Saturday, August 13, 2011

By the Numbers Part II

It is usually August when I start playing with production and other numbers.  It tells you two things about us:
1. Rob likes numbers
2. We take record keeping seriously

It's a good thing Rob likes the numbers and we keep the records, because it is an important part for our certification process *and* it is important to help us plan for production levels that satisfy our CSA customers - at the minimum.

But, numbers can lie - just as our memories can be faulty.  But, if you put field observations together with harvest records and an educated 'feel' for how the season is going or has gone, you can have a powerful learning tool.

1. Peppers part II
I made an observation/educated guess that we might be on tap for a production level of sweet peppers for the season of approximately 2500 fruit.

2011  15 99 123 195 279
2009  23 99 174 222 279

Above are numbers for the first five weeks of 2009 and this season.  It is astonishing to see harvest numbers that are exactly the same for two weeks.  This might lead me to conclude that we will have a similar year to 2009 - where we ended up with over 4900 marketable sweet peppers harvested.

Behind that lie is another number:
2011   567 sweet pepper plants planted
2009   481 sweet pepper plants planted

So - does that mean we're about 20% behind the expected rate of harvest for this number of plants?  And, even if this is the case, shouldn't we still land at about 4900 - with the extra plants making up for the production rate shortfall?

Tolli Sweet is an early red sweet pepper (wonderful taste and shaped a bit like a carrot).  It's 3 year historical average per plant for a season is 16.4 and it's average for the first five weeks is 3.6.  In the first five weeks this year, we've had 1.9 marketable peppers per plant.

This leads me to field observations.  We lost more of our early peppers to end rot and other such problems than we have in the past.  So, it is possible the reduction in numbers for Tolli Sweet could be accounted for in terms of the non-marketable fruit given to birds.

A second observation is that there have been more "dead flower ends" this season than other years.  These are flowers that dropped without fruit set - a condition that often happens when temperatures stay hot, even at night.  This tells me that I might not want to expect the same production levels in late August as I normally might expect.  And, it just so happens that peak Tolli Sweet production is normally when?  According to the history, half of the production occurs in the 2nd half of August.  Hmmmm.

If we adjust our expectations for Tollis Sweet based on these numbers and observations, we can take our initial projection of 705 fruit (at 16.4 per plant), remove the production of 4 lost plants and make adjustments for reduced early production and reduced August production.  We come up with an estimate of 350 Tolli Sweet peppers for the season.

Using similar analysis for the overall sweet pepper crop - we estimate a harvest of about 3200 sweet peppers.

We're at 700 harvested so far.

Here's to 2500 MORE peppers to share with everyone!

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