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Summer Squash






Prepared by:

Richard H. Molinar, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Fresno County

Michael Yang, UC Agricultural Assistant, Fresno County

Karen M. Klonsky, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis

Richard L. De Moura, Staff Research Associate, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis




San Joaquin Valley - South 2005


INTRODUCTION ......................................................... 2

ASSUMPTIONS ................................................. 3

Production Operating Costs ............................... 3

Cash Overhead .................................................... 5

Non-Cash Overhead ................................................. 5

REFERENCES ....................................................... 7

Table 1. COSTS PER ACRE to PRODUCE SUMMER SQUASH ....................................................... 8

Table 2. COSTS AND RETURNS PER ACRE to PRODUCE SUMMER SQUASH ............................................. 9

Table 3. MONTHLY CASH COSTS PER ACRE to PRODUCE SUMMER SQUASH ....................................... 10

Table 4. RANGING ANALYSIS ................................................................... 11

Table 5. WHOLE FARM ANNUAL EQUIPMENT, INVESTMENT and OVERHEAD COSTS.......................... 12

Table 6. HOURLY EQUIPMENT COSTS ........................... 12

Table 7. OPERATIONS WITH EQUIPMENT .......................................... 13


Sample costs to produce summer squash in the southern San Joaquin Valley are shown in this study. The study is intended as a guide only, and can be used to make production decisions, determine potential returns, prepare budgets and evaluate production loans. The practices described are based on production operations considered typical for this crop and region, but will not apply to every farm. Sample costs for labor, materials, equipment and custom services are based on current figures. "Your Costs" columns in Tables 1 and 2 are provided for entering your farm costs.

The hypothetical farm operations, production practices, overhead, and calculations are described under the assumptions. For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the study call the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California, Davis, California, (530) 752-3589 or the local UC Cooperative Extension office.

Sample Cost of Production Studies for many commodities can be downloaded at http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu, requested through the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis, (530) 752-4424 or obtained from the local county UC Cooperative Extension offices.  Some archived studies are also available on the website.

The University of California does not discriminate in any of its policies, procedures or practices.  The university is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

University of California and USDA, Risk Management Cooperating.


The assumptions refer to Tables 1 to 7 and pertain to sample costs to produce summer squash in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  The cultural practices described represent production operations and materials considered typical for a farm in the region.  Costs, materials, and practices in this study will not apply to all farms.  Timing of and types of cultural practices will vary among growers within the region and from season to season due to variables such as weather, soil, and insect and disease pressure. The study is intended as a guide only.  The use of trade names and cultural practices in this report does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by the University of California nor is any criticism implied by omission of other similar products or cultural practices.

Farm.  This report is based on a 60 contiguous acre farm. The land is rented and farmed by the grower. In this study 20 acres are planted to summer squash and the remaining acres to other vegetables. 

Production Operating Costs

Land Preparation.  The grower rips the land one time, discs two times, rolls the ground and lists the beds in February.  In a single operation after listing, the beds are shaped, and the plastic mulch and drip tape laid.  Besides the tractor driver, two people follow the shaper to handle the plastic and drip tape.

Plant.  Planting costs include the seed (2 lbs) for the transplants and the charges for growing the transplant seedlings.  The seedlings are transplanted in the field in March.  Common varieties planted are Noche and Green Eclipse zucchini squash, and Superset and Multipik yellowneck squash.  The grower transplants on six 60-inch beds, leaving every seventh and eighth bed unplanted, 4,915 plants per acre at a 16-inch in-row spacing.  Holes for the plants are punched in the plastic by a mechanical punch machine.  Ten people (50 man hours) plant one acre in five-hours.  A second (August) squash planting with seeds or transplants may be made into the same plastic with holes punched between the previous holes. 

Irrigation.  Irrigation includes the water costs per irrigation and irrigation labor.  The drip line is buried approximately 2-inches deep in the center of the bed at bed shaping. Drip-lines are typically 300 to 400 feet long and connected to the reusable lay flat main lines located at the edge of the field.  Irrigation begins in late March after planting and the field is irrigated twice a week through June and three times per week in July.  The crop uses approximates 30 acre-inches per season.  The irrigation water cost $4.83 per acre-inch, based on grower summer pumping costs.   Irrigation labor is calculated as 0.15 hours per acre per irrigation. 

Fertilization.  Beginning in early April and continuing through June, Nitrogen (N) as UN32 at 35.2 pounds per acre (10 gallons of material) is applied every 10 days through the drip line.

Pollination.  Honeybees are used for pollination.  Normally two hives per acre are placed around the edges of the field.  Hives should be in place for the first bloom – usually about one month after planting.

Pest Management.  If insects or diseases appear, contract your local farm advisor or pest control adviser.  For information on pesticide use permits, contact the local county agricultural commissioner’s office.  Adjuvants are recommended for many pesticides for effective control, but are not included in this study.  Pesticide costs vary by location and grower volume.  Pesticides costs in this study are taken from a single dealer and shown as full retail.  

Weeds.  Black plastic mulch is laid on the bed prior to planting, in addition to conserving moisture and warming the soil, it controls weeds.  Metam sodium (Vapam) is injected into the drip lines for weed and disease management prior to planting.

Insects.  Admire insecticide is applied through the drip line shortly after planting (early April) for aphid and whitefly control.  The field is sprayed with Thiodan or Capture insecticide in June for aphid control. Pest control is minimal during spring plantings.  Squash crops planted in August for fall harvest usually require several insecticide applications for worms, aphids, and whiteflies.  In addition to overhead sprays, usually one to two applications of Admire for whiteflies and/or aphids is applied through the drip line.

Diseases.  Viruses can be devastating to summer planted squash.  Most viruses are transmitted by aphids thus aphid control is paramount.  The treatments with Admire help lessen the virus damage, and some growers will use a reflective (shiny) mulch over the beds to lessen the chance the aphids will find the crop.  Metam sodium injected through the drip lines prior to planting is used to reduce affects from soil borne diseases such as Phytophtora root rot.

Cleanup.  After harvest the plants are mowed, the plastic mulch, and drip tape removed and discarded by hauling to the landfill.  Landfill fees are based on the weight of the discarded material. 

Pickup.  Costs for a 1/2-ton pickup are included in the study.  The pickup is used by the grower to inspect the fields and for general ranch business.  The calculations in the study do not represent results from any collected data.

Harvest.  The crop is harvested an average of every 18 to 24 hours (almost every single day, especially if going for the "fancy" grade) from mid-May to mid-July. The crop is hand harvested on alternate days in this study and packed in the field.  A self propelled packer (12 rows wide) travels down the unplanted beds.  The harvest crew consists of the driver for the packer unit, 12 cutters that pick the plants and 4 packers on the packing unit.  In addition a forklift and truck both with operators load and transport the boxes to the grower’s storage.  It is assumed the forklift and truck drivers work the same hours as the picking crew.

Yields.  The summer squash are picked small (zucchini 5-6 inches long, crookneck 1.25 – 2 inch diameter) and packed in 28-pound boxes.  The crop yields an average of 1,200 boxes per acre. 

Returns.  The overall grower returns are estimated at $7.00 per box.  The price is based on the May to July 2004 USDA wholesale prices.  It is assumed that the return to the grower is 70% of the USDA wholesale price, which is used in this study, but may actually be lower.  The yields and returns are used in the Range Analysis Table to show a range of returns over various yields.

Labor. Labor rates of $12.42 per hour for machine operators and $9.32 for general labor includes payroll overhead of 38%. The basic hourly wages are $9.00 for machine operators and $6.75 for general labor.  The overhead includes the employers’ share of federal and California state payroll taxes, workers' compensation insurance for truck crops (code 0172), and a percentage for other possible benefits. Workers’ compensation costs will vary among growers, but for this study the cost is based upon the average industry final rate as of January 1, 2005 (California Department of Insurance). Labor for operations involving machinery are 20% higher than the operation time given in Table 1 to account for the extra labor involved in equipment set up, moving, maintenance, work breaks, and field repair.

Equipment Operating Costs.  Repair costs are based on purchase price, annual hours of use, total hours of life, and repair coefficients formulated by American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE).  Fuel and lubrication costs are also determined by ASAE equations based on maximum power takeoff (PTO) horsepower, and fuel type.  Prices for on-farm delivery of diesel and gasoline are $1.51 and $2.05 per gallon, respectively.  The cost includes a 2% local sales tax on diesel fuel and 8% sales tax on gasoline.  Gasoline also includes federal and state excise tax, which are refundable for on-farm use when filing your income tax.  The fuel, lube, and repair cost per acre for each operation in Table 1 is determined by multiplying the total hourly operating cost in Table 6 for each piece of equipment used for the selected operation by the hours per acre.  Tractor time is 10% higher than implement time for a given operation to account for setup, travel and down time.

Interest on Operating Capital.  Interest on operating capital is based on cash operating costs and is calculated monthly until harvest at a nominal rate of 7.65% per year.  A nominal interest rate is the typical market cost of borrowed funds.  The interest cost of post harvest operations is discounted back to the last harvest month using a negative interest charge.

Risk. Production risks should not be minimized. While this study makes every effort to model a production system based on typical, real world practices, it cannot fully represent financial, agronomic and market risks, which affect the profitability and economic viability.

Cash Overhead

Cash overhead consists of various cash expenses paid out during the year that are assigned to the whole farm and not to a particular operation.  These costs include property taxes, interest on operating capital, office expense, liability and property insurance, and investment repairs.

Property Taxes.  Counties charge a base property tax rate of 1% on the assessed value of the property.  In some counties special assessment districts exist and charge additional taxes on property including equipment, buildings, and improvements.  For this study, county taxes are calculated as 1% of the average value of the property.  Average value equals new cost plus salvage value divided by 2 on a per acre basis. 

Insurance.  Insurance for farm investments varies depending on the assets included and the amount of coverage.  Property insurance provides coverage for property loss and is charged at 0.690% of the average value of the assets over their useful life.  Liability insurance covers accidents on the farm and costs $529 for the entire farm.

Office Expense.  Office and business expenses are estimated at $30 per acre.  These expenses include office supplies, telephones, bookkeeping, accounting, and legal fees.  The cost is a general estimate and not based on any actual data.

Land Rent. The 60 acres are rented for cash at $300 per acre.  The rented land includes the irrigation system that is maintained by the landlord.  Land rents range from $250 to $350 per acre.

Investment Repairs.  Annual maintenance is calculated as two percent of the purchase price.

Non-Cash Overhead

Non-cash overhead is calculated as the capital recovery cost for equipment and other farm investments. 

Capital Recovery Costs.  Capital recovery cost is the annual depreciation and interest costs for a capital investment.  It is the amount of money required each year to recover the difference between the purchase price and salvage value (unrecovered capital).  It is equivalent to the annual payment on a loan for the investment with the down payment equal to the discounted salvage value.  This is a more complex method of calculating ownership costs than straight-line depreciation and opportunity costs, but more accurately represents the annual costs of ownership because it takes the time value of money into account (Boehlje and Eidman).  The formula for the calculation of the annual capital recovery costs is ((Purchase Price – Salvage Value) x Capital Recovery Factor) + (Salvage Value x Interest Rate).

Salvage Value.  Salvage value is an estimate of the remaining value of an investment at the end of its useful life.  For farm machinery (tractors and implements) the remaining value is a percentage of the new cost of the investment (Boehlje and Eidman).  The percent remaining value is calculated from equations developed by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) based on equipment type and years of life.  The life in years is estimated by dividing the wear out life, as given by ASAE by the annual hours of use in this operation.  For other investments including irrigation systems, buildings, and miscellaneous equipment, the value at the end of its useful life is zero. The salvage value for land is the purchase price because land does not depreciate.  The purchase price and salvage value for equipment and investments are shown in the tables.

Capital Recovery Factor.  Capital recovery factor is the amortization factor or annual payment whose present value at compound interest is 1.  The amortization factor is a table value that corresponds to the interest rate used and the life of the machine. 

Interest Rate.  The interest rate of 6.01% used to calculate capital recovery cost is the USDA-ERSs ten-year average of California’s agricultural sector long-run rate of return to production assets from current income.  It is used to reflect the long-term realized rate of return to these specialized resources that can only be used effectively in the agricultural sector. 

Tools.  This includes shop tools, hand tools, and miscellaneous field tools.  The tools are an estimated value and not taken from any specific data.  

Irrigation/Laterals.  The grower purchases drip tape for the beds annually and owns the lateral or main lines (vinyl flat pipe) that connect to the drip tape.  The rows are assumed to be 400 feet long and require 2,178 feet of lateral lines for the 20 acres.

Equipment.  Farm equipment is purchased new or used, but the study shows the current purchase price for new equipment.  The new purchase price is adjusted to 60% to indicate a mix of new and used equipment.  Annual ownership costs for equipment and other investments are shown in the Whole Farm Annual Equipment, Investment, and Business Overhead Costs table.  Equipment costs are composed of three parts: non-cash overhead, cash overhead, and operating costs.  Both of the overhead factors have been discussed in previous sections.  The operating costs consist of repairs, fuel, and lubrication and are discussed under operating costs.

Table Values.  Due to rounding, the totals may be slightly different from the sum of the components.


Agricultural Commissioner. Crop Reports 2004.  Agricultural Commissioner, Fresno County, Fresno, CA.

American Society of Agricultural Engineers. 1994. American Society of Agricultural Engineers Standards Yearbook. Russell H. Hahn and Evelyn E. Rosentreter (ed.) St. Joseph, Missouri. 41st edition.

Barker, Doug. 2005. California Workers’ Compensation Rating Data for Selected Agricultural Classifications as of January 1, 2005. California Department of Insurance, Rate Regulation Branch.

Boelje, Michael D., and Vernon R. Eidman.  1984. Farm Management. John Wiley and Sons. New York, New York

California State Automobile Association. 2005. Gas Price Survey 2003. AAA Public Affairs, San Francisco,

Molinar, Richard, Mark Gaskell and Keith Mayberry.  1999. Summer Squash Production in California.  University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  Publication 7245.

USDA-ERS. 2005. Farm Sector: Farm Financial Ratios. Agriculture and Rural Economics Division, ERS. USDA. Washington, DC http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/farmbalancesheet/fbsdmu.htm; Internet accessed January 5, 2005.

For information concerning University of California publications contact UC DANR Communications Services (1-800-994-8849), online at http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu or your local county Cooperative Extension office.

  Cash and Labor Costs per Acre
OperationOperation Machine (Hrs/A)Time Labor (Hrs/A)Labor CostFuel, Lube & RepairsMaterial CostCustom/RentTotal CostYour Cost
Land Prep: Rip 0.32   5 8 0 0 13  
Land Prep: Disc 2X 0.28   4 7 0 0 11  
Land Prep: Roll (Cultipacker) 0.08   1 1 0 0 2  
Land Prep: List Beds 0.20   3 2 0 0 5  
Land Prep: Bed Shape+Mulch+Drip 6.00 12.00 201 57 223 0 481  
Connect drip to main line 0.00 3.00 28 1 0 0 29  
Fumigate: Drip System (Vapam) 0.00 0.30 3 0 158 0 160  
Plant: Make Planting Holes 0.32   5 1 0 0 6  
Plant: Transplant. 0.00 50.00 466 0 198 0 664  
Irrigate 0.00 5.55 52 0 145 0 197  
Insect: Aphid, Whitefly 0.00 0.10 1 0 132 0 133  
Fertilize: N (UN32) drip 0.00   0 0 129 0 129  
Pollinate: Bee Hives (2) 0.00   0 0 0 100 100  
Insect: Aphid (Capture) 0.18   3 2 22 0 26  
Field Cleanup: Mow Plants 0.17   3 2 0 0 5  
Field Cleanup: Roll Mulch 0.10 4.00 39 1 0 3 42  
Miscellaneous Pickup Use 2.50   37 30 0 0 67  
TOTAL CULTURAL COSTS 10.15 74.95 850 111 1,006 103 2,068  
Harvest: Field Pick and Pack 18.00 288.00 2,952 297 1,200 0 4,449  
Load and Haul 36.00   537 277 0 0 813  
TOTAL HARVEST COSTS 54.00 288.00 3,489 573 1,200 0 5,262  
Interest on operating capital             133  
TOTAL OPERATING COSTS/ACRE     4,339 685 2,206 103 7,465  
CASH OVERHEAD:                
Liability Insurance             9  
Office Expense             30  
Land Rent             300  
Property Taxes             16  
Property Insurance             11  
Investment Repairs             3  
TOTAL CASH COSTS/ACRE             7,833  
Non-Cash Overhead (Capital Recovery)     Per Producing Annual Cost    
      Acre   Capital Recovery    
Irrigation Laterals     27   10   10  
Miscellaneous Field/Shop Tools     100   24   24  
Equipment     2,443   270   270  
TOTAL NON-CASH OVERHEAD COSTS     2,569   304   304  
TOTAL COSTS/ACRE             8,137  



 Quantity/ AcreUnitPrice or Cost/UnitValue or Cost/AcreYour Cost
Summer Squash 1,200.00 box 7.00 8,400  
Drip Tape 5mil 7,920.00 foot 0.01 95  
Water Pumped 30.00 acin 4.83 145  
Crop Protect:          
Plastic Black 5'x4000'/ft (mulch) 8,000.00 foot 0.02 128  
Vapam 45.00 acre 3.50 158  
Seed - Summer Squash 2.00 lb 30.00 60  
Transplants - Summer Squash 4,915.00 each 0.03 138  
UN32 (32-0-0) 316.80 lb N 0.41 129  
Capture 2EC-Cal 4.50 floz 4.78 22  
Admire 2F 20.00 floz 6.62 132  
Bee Hives 2.00 each 50.00 100  
Discard Plastic (Dump Fees) 125.00 lb 0.02 3  
Boxes 28 lb 1,200.00 each 1.00 1,200  
Labor (machine) 76.98 hrs 12.42 956  
Labor (non-machine) 362.95 hrs 9.32 3,383  
Fuel - Gas 10.41 gal 2.05 21  
Fuel - Diesel 259.85 gal 1.51 392  
Lube       62  
Machinery repair       208  
Interest on operating capital @ 7.65%       133  
Liability Insurance       9  
Office Expense       30  
Land Rent       300  
Property Taxes       16  
Property Insurance       11  
Investment Repairs       3  
NON-CASH OVERHEAD COSTS (Capital Recovery)          
Irrigation Laterals       10  
Miscellaneous Field/Shop Tools       24  
Equipment       270  
TOTAL COSTS/ACRE       8,137  



Beginning JAN 05
Ending DEC 05
Land Prep: Rip   13                     13
Land Prep: Disc 2X   11                     11
Land Prep: Roll (Cultipacker)   2                     2
Land Prep: List Beds   5                     5
Land Prep: Bed Shape+Mulch+Drip   481                     481
Connect drip to main line   28                     28
Fumigate: Drip System (Vapam)   160                     160
Plant: Make Planting Holes     6                   6
Plant: Transplant.     664                   664
Irrigate     23 44 49 49 33           197
Insect: Aphid, Whitefly       133                 133
Fertilize: N (UN32) drip       43 43 43             129
Pollinate: Bee Hives (2)       100                 100
Insect: Aphid (Capture)           26             26
Field Cleanup: Mow Plants             5           5
Field Cleanup: Roll Mulch/Tape/Haul to Dump             42           42
Miscellaneous Pickup Use 10 10 10 10 10 10 10           67
TOTAL CULTURAL COSTS 10 710 702 329 101 127 89 0 0 0 0 0 2,068
Harvest: Field Pick and Pack         1,246 2,448 756           4,449
Load and Haul         226 452 136           813
TOTAL HARVEST COSTS 0 0 0 0 1,471 2,900 891 0 0 0 0 0 5,262
Interest on operating capital @ 7.65% 0 5 9 11 21 40 47 0 0 0 0 0 133
TOTAL OPERATING COSTS/ACRE 10 714 711 340 1,594 3,068 1,027 0 0 0 0 0 7,464
Liability Insurance     9                   9
Office Expense 4 4 4 4 4 4 4           30
Land Rent                   300     300
Property Taxes       8               8 16
Property Insurance       6               6 11
Investment Repairs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
TOTAL CASH OVERHEAD COSTS 5 5 13 18 5 5 5 0 0 300 0 14 368
TOTAL CASH COSTS/ACRE 14 719 725 359 1,598 3,072 1,031 0 0 300 0 14 7,832



  YIELD (28 lb boxes/acre)
Cultural Cost 2,068 2,068 2,068 2,068 2,068 2,068 2,068
Harvest Cost (Pick & Haul) 3,508 3,947 4,385 4,824 5,262 5,701 6,139
Interest on operating capital 110 116 121 127 133 139 145
TOTAL OPERATING COSTS/ACRE 5,686 6,131 6,574 7,019 7,463 7,908 8,352
TOTAL OPERATING COSTS/box 7.11 6.81 6.57 6.38 6.22 6.08 5.97
CASH OVERHEAD COSTS/ACRE 363 365 366 367 368 370 371
TOTAL CASH COSTS/ACRE 6,049 6,496 6,940 7,386 7,831 8,278 8,723
TOTAL CASH COSTS/box 7.56 7.22 6.94 6.71 6.53 6.37 6.23
NON-CASH OVERHEAD COSTS/ACRE 252 266 279 292 304 316 327
TOTAL COSTS/ACRE 6,301 6,762 7,219 7,678 8,135 8,594 9,050
TOTAL COSTS/box 7.88 7.51 7.22 6.98 6.78 6.61 6.46



PRICEYIELD (28 lb boxes/acre)
6.00 -886 -731 -574 -419 -263 -108 48
6.50 -486 -281 -74 131 337 542 748
7.00 -86 169 426 681 937 1,192 1,448
7.50 314 619 926 1,231 1,537 1,842 2,148
8.00 714 1,069 1,426 1,781 2,137 2,492 2,848
8.50 1,114 1,519 1,926 2,331 2,737 3,142 3,548
9.00 1,514 1,969 2,426 2,881 3,337 3,792 4,248



PRICEYIELD (28 lb boxes/acre)
6.00 -1,249 -1,096 -940 -786 -631 -478 -323
6.50 -849