 1.,4 cents. According to the survey, the difference between total cost of production (as computed in Table III) and returns from celery marketed was $91.54 per acre for the 1937-3g crop. This would have paid interest on a production loan of $200.00 (at 6 percent for six months) leaving $T5.54 per acre for the operator's supervision and profit. However, it should be noted that these data are based upon one years operations only and may not be representative for a period of years.
A0TOMNWLDMVENTS; The writer wishes to express his appreciation to the celery growers who furnished information which made this study possible, and to make special mention of their cooperation and interest; to Mr. M. U. Mounts, Palm Beach County Agricultural Agent, for assistance in obtaining the data; to Dr. J. R, Beckenbach, Associate Truck Horticulturist of the Everglades Experiment Station, who read the manuscript and made valuable suggestions. Much credit is also due Dr. 0. V. Noble, Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics, for his valuable suggestions,