42 articles tagged "Greenhouses & High Tunnels".

Planting density plays an important role in the optimization of labor efficiency and productivity of your high tunnel. For the purpose of this article I will focus on tomato which is commonly grown as a high value crop on small farming operations. Usually growers select varieties according to customer (market) preference and then try to combine that with other attributes such as ease of production, disease tolerance/resistance and productivity (yield). Consumer preference usually helps to determine the fruit color, size and shape, and the sweetness (soluble solids) of the tomato variety to be grown. The grower again is interested in earliness, growth habit (determinate and indeterminate), and ease of pruning, trellising and picking. Most growers in Indiana choose determinate varieties for high tunnel production, because it has limited growth and is easy to stake and allows for early production (short production cycle), with most fruit ripening before field grown tomatoes[Read More…]

Recent cool weather increases the occurrence of zippering on high tunnel tomatoes. We observed at least 20% of developing fruit (most on the first and second flower clusters) on the variety Mountain Spring showed the zippering symptoms in our high tunnel. A typical symptom of the disorder is a thin, brown, necrotic scar that starts from the stem end and extend fully or partially to the blossom end. The reason the symptom is called zippering is because transverse scars are along with the longitudinal scar that looks like a zipper (Figure 1). In more severe cases, the scar is open and reveal locule (Figure 2). In the initial stage, zippering is often observed with anthers adhering to the fruit (Figure 3), the attached anthers is believed to disturb fruit development and cause the symptom. Zippering symptom is more noticeable with cool weather. Optimum temperatures for tomato fruit set are 60-75°F (night) and 60-90°F[Read More…]

The recent cool and cloudy weather has influenced conditions in the field as well as in greenhouses and high tunnels. I have observed more Botrytis gray mold of tomatoes in greenhouses this spring than usual. This is due in part to the weather. This article will discuss this disease on tomatoes and some management options. Gray mold is caused by a fungus that attacks many types of vegetables and ornamentals. The fungus is not a strong pathogen and often starts on weakened or senescent tissue such as old flower petals. The gray mold fungus, Botrytis cinerea, may be a weak pathogen, but it is a good saprophyte, growing well on old crop debris and organic matter until a good plant host is available. Figure 1 shows a tomato leaf on which a flower petal has fallen. Since the gray mold fungus is sporulating on the flower petal, there is a[Read More…]

In a recent visit to a high tunnel, we observed a severe salinity problem on tomatoes. Approximately one month after planting , most tomato plants in the affected area had not sent out any new leaves. Roots did not grow at all (Figure 1).  After conducting a soil test, very high soluble salt level explains these symptoms. This article reviews the basics of soil salinity. Salinity describes salt content in the soil. Virtually all fertilizer materials are salts, but they vary in their effects to increase salt concentration in soil solutions. In a field situation, precipitation in the form of rain and snow tend to leach salts.  Since high tunnels exclude rain and snow, elevated salt levels are a common concern for high tunnel vegetable growers. Table 1 are the salt indexes of common fertilizers. If you are using a premixed fertilizer such as 12-12-12, check the fertilizer components on[Read More…]

Figure 1. Note stigma of tomato flower on the left was more exerted compared to flower on the right. In addition to temperatures, genetic factor, nutritional status and light might cause stigma exertion.

Maintaining temperature in the ideal range is very important for tomato fruit set. The optimum temperatures are 60-75°F (night) and 60-90°F (day). Studies showed that exposing plants to 3-h periods of temperatures above 104°F on two successive days may caused fruit set failure. Not only is the maximal temperature critical for fruit set, maintaining night temperature in the ideal range is also essential. Effects of high temperature on fruit set are primarily on the stage of pollen development, which occurs about nine days before flowers open. High temperatures also affects flower structure by causing stigma exertion that prevents pollen from successfully landing on the stigma (Figure 1). After pollination, pollen germination can be severely reduced at temperatures above 100°F. Preventing temperatures from reaching the extremely high level is important in high tunnel tomato production. Since biomass production and flower numbers are less likely to be affected by high temperatures compared to[Read More…]

In a previous article ‘Opportunities in Hydroponics’ (VCH 609) we discussed two types of Hydroponics, solution culture and medium culture. In this article we will focus on Growth Substrates (media), which form an integral part of medium culture. Growth substrates can be divided into two groups, organic and inorganic media. Inorganic media can be further divided into natural and synthetic. Media included under inorganic and natural are sand, gravel, rockwool, perlite, vermiculite, pumice, expanded clay aggregate, zeolite and volcanic tuff. Inorganic and synthetic media includes foam mats (polyurethane) polystyrene foam, oasis (plastic foam), hydrogel, and Biostrate felt®. Included under organic media is pine sawdust, pine bark, wood chips, peat moss, coconut coir, and rice hulls. The number of substrates available are not limited to this list. Using growth substrates instead of soil gives the grower several advantages: No need for arable land. Soilless growing media (substrates) is lightweight and can[Read More…]

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We went through an unseasonably cold period in early April (Figure 1). In southern Indiana, a few high tunnel tomato growers have already planted their crops. These plants may need some extra help. In Vincennes, IN, we used row covers to cover the newly planted tomatoes in high tunnels the past few nights, our recorded lowest temperature was 37 °F under row covers. Plants all look good. However, the temperature is apparently too cold for cucumbers. The majority of the early planted cucumbers in our high tunnels were dead. We are waiting for the weather to warm up (soil temperature at least above 60 °F) to reset the cucumbers. Please let us know if you also ran into problems in the past a few days because of the low temperature. It might be issues in the greenhouse, the high tunnels, or even the field. We would appreciate you sharing your experiences with us.      

Lettuce is grown in channels using the Nutrient Film Technique

Travelling through Indiana last summer, I realized that many growers plant their crops in soil inside their high tunnels or greenhouses. Soilless production offers different benefits and challenges. This is the first article in a series focusing on soilless crop production in high tunnels and greenhouses. Today we are discussing Hydroponics. What is Hydroponics?  The word hydroponics technically means ‘working water’, derived from the Latin words “hydro” meaning water and “ponos” meaning labor. Hydroponics is a method to grow plants using a mineral nutrient solution, in water and without soil. Two types of hydroponics are commonly found: a) solution culture, and b) medium culture. Solution culture types include continuous flow solution culture (Nutrient Film Technique) and Aeroponics. Medium culture types include ebb and flow sub-irrigation, run to waste, deep water culture and passive sub-irrigation systems. History.  The first research published on the production of spearmint in water was conducted by[Read More…]

​ Last year at the Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center (SWPAC) we conducted a tomato high tunnel trial described here. In this article, I would like to talk about the trial we will conduct in 2015, a repeat of the 2014 trial. In particular, I would like to talk about what we have done for fertility. Before deciding on a fertility scheme, it is critical to conduct a soil test each year. Our soil test from November 2014 showed that our high tunnels were low in sulfur, boron and moderately low in zinc. In fact, plant tissue tests conducted during the 2014 season were low for both sulfur and boron. As a result of these tissue tests, we added a 10% liquid boron product and ammonium thiosulfate (7%) to the fertigation during the 2014 season. However, the next set of tissue tests carried out during the 2014 season also came back[Read More…]

Over the last several years, the number of questions I have had about tomato production in high tunnels has increased dramatically. Since I am a plant pathologist, most of the questions I have been asked are about diseases of tomatoes in high tunnels. However, I also have been asked production questions. One particular question about tomato product that may impact disease severity is this: how many staked tomatoes can be grown in a high tunnel effectively? To be honest, the above question is one that I often ask myself when I observe high tunnels in Indiana. It isn’t necessarily one that is asked by growers. But maybe it should be. It has been my observation that growers often try to place too many staked tomatoes in a high tunnel. The result may include diseased tomato plants due to insufficient air circulation, poor quality fruit and even reduced yields. I was[Read More…]

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