Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

U.S. Growers' Willingness to Pay for Improvement in Rosaceous Fruit Traits

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

U.S. Growers' Willingness to Pay for Improvement in Rosaceous Fruit Traits

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Introduction

The plant family Rosaceae comprises 90 genera and over 3000 species, many with significant economic importance throughout the United States, including almond, apple, blackberry, cherry, peach, pear, plum, raspberry, rose, and strawberry (Iezzoni 2010). Rosaceous fruits and nuts are consumed as fresh and processed products that contribute to human well-being by providing essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and components that help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases (Ding and Lu 2004). Rosaceous crops are produced throughout the United States, so enhancing the economic sustainability of these industries benefits producers and their communities, the entire supply chain, and society in general.

Developing and deploying superior new cultivars that meet consumer, supply chain, and producer demands is an obvious, if complicated, approach to benefit all parties. Rosaceous crop breeding programs have successfully met these dynamic demands and developed cultivars that are more desirable, available, affordable, and healthier for consumers while at the same time benefitting other stakeholders in the supply chain (Iezzoni 2010, Gallardo et al. 2012). In general, plant-breeding programs require significant investments of financial, human, and time resources. Constraints in these resources require plant breeders to set priorities in order to focus on a limited set of traits, with the goal of developing a new, breakthrough cultivar. Breeding rosaceous crops is particularly constrained by the relatively higher need for technical and land resources compared to agronomic crops; establishment of priority traits and their desirable levels of expression is critical. Although rosaceous crop breeders develop an effective sense about the relative importance of traits from their interactions with consumers, growers, and other supply chain parties, the marginal values of these traits are unknown (Gallardo et al. 2012). For example, a common perception among peach breeders is that external fruit color is important when selecting for peach cultivars; however, the marginal value for improving external color from not desirable (lack of skin blush/color) to desirable (cream/yellow background color with a red blush) is unknown. Knowledge of the relative values of fruit traits to different stakeholders can contribute to enhancing the efficiency of breeding programs by enabling breeders to focus on improving the traits of greatest value to the market (Yue et al. 2012).

Because growers make the decision to plant new cultivars, absorbing the risk of adopting and diffusing the innovative products, they represent the immediate clientele in the supply chain for breeding programs. Their risk includes up-front investment costs to establish an orchard and potentially, a long payback or even a loss on the investment (Gallardo et al. 2012, Yue et al. 2013). Thus, growers have customarily provided considerable input to breeding programs, seeking cultivars most suited to their specific environmental and market conditions.

Despite this, most studies in the applied economics literature have focused on consumer and market intermediary preferences. Limited research has been conducted to elicit grower preferences and growers' willingness to invest (hereafter referred to as WTP (willingness-to-pay)) to improve traits in the rosaceous crops they produce. For example, in previous studies of consumers, the most important apple fruit quality traits were crispness, sweetness, firmness, flavor, and taste (Manalo 1990, Kajikawa 1998, Jesionkowska et al. 2006, McCluskey et al. 2013). Size, taste or flavor, freshness, sweetness, firmness, color, and soluble solids concentration (SSC) have been identified as important sweet cherry traits (Dever et al. 1996, Kappel et al. 1996, Crisosto et al. 2003). Freedom from defects, color, size, SSC, flavor, and sweetness are positively correlated with fresh peach retail prices and overall acceptability for peaches (Jordan et al. …

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