Production Risk


There are many risks associated with vegetable production. Some of these risks include weather, pests, disease, input availability and quality, technology, mechanical failure, and agricultural industrialization. Producers must understand that every farm is unique and should consider the best practices for their crops.




Pest Control

In order to choose the best pest controlling technique, one must first be aware of the exact problem that is facing them. Scouting crops is an important process that can help identify if there is a pest problem and provide the proper timing to take action against any pests. Scouting could include digging in places crops have not grown or shaking plants to find any insects. If an insect is discovered, it is important to correctly identify the organism and figure out the best way to rid of it. Look into the best time of year to plant crops because this can reduce the risk of pest damage. For example, insect infestations are normally high in the late summer months so early planted crops are subject to less severe insect damage.

Pesticides are a common pest control technique but have recently been under heavy scrutiny due to environmental and health issues. A pesticide is defined as any toxic substance used to kill animals or plants that damage crops or that are hazardous to the health of domestic animals or humans. Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides have strict regulations to be aware of specific to handling, storing, and disposing. All pesticides must be registered through the EPA before use. There are different ways of applying pesticides, for instance, center-pivot irrigation which assures sufficient soil moisture for activation and in minimum tillage systems eliminates the problem of crop residues. Other possible application methods include ground spraying, drip irrigation, and aerial spraying. Looking at the advantages and disadvantages of each application method will aid in choosing the technique that will suit each farm best.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is long term prevention or suppression of pest problems with minimum impact on human health, environment, and non-target organisms. This system combines biological controls with pesticides, cultivating, pruning, fertilizing, and irrigation practices to change the farm habitat and make it incompatible with pest development. IPM requires knowledge and understanding of pests and is usually cost-effective in the long run.

Many producers are also faced with deer and goose interference. Some control options available include:

Scare Tactics: loud noises, propane guns, watch dogs, bright lights, flags, and balloons

Repellents: placing certain tastes and odors around crops to make them less attractive

Fencing: electric or wireless

Plant Disease

Producers should constantly be looking for any indications that disease is present among their crops. Be aware of symptoms such as wilting, rotting, leaf spots, or root discoloration as well as signs of disease such as presence of bacteria or insects. There are options available to producers to lower the risk associated with plant disease.

Avoidance: store harvest in optimal conditions, research best time to plant

Reduction: rotate crops, remove rotten plant debris, measure soil nutrients and pH

Protection: apply fungicides

Resistance: plant resistant cultivars, use biotechnology

Exclusion: put suspicious plants into quarantine


Storage requirements vary depending on the type of vegetable. Temperature and humidity are important to a vegetable’s storage environment. For example, root crops like a cold, moist atmosphere whereas pumpkins and winter squash do best in warm, dry situations.



Biotechnology has grown into a widely-used practice in agriculture. It increases the quality of crops very quickly in comparison with the traditional way that takes several generations for the same outcome. Transgenic vegetable crops that are commonly seen include tomato, potato, and squash. Biotechnology can increase crop productivity through characteristics like disease resistance and better drought tolerance. Farms can increase crop protection, nutritional value, vegetable texture and taste, and better environmental conditions through biotechnology as well. On the other hand, genetically modified crops are new and are not accepted by everyone. Certain supermarkets along with major companies refuse to purchase any genetically modified crops due to consumer belief that they may have adverse effects on human health.

Precision agriculture involves using new technology to get site-specific farming results. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), sensors, and Variable Rate Technology (VRT) are all newly developed tools to help the modern day farmer with precision agriculture.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Combines information about specific geographic locations. Use to query, analyze and map an area to aid in the decision making process.

Global Positioning Systems (GPS): A satellite navigation system controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense that provides specially coded satellite signals that can be processed in a GPS receiver, enabling the receiver to compute position, velocity and time.

Sensors: Used to identify and monitor hazardous atmospheres and possess the ability to detect several different gases in multiple farm environments.

Variable Rate Technology (VRT): Alternative chemical, seeding, and fertilizer application systems focused on reducing input costs.



Crop Diversity

Another option that can be used to reduce production risks is crop diversity. Alternative crops can add to farm diversity, spread out weather and price risks, broaden the base of operation, and help control

weeds, pests, and disease cycles. Crop diversification can also result in a reduction of income variability. For instance if the price from one crop brings in a high income one year and in that same year another crop income falters then the annual income is not greatly affected. Producers need to consider land, soil, water, buildings, equipment, labor, climate, season, financial status, consumer preferences, and location before selecting the type of alternative crop to plant.




It is necessary for a producer to decide what cropping system will be most profitable with the least amount of damage to the environment. Minimum or no-till practices can lead to higher crop yields, increased acres farmed, higher organic matter, and lower water and wind erosion. Minimum or no-till practices include using a no-till planter, drill or sprayer that can cost a considerable amount of money to start up. On top of machinery expenses, a producer must also consider labor, climate, and crop types to decide if this system will be beneficial. For instance, dryer climates are usually the best conditions for a no-till method.



Natural Disaster Management

Although natural disasters can not be controlled, there is a certain amount of preparation that may be done in order to decrease the harmful effects to farms.

  • Drought: causes high soil temperatures
  • Try minimum/no-till to decrease evaporative losses of soil moisture
  • Plant earlier in season to ensure better soil moisture
  • Consider planting narrow rows to keep soil moisture
  • Drought-stressed crops may be harvested for forage
  • Plan for adequate irrigation equipment and water sources
  • Flood: Flood waters can carry dangerous contaminants and diseases
  • Avoid planting in flood prone areas whenever possible
  • Build a sandbag dike to help prevent flood damage
  • Keep pesticides in labeled waterproof containers
  • Frost: Every crop has its own minimum temperature
  • Try to plant crops early in the season to prevent maturing during cold temperatures
  • Use row covers when frost threatens the area
  • Damaged crops can be harvested for forage
Crop Insurance

Crop insurance can be utilized as an important part of a total risk management plan to assure a fixed amount of cash-flow protection from adverse weather and other unavoidable named perils that producers are exposed to during the coverage period.

  • Multiple Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) is a broad-based crop insurance program that covers numerous crops in the Mid-Atlantic region. For most crops, MPCI covers unavoidable production losses caused by natural hazards such as flooding and drought. Losses resulting from poor farming practices or theft are not covered through MPCI.

  • A producer can choose to insure a specified acreage of a crop or his/her revenue (AGR/AGR-Lite).

  • Crops insured by acreage are on an Actual Production History (APH) yield plan. APH is an estimate of a producer’s average yield on the insured acreage for four to ten consecutive years. Crops can be insured at 50-85% (in increments of 5%) of a producer’s APH yield.

  • Insurable crops vary by county—written agreements may be an option for crops not specifically insurable in your county.

  • Price elections are set by the Risk Management Agency for selected crops and are utilized as a maximum price to insure crops. Crops can be insured at a price between 55-100% of the price election.

  • A low cost, minimum level coverage policy called catastrophic coverage or CAT is also available. This policy insures 50% of an APH yield and 55% of a price election. CAT coverage is fully subsidized by the government with no premium cost to the producer, except for a $100 administrative fee, regardless of the amount of acreage.

  • Indemnity payments are made when your average yield per acre is less than your guaranteed yield. This payment is calculated by multiplying the number of insured acres by the yield difference times the indemnity price.

  • Premium rates of payment for insurance are based on the coverage level chosen, the loss history for your county, and your APH yield.

  • Late and prevented planting payments are also available for some crops if due to an insurable cause of loss. There are replanting provisions for various crops available as well.

  • Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue-Lite (AGR-L) are whole-farm programs that provide protection against low revenue due to unavoidable natural disasters and market fluctuations that occur during the insurance year.

  • Covered farm revenue for AGR and AGR-Lite include income from animals and animal products, aquaculture, and agricultural commodities.

Crop insurance can play a major role in providing a producer with peace of mind. Crop insurance policies are tools used to reassure partners and family, guarantee a minimum level of income, improve credit status, and protect against disasters.

Contact an insurance agent for more information.