The Economics of Converting Conventionally Managed Eastern Vineyards to Organic Management Practices
White, Gerald B.
A five-year study was conducted to analyze the economic results of growing grapes using conventional management practices compared with organic management practices. Grape cultivars evaluated in the project were Concord, Elvira, and Seyval. Growing costs were higher for each cultivar in each season, Le. for 15 comparisons for the organic system. Operations which were especially costly in the organic system were fertilization, tillage operations which replaced herbicides used in the conventional system, and hand hoeing which was occasionally necessary to supplement weed control in the organic system. The organic system, however, had a clear advantage in most seasons in the cost of spraying operations. The results of this five-year study suggest that grapes can be successfully grown using organic management practices, although at a higher cost, than is necessary for conventional management systems. Growing costs were from 69 to 91 percent higher, depending upon variety. Yield per acre for the organic system compared to the conventional system over the five years was 22 percent lower for the Concord variety, five percent lower for the Elvira variety, and 35 percent lower for the Seyval Blanc variety. The incidence of higher costs and lower returns meant that returns to management (a measure of profitability) were significantly lower for the organic management practices for all three varieties. The most favorable economic results were obtained for the organic management practices employed with the Elvira vineyard, which showed a small profit for the average of the five seasons. A key to economic will be whether or not a price premium can be realized for organically grown grapes.
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University