Economics of Drip Irrigation for Juice Grape Vineyards in New York State
Cuykendall, Charles H.; White, Gerald B.; Shaffer, Barry E.; Lakso, Alan N.; Dunst, Richard M.
Grape growers need investment and cost guidelines for drip irrigation to evaluate the economics of getting vines into production as quickly as possible and to avoid periods of drought during the productive life of the vineyard. The benefits of irrigation may include: better vine survival, earlier fruit production, greater yields, more efficient distribution of nutrients, less plant stress, reduced yield variability and improved fruit quality. Research was undertaken to determine drip irrigation investment and annual costs. This project was designed to assist growers in determining the investment, fixed and variable annual costs and expected returns from drip irrigation. Irrigation suppliers provided typical equipment needs and investment costs for various drip irrigation designs. Economic worksheets are provided to assist growers in estimating fixed and variable costs of drip irrigation. The economics of yield data were applied to replicated multiyear irrigation studies to assist growers in determining yield response from drip irrigation. Net present value (NPV) methodology was used to determine the discounted break-even investment results from published responses to drip irrigation. Growers with typical drip irrigation systems and various water sources can expect investments in drip irrigation of $550 to $1,150 per acre with 10 acre blocks of vines. Based upon eight years of data from trials in Fredonia, NY, in the Lake Erie grape belt, average yield increases due to irrigation on establishment and growing of Niagara grapes were 2.8 ton per production year per acre, resulting in a break-even investment of approximately $1,600 per acre. But on established minimal pruned Concord grapes, seven years of data showed a 1.1 ton increase due to irrigation and a break-even investment of only $200 per acre which was well below the total cost of a complete microirrigation drip system. On a new planting of Concords, with droughty soils, the analysis may very well show cost effectiveness. Growers who were interviewed were unable to quantify the benefits and costs of drip irrigation but were pleased with their irrigated yields and brix responses from drip irrigation. This analysis has provided the economic rationale for the investment in microirrigation with some varieties and under certain soil types.
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University