Boy, It’s Cold Out There This Morning! Interesting Industry Data and Status of This Service (11:45am, 1/6/15)

— Written By Barclay Poling

In this advisory:

1. Clayton update and practical row cover strategies

2. Economic information about the Strawberry Plasticulture Industry in Mid-South

3. The campaign to raise funds for advisory ends this Friday, Jan. 9th

Good morning,

Boy, it’s cold out there this morning! At Clayton Central Crops we hit a  minimum temperature of 27.5 at 7:30 a.m. (Fig. 1), but the real cold will arrive Wed night/Thur morning, with the possibility now that Clayton will reach 11 F in strawberry canopy and 15 F at weather shelter height (Table 1).

IMG_1567Fig. 1. A minimum of 27.5 was reached this morning at Clayton, but much colder air will be pouring into our region tomorrow and by Thursday morning a low in strawberry canopy of 11 F is now anticipated.

Table 1. Seven day forecast for Clayton Central Crops, SkyBit


Wind speeds were very calm this morning at Clayton and are now picking up (about 7 mph), and are from the South/Southeast. By late afternoon the winds will be coming from West and then NW. Winds will be subsiding in the early evening. Winds will continue to be through the NW into tomorrow, and by 10 a.m. Wed will be up around 12 mph, and then will increase ALL DAY. So, this is your best day for applying row covers. Hopefully, they dried out ok yesterday? If you are limited in terms of row cover material, I would give first priority to covering Albion (if you have that variety), followed by Sweet Charlie, Camarosa and Chandler. Chandler is definitely the toughest of the group! Many of you are seeing blooms on Camarosa – that is normal. Don’t count on bringing any of these open blooms through his freeze, not even under row covers. The best a 1.5 oz row cover can do  is protect down into the very low 20s, and this is going to be much colder! Thus, you will have a dead blossom issue after this freeze is over. Another thing to think about if you must prioritize what gets covered, I would always opt to cover your smaller plants first – some of you had a later planting this past fall, or you are using cut-offs that are set relatively late compared to plugs and fresh dugs.

More  information from AWIS about this arctic clipper will follow in another advisory this afternoon

2. Economic information about the Strawberry Plasticulture Industry in Mid-South:

I will be giving a talk later this week in Savannah about the strawberry plasticulture industry in the Mid-South to the SRSFC, and I thought our readership would be interested in knowing that the estimated aggregate value of the industry in 5 states is about $60 million. In aggregate, this strawberry industry value compares favorably to the NC blueberry industry (71 million).  The total value of fruit crops in NC is estimated at 154 million. It is very important to have economic information of this kind  as we ponder  the future fate of strawberry extension, research and  breeding  in the southern region. As Tom Baker said in his note the other day, “Funding cuts at Land Grant colleges nation-wide mean that, more and more, it is up to us, the growers who benefit from them, to step up and help to provide the funding necessary to provide valuable services.”

The data in Table 2 was collected by me from the NC Strawberry Association (based on plant assessments), Clemson University Extension personnel, several sources in VA, and a high level official at the land grant in TN. No doubt, this is very preliminary information, but we need to start somewhere, and this is the best information we have to offer at this time.

Table 2. Estimated farmgate value of the strawberry industry in Mid-South

2013 State Acres Farmgate
NC 1000 $24,600,000
SC 550 $13,530,000
VA 300 $7,380,000
GA 321 $7,896,600
TN 300 $7,380,000
Totals 2471 $60,786,600

For the purpose of making an estimate of total acreage in NC (Table 2), I elected to round up the NC acreage in 2013 from 921 to 1000 acres. I used plant assessment data of the NC Strawberry Assn to derive this acreage estimate. I made the acreage estimate by taking the value of the assessment in that year ($41,425), and simply divided by the assessment rate of $3/thou plants:  $41,425 / 0.003 = 13,808,333 plants. To estimate acreage for NC, I divided the total number of plants by an average plant density of 15,000 plants/acre: 13,808,333 / 15,000 = 921 acres.

As I said, I elected to round this up to 1,000 acres. This acreage is still 500 acres less than official USDA stats for NC in 2012 (they estimated 1,500 acres).

Just as a sidebar, it is interesting to note that the NC Strawberry Industry has “flat-lined” – meaning this industry is experiencing no new growth in recent years based on plant assessment numbers.

Table 3. Plant assessments from 2010 to 2013 in NC;  millions of plants represented – assuming 15,000 plants/A; and, estimated acres from 2010-2013

Plant assess Million plants Acres (15k/A)
2010 $16,433.00 5,477,667 365
2011 $39,777.00 13,259,000 884
2012 $41,299.00 13,766,333 918
2013 $41,425.00 13,808,333 921

For the purpose of coming up with a farmgate value numbers for each state listed  in Table 1, I assumed one acre of strawberry plasticulture generates revenue of $24,600/A, and this was based on assuming 15,000 lbs/A marketable yield and a blended UPick/Ready Pick price of $1.64/lb. fyi – in our latest NCSU budget, the preplant expense associate with an acre of plasticulture strawberries is estimated to be about $12,500/acre. And, if an industry has 1,000 acres, it is easy to see how growers are spending ~ 12.5 million dollars annually on production supplies (plants are the largest expense).

3. The campaign to raise funds for advisory ends this Friday, Jan. 9th

I was just pondering how much  $6000 represents for an industry that is worth in aggregate $60,000,000, and its  1/10th of 1 percent, (Table 4). Just a commitment of $12,000 for the advisory service in 2015 would represent only 2/10ths (1/5th) of 1 percent!  Because we do not have to pay overhead to the University and NC Ag Foundation this year, I would be willing to go forward with this project if we can reach $12,000 by this Friday.  Just so you know, the expense for weather subscriptions this year will be $5,500, and so with a $12,000 total budget, this leaves $6500 – that would be my “stipend” for about 600 hours of work over 6 months.

Table 4. Funding levels for an industry worth 60 million dollar industry at the rate of  1%, 0.1% and 0.01%

MidSouth 60,000,000 60,000,000 60,000,000
% 1.0% 0.10% 0.01%
Dollars $600,000 $60,000 $6,000

Current status:   $6,500 in pledges have been made as of yesterday by  growers, and this also includes $750 from the Virginia Strawberry Association.

There is still time to make a pledge!!

Dr. E. Barclay Poling

Professor Emeritus (Strawberry Plasticulture Researcher)
Department of Horticultural Science
Campus Box 7609, 162A Kilgore Hall
NC State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7609
“An idealist believes the short run does not count. A cynic believes the long run does not matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.”

Sidney J. Harris, In: Reclaiming a Lost Heritage – Land-Grant & Other Higher Education Initiatives for the Twenty-first Century