30 articles tagged "Protected Culture and Season Extension".

Watermelon is best grown at temperatures around 80-90°F. Temperatures above 90°F reduce the growth rate; above 105°F may cause plant injury. Temperatures below 42°F result in watermelon chilling injury; below 32°F will kill watermelon plants. Extended cool days that lead to soil temperatures dropping into lower 50°F can also kill watermelon seedlings. Using low tunnels is one strategy to avoid chilling injury and encourage early plant growth. How does the plastic covered low tunnels modify temperatures in early watermelon season? Figure 1 shows the air temperature comparison between low tunnel (1 mil plastic film, perforated) and without low tunnels. The data was taken from April 24 to May 25, 2020 in a watermelon field at Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center. During the time period, the recorded minimal temperatures were below 40°F for 5 nights. Low tunnels increased the minimal temperature from 0-4.5 degrees (Table 1). Table 1. Minimal air temperatures with and[Read More…]


Figure 2. Covering a strawberry field with a row cover.

Strawberries growing in the matted-row system are in the blooming stage. Open flowers cannot tolerate temperatures lower than 30°F (Figure 1). Strawberry growers should be prepared for the coming low temperatures this week. Row covers (Figure 2) can be effective in protecting strawberry flowers. In our earlier trial, 1.5 oz/sq row covers provided 4-6 degrees protection and successfully protected strawberry blooms in the earlier frost happened in middle April (the recorded lowest temperature was 24.5°F at Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center). Lighter row covers (0.05-1.0 oz/sq) provided fewer degrees of protection and double layers can be more effective. When using row covers for frost protection, be sure to have good soil moisture, sometimes running water through the drip line may add heat in the system. Apply row covers in the early afternoon to attract more heat before temperature drops. Although row covers can be effective in protecting strawberry blossom from frost[Read More…]


Two types of injury on young warm-season vegetable plants are caused by low temperatures: frost/freezing injury and chilling injury. Frost/freezing injury occurs when temperatures drop below 32°F. Ice formation in plant tissues cut cell membranes. When the tissue thaws, the damage results in fluids leaking from the cell, causing water soaked damage. Frost/freezing injury is detrimental to warm-season vegetables, such as melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans. To avoid damage, the best way is to plant warm-season vegetables later in the spring, after the last frost has passed. However, weather is difficult to predict, and there is a growing trend of planting early to achieve early harvests. For the early planted warm-season vegetables, here are a few suggestions that may protect plants from low temperature damages. Covering. The idea of covering the seedlings is to create a microclimate around plants. Because the heat accumulated in soil irradiate back at night, covering[Read More…]


Figure 1. Cucumbers were grown in a greenhouse in April 2018

Cucumbers are extremely sensitive to cold. Locally grown cucumbers are almost only available in the summer. While in Asia, without the use of fancy heated greenhouses, cucumbers can grow all winter. Growing grafted cucumbers with cold tolerant squash rootstock is one of the key factors making this possible. Since 2016, we started to evaluate opportunities of using grafted plants to extend early season cucumber production under protected cultural systems in the Midwest. We observed promising results in our research trials. However, knowing research trials can only tell part of the story, we initiated multiple on-farm trials across Indiana to better understand if and under what circumstances growers would benefit from this technique. This article discusses the lessons we have learned so far and raises questions that need to be answered. Heated greenhouses A pronounced advantage of using grafted cucumbers was observed in the situations that cucumbers were grown in soils[Read More…]


Figure 1. A server case of leaf burn under high temperatures.

Strawberries are primarily grown in the mattered row system in Indiana, in which bare-root strawberry plants are set in the spring, fruit is first harvested in the second year and plantings are renovated each year for a few seasons. Growers in southern Indiana have expressed interest in growing strawberries in the annual plasticultural system. With this annual system, plants are set in the fall and harvested in the spring of the following year. Plantings are not normally carried over a second year. Although the annual plasticultural system is very popular in the southern states, its usage is limited in Indiana mainly because our short fall weather conditions pose a challenge for strawberry plants to develop enough branch crowns, which allows them to achieve the optimal yield in the following spring. In the past two years, we have been testing the annual strawberry production system with additional protection from high tunnels[Read More…]


Figure 3. A Japanese type cucumber grown in a high tunnel.

Cucumbers are produced with very different production systems. The ideal cucumber variety for process pickling production is not the variety used for greenhouse production. Choosing the suitable variety for a specific production system then becomes important. Where do you find recommended cucumber varieties for high tunnel production in seed catalogs? Some of the seed catalogs have a category called Greenhouse or Protected culture. Varieties listed in this category are recommend for greenhouse or high tunnel production. Other seeds catalogs may call this group Parthenocarpic hybrid or European slicer. Cucumbers listed under these names are also suitable for greenhouse or high tunnel production. A few technical words (parthenocarpic, monoecious, gynoecious) occur frequently in the descriptions of high tunnel-grown cucumbers. Understanding their meaning is important in choosing the right varieties. Parthenocarpic means that the plant can set fruit without pollination. Since pollinators are not required in this case, parthenocarpic is a desirable characteristic for cucumbers grown in protected[Read More…]


Consumers love cucumbers that are sweet, seedless and have thin skins. They are willing to pay high prices for the long or mini cucumbers sold at grocery stores. These cucumbers are often grown in greenhouses and shipped long distances. It will attract consumers’ attention if greenhouse type cucumbers can be produced locally in high tunnels, and be available in the early-season’s market. There are at least three benefits for targeting early-season cucumber production. First, prices are higher; second, there are less pest problems; and third, things are going slower in early seasons compared to in the summer. However, we all know that cucumbers love high temperatures and do not grow well when soil temperature is low, even in high tunnels. This is especially true for the greenhouse type cucumbers. The situation may be changed with the use of grafting technology. Using squash as rootstocks, we were able to harvest cucumbers[Read More…]


Strawberry production in Indiana primarily utilizes matted row systems, in which bare root strawberry plants are set in the spring, fruit is first harvested in the second year and plants are maintained for a few seasons. Strawberry production using an annual plasticultural system is popular in the southern states, at where strawberry is planted in the fall and harvested in the next spring. In the annual plasticultural system, strawberries have a longer harvest period and produce fruit with better quality. Growing strawberries as an annual crop is a challenge in Indiana. This is because our short fall makes it difficult for plants to reach the desirable sizes that lead to a sufficient yield in the following spring. This impression can be changed with the use of high tunnels that provide additional heat units and moderate frost protection. In a trial conducted in a 30 ×96 high tunnel at the Southwest[Read More…]


Figure 2. Multi-leaf lettuces grown in a high tunnel (photo credit: Liz Maynard)

Winter farmers markets are becoming more and more popular. Lettuce is a primary type of vegetables grown for the market. As we are finishing up summer crops, it is a good time to learn and refresh knowledge about lettuce. This article discusses some of the basics of growing lettuce in high tunnels, as well as the lessons we learned from a trial conducted at Southwest Purdue Ag Center in fall 2016. Lettuce Types Lettuce has multiple morphological forms major types include crisphead (iceberg), butterhead (bibb), romaine (cos), Batavian (summer crisp), and multi-leaf lettuce (salanova). The first decision about growing lettuce is whether to harvest full-size heads of lettuce, or to harvest ‘baby-leaf’ lettuce (Figure 1). These harvest methods require very different production practices. Full-size heads are harvested one time as a single head of leaves. Baby-leaf lettuce is first harvested when single leaves reach about 4 to 5 inches, and[Read More…]


Figure 3. Plant infected with bacterial wilt, transmitted by spotted and stripped cucumber beetles

In issue 619 of the Vegetable Crops Hotline newsletter I reported that during April 2016 research focusing on the development of a unique market segment for Indiana melon growers was initiated. The research aims to demonstrate that through the use of high tunnels or greenhouses growers will be able to market melons earlier and increase yield while keeping quality undeniably high. Initial research focused on variety evaluation in a soil and soilless production system in high tunnels and a greenhouse, where the plants were trellised vertically. In the long term, we aim to establish the best production practices for high tunnel and greenhouse growers in Indiana and we will do a complete life cycle analysis to determine the profitability of the proposed production systems. Well it sounds all easy to do, but in reality I have experienced several production related issues during the growing season. Let me present to you[Read More…]


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