Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Agricultural Economics

Major Professor

S. Darrell Mundy

Committee Members

Luther Keller, Robert Ray


The primary objective of this study was the determination of costs and returns associated with the implementation of selected cultural practice strategies involving skip-row planting of burley tobacco and comparison of these with other strategies employing conventional solidly planted burley tobacco. Input requirements were obtained for six strategies involving three different skip-row planting configurations and different equipment combinations. The skip-row strategies included an 8, 10, or 12-row planting configuration with either a broadcast or gravity-flow fertilizer spreader. All skip-row strategies involved the use of a tractor-mounted offset boom chemical sprayer in which boom length varied depending on row configuration. Two conventionally planted strategies with a manual sprayer and either a broadcast or gravity-flow fertilizer spreader were used as bases for measurement. A secondary objective was to identify and evaluate other advantages and disadvantages of skip-row cultural practices which may be difficult to measure but may still enter into the thought process of the producer in deciding whether to employ skip-row planting.

The approach to the first objective involved a two-tiered level of analysis. Firstly, at the level of the individual treatment, a statistical analysis of the actual field experiment data allowed a process for testing the hypotheses of increased yield but decreased quality for rows of tobacco immediately bordering the replicated strips of plants. Secondly, at the overall strategy level, an economic analysis of data for each combination of planting pattern/equipment-use synthesized from economic engineering principles permitted the determination of the strategy(s) with the lowest-cost and/or highest net return. Addressing the second objective involved identification and discussion of some unquantifiable advantages and disadvantages.

The results of the statistical analysis indicated that even though means of yields and total value products (TVP) of the interior rows (rows 2 through 5 in the six-row field experimental plot) were greater than means of those variables representing the border rows (rows 1 and 6), no significant differences existed (α = .05). Conversely, mean prices of the interior rows were significantly greater than the means of the border rows indicating a deterioration of leaf quality of plants in rows more distant from the center rows of a planted strip.

The economic analysis eventually turned on differences in costs among strategies because of the statistical findings of no significant difference in the yield or TVP's of interior rows (a synthesized proxy for conventional planted rows) and border rows (included in the synthesized results for proxy of skip-row planted tobacco). The residual net return to nonlabor capital, interest, and management was greater for the nonconventional strategies in most comparisons. The optimal strategy was composed of those elements that were most effective in the reduction of costs or minimized the effect of elements that incurred additional costs. It included the 12-row planting pattern, gravity-flow fertilizer spreader and the tractor-mounted offset-boom sprayer. When break-even prices were calculated for labor, capital, and land for all combinations with other strategies, the optimal strategy appeared to be quite stable with respect to input price variability.

Given different limiting resource situations, a skip-row cultural practice may prove to be beneficial to producers. The economically quantifiable aspects notwithstanding, other nonquantifiable but nevertheless desirable characteristics may complement or even overshadow measurable economic advantages or disadvantages. Increased field access throughout the growing season; better, more timely and safer spraying from the substitution of mechanized spraying for hand spraying and ease of stick dropping and harvesting operations are a few examples.

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