Florida agriculture contributes more than $100 billion to the state economy and supports 2 million jobs. The mission of the agricultural economics program is to conduct high-quality research and extension to help keep the industry economically competitive and sustainable and inform policy making in agriculture.
We work closely with growers and other stakeholders of the industry to address current issues and concerns in Florida agriculture, covering topics on production/farm management, marketing, trade, and government regulation. Many of our research projects employ a system approach and involve a multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Center.
The role of the agricultural economics program in plant breeding is to help assess traits that are valuable to both growers and consumers, and analyze adoption of new varieties and the benefits associated with the adoption. We conduct ex-ante analysis and ex post assessment of optimal temporal yield distributions of new varieties of strawberries in a market that is sensitive to supply from Florida. We also assess the economic value of ripening and yield patterns of tomatoes to assist geneticists in breeding varieties amenable to mechanical harvesting to address labor shortage issues.
Pest management has not only economic consequences but also human health and environmental implications. In particular, pesticide use may reduce the populations of insects that are beneficial to crop pollination and therefore impact yield. Pesticides may also induce resistance development in insects, which could pose a serious threat to agricultural productivity. The trend toward greater use of pesticides has increased growers’ cost burden and public concerns over its health and environmental effects. The economics of integrated pest management (IPM) and pesticides resistance could help growers and entomologists understand the complex interactions among different elements, and help them identify optimal pest management practices. It can also inform legislation to regulate pesticide use.
Planting, irrigation, fertilization, and other cultural practices have direct impact on yield. Alternative cultural practices often influence the vulnerability of a crop to diseases, insects, and weeds and affect costs and benefits of these practices. Cultural practices also have environmental implications. Intensive use of underground water for irrigation and freeze protection has caused adverse effects on underground aquifer, while fertilizer use has been a major cause of water pollution. Interdisciplinary efforts are dedicated to identifying optimal cultural practices to help enhance growers’ economic performance while accounting for environmental and risk effects associated with the practice.
Crop disease management has been a challenge in Florida because of its unique climate conditions. The ban of methyl bromide, a widely used, powerful fumigant that damages the ozone layer, has created a technological shock for the fruit and vegetable industry, making it critical to identify effective pest and disease management alternatives. The agricultural economics program evaluates the economic feasibility of different alternatives. Economists are also studying factors affecting adoption of disease management practices (e.g., the Strawberry Advisory System), dynamics of resistance development and optimal treatment strategy, as well as the economic/environmental implications of alternative cultural practices such as crop rotation and cover cropping.
Weeds are the major culprit of yield loss in many fruit and vegetable crops, and the loss is further aggravated by the ban of methyl bromide use. Agricultural economists are working with weed scientists, investigating effective weed management approaches and evaluating different weed management options, including use of fallow programs, cover crops, pre- and post-emergent herbicides, fumigation, mulches, and tillage, to identify biologically feasible and economically viable alternatives. The research will also study the effect of rotation and cover cropping on the dynamics of weed populations and yield.