Friday, January 9, 2015

By the Numbers - Ten Year Tenure (TYT) Edition I

We often do posts that talk about the numbers for crop yields and other things farm related.  Per the norm, I try to put something in these posts for everybody to keep it interesting and informative.  But, even if I fail that, these posts do serve as a record we can use on our farm.

Cucumber Roller Coaster
In this post we'll concentrate on cucumbers - in part because we have so much interesting data on them.  We've actually used our cucumber crop as subject material on this blog in the past.  For example, in 2010, I went through one process we use to determine the worth of the crops we grow.  And, we also talked about cucumbers from the perspective of how we plan for success AND failure of any given crop.  After re-reading these posts, I still find that they hold up pretty well.  Some of our processes have changed, but not enough to invalidate what was said there.

Green Finger cucumbers

First, the basic numbers for each year since 2006.

Cucumbers Produced
2006 1588
2007 3641
2008 612
2009 1063
2010 7318
2011 1058
2012 5928
2013 5884
2014 2142
Total 29,234
Average 3248

Raw numbers are dangerous for many reasons.  First, higher and lower numbers can have many reasons.

For example, 2006 was fairly early in our farm's development and the number of cucumber plants we started was much lower than what we grew in 2007.  At that time, we decided the production level was a little high for what we needed at the time, so we reduced the number of row feet slightly for cucumbers in 2008.

and...this is what happened in 2008

At this time we were still direct seeding cucumbers.  And, for some reason in 2008, germination was terrible and growth was very poor once things germinated.  Many other growers in our region reported similar troubles after the fact.  And, these problems continued in 2009.  But, we made more efforts to reseed - so our production numbers were higher, but not all that good either.

So, what do you do after you have particular problems with a crop?  You make major adjustments.  We made several in 2010.  And, the cucumbers just happened to be landing in our best field for production.  We increased the row feet planted and planned some overhead irrigation if things got dry.  Needless to say, the cucumbers responded in record amounts.  As it was, we were back to the problem of too much of a good thing.  The turkeys that year learned to love cucumbers.

Our final year to direct seed cucumbers was 2011.  That was a particularly bad year for cucumber beetles - our timing for planting hit their peak population dead on.  Add to that the issue of being in a weedy field and there you have it.  Oh, and we reduced the number of row feet because we were gun shy of the exuberance shown by these plants the previous year. 

and that brings us to 2012-2014
We actually consider 2014 results to be a continuation of the success and consistency shown in the prior two years (more on that later).  Starting in 2012, we went to all transplanted cucumbers.  In addition to that, we went with installing drip irrigation immediately with the transplants.  It is far easier to install irrigation when you transplant because it is clear where the plants are and where the drip tape should be.  We also implemented a new plot plan where the peas, carrots and pole beans were organized differently around two successions of cucumbers.
Succession I in 2014
Our two succession model showed its value in 2014.  The first succession didn't really want to get going with the cooler early season temps.  As a result, the older, smaller vines didn't establish quick enough and we ended up letting them go when succession II started producing.  It just wasn't going to be worth the effort to get them weeded and give them attention for the returns we saw them producing.  On the other hand, succession II brought us to nearly half the production of the prior two years.  In short, despite conditions that were not optimal, our practices brought us an acceptable return.

Over the past three years, we feel we are safe in saying the following expectations are not unreasonable for these varieties:

Boothby's Blonde: 8.1 to 9.3 fruit per row foot - Succ I
        7.6-7.9 fruit per row foot - Succ II
A&C Pickling: 3.0 per row foot - Succ I
       3.5 per row foot - Succ II (likes a warmer soil to start)
Green Finger: 6.9 per row foot
Marketmore 76: 5.0 - 9.2 per row foot
Parade: 4.1 to 5.7 per row foot
True Lemon: boom or bust.  less than 1 per row foot to more than 10 per row foot.

These are all open pollinated varieties.  2013 was the last season we planted a hybrid cucumber and these were the poorest producers in both 2012 and 2013.

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