Texas is one of the largest vegetable producers and consumers in the United States, ranking seventh in production value ($283 million) in 2017 [USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), 2019]. Commercial vegetable production areas in Texas are concentrated in the lower Rio Grande Valley and counties in South Texas, which comprise 19,152 ha (50.1%) of the state’s total harvested area of 38,229 ha (USDA NASS, 2019). Commercial vegetable production can be found in other regions of the state, such as the High Plains, but at a much smaller scale. For instance, in 2017, the total production area of select high-value vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, in the Texas High Plains was less than 300 ha (USDA NASS, 2019). However, because of the irrigated production of corn, wheat, and cotton, the High Plains comprise the largest agricultural production region in the state, with 5.4 million ha (57.2%) of the state’s total harvested area (USDA NASS, 2019).
The Texas High Plains has a windy, semi-arid environment; as a result, ET rates are very high. Therefore, irrigation is necessary to maximize crop yields and quality (Colaizzi et al., 2009; Evett et al., 2020). Approximately 67.7% of the state’s 1.6 million ha of irrigated land is located in the High Plains area, which shows the importance of irrigation for crop production in the region (Turner et al., 2011). The principal source of irrigation in the Texas High Plains is groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer. Because extraction from the aquifer is exceeding recharge, the water table is dropping and pumping capacity has precipitously decreased in recent years (Furnans et al., 2017). As a result, the sustainability of traditional cropping systems in the Texas High Plains, as currently practiced, is at risk, and the same situation exists for production regions in other states that depend on the Ogallala Aquifer as a source of irrigation (Bruun et al., 2017; Evett et al., 2020; Furnans et al., 2017; Scanlon et al., 2012). Therefore, regional producers are in search of means to increase revenue while using less groundwater or at least the same amount of water, and this has renewed interest in vegetable production among regional producers. Consumer trends have also raised regional growers’ interests in vegetable production. Recent surveys revealed that consumers want nutritious and locally grown fresh market vegetables more than ever (Feldmann and Hamm, 2015; Yue and Tong, 2009), thereby allowing opportunities for local farmers. The concept of producing high-value vegetables is an alternative idea that could meet the growing demand for locally grown produce and optimize water use in the region. As such, how to optimize water use for growing high-value vegetables is a key research question.
Local farmers may be hesitant to adopt a new cropping system for many reasons. First, minimal research has been conducted to provide the information needed by local producers to change or diversify their crop selection. Research should provide reliable facts about vegetable production in the region to help growers make informed decisions. Second, each year in the springtime, consistent high winds up to 26.8 m·s−1 and hail threaten healthy growth of crops. These weather extremes impose severe production risks for all crops, but especially for high-value crops such as vegetables. Third, in addition to abiotic stress, there is always the threat of disease and insects, and these biological hazards to vegetables have not been adequately investigated in this region.
To protect crops from these abiotic and biotic threats, HT production systems have been suggested to ensure sustainable and stable cultivation of high-value crops in the region (Lee et al., 2018; Miles et al., 2012; Wallace et al., 2012). High tunnels, also called hoop houses, are defined as protective structures with a plastic cover that do not have active control of the internal growing environment, although one can passively control the microenvironment using management practices (e.g., heating and cooling via manual ventilation) (Lamont, 2005; Wien, 2009). This unique feature differentiates the protective environment of HTs from the controlled environment of greenhouses. Due to lower construction and operation costs than greenhouses and wide adaptability to various regions, many producers in different regions in the United States and worldwide use HTs to produce high-value crops such as leafy fruits and vegetables (Galinato and Miles, 2013), small berries (Demchak, 2009), and even fruit trees like sweet cherry (Lamont, 2009). Among these wide selections of crops, examples of the most popular and profitable crops grown in HT production systems are tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, and melons (Lamont, 2009). In the United States, with financial support from the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the total acreage of HT production of these crops is expected to grow. The benefits of HTs for growing high-value crops include, but are not limited to, season extension (Galinato and Miles, 2013), protection from inclement weather and pathogens (Powell et al., 2014), and increased yields and quality of crops (O’Connell et al., 2012). Using HTs to produce high-value vegetables could be a potential solution to the environmental challenges that growers face in the Texas High Plains. In particular, protection from high, dry, and hot winds during the growing season could result in significant improvements not only in yields and fruit quality but also in WUE of cropping systems.
The objective of this study was to compare yields, fruit quality, crop water use, and crop WUE of a jalapeno pepper and tomatoes (both high-value vegetables) grown in HT production systems vs. OF production systems.
Allen, R.G., Pereira, L.S., Raes, D. & Smith, M. 1998 Crop evapotranspiration (guidelines for computing crop water requirements). FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 56. FAO, Rome
Bruce, A.B., Maynard, E.T. & Farmer, J.R. 2019 Farmers’ perspectives on challenges and opportunities associated with using high tunnels for specialty crops HortTechnology 29 1 10
Bruun, B., Jackson, K. & Lake, P. 2017 2017 state water plan: Water for Texas. Texas Water Dept. Board, Austin, TX
Colaizzi, P.D., Gowda, P.H., Marek, T.H. & Porter, D.O. 2009 Irrigation in the Texas High Plains: A brief history and potential reductions in demand Irrig. Drain. 58 257 274
Colaizzi, P.D., O’Shaughnessy, S.A., Evett, S.R. & Mounce, R.B. 2017 Crop evapotranspiration calculation using infrared thermometers aboard center pivots Agr. Water Mgt. 187 173 189
Dintenfass, L.P., Bartell, D.P. & Scott, M.A. 1987 Predicting resurgence of western flower thrips (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) on onions after insecticide application in the Texas High Plains J. Econ. Entomol. 80 502 506
Doederlein, T.A. & Sites, R.W. 1993 Host plant preferences of Frankliniella occidentalis and Thrips tabaci (Thysanoptera: Thripidae) for onions and associated weeds on the Southern High Plains J. Econ. Entomol. 86 1706 1713
Evett, S.R., Colaizzi, P.D., Lamm, F.R., O’Shaughnessy, S.A., Heeren, D.M., Trout, T.J., Kranz, W.L. & Lin, X. 2020 Past, present, and future of irrigation on the U.S. Great Plains Trans. of the ASABE 63 3 1 10
Evett, S.R., Heng, L.K., Moutonnet, P. & Nguyen, M.L. 2008 Field estimation of soil water content: A practical guide to methods, instrumentation and sensor technology. In: IAEA-TCS-30. Intl. Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, Austria
Evett, S.R., Schwartz, R.C., Howell, T.A., Louis Baumhardt, R. & Copeland, K.S. 2012 Can weighing lysimeter ET represent surrounding field ET well enough to test flux station measurements of daily and sub-daily ET? Adv. Water Resour. 50 79 90
Furnans, J., Keester, M., Colvin, D., Bauer, J., Barber, J., Gin, G., Water, L., Danielson, V., Erickson, L., Ryan, R., Khorzad, K., Worsley, A. & Snyder, G. 2017 Final report: Identification of the vulnerability of the major and minor aquifers of Texas to subsidence with regard to groundwater pumping. Texas Water Dept. Board, Austin, TX
Galinato, S.P. & Miles, C.A. 2013 Economic profitability of growing lettuce and tomato in western Washington under high tunnel and open-field production systems HortTechnology 23 453 461
Gleason, M.L. & Edmunds, B.A. 2005 Tomato diseases and disorders. Iowa State University, University Extension
Heckler, S. 2017 Quantifying how high tunnels create a microclimate for improved crop growth. Univ. of Nevada, Reno, MS Thesis
Kottek, M., Grieser, J., Beck, C., Rudolf, B. & Rubel, F. 2009 World map of the koppen-geiger climate classification updated Meteorologische Zeischrift 15 259 263
Lee, J.H., Jayaprakasha, G.K., Rush, C.M., Crosby, K.M. & Patil, B.S. 2018 Production system influences volatile biomarkers in tomato Metabolomics 14 7 99
Li, T., Heuvelink, E., Dueck, T.A., Janse, J., Gort, G. & Marcelis, L.F.M. 2014 Enhancement of crop photosynthesis by diffuse light: Quantifying the contributing factors Ann. Bot. 114 145 156
Ma, Z., Behling, S. & Ford, E.D. 2014 The contribution of dynamic changes in photosynthesis to shade tolerance of two conifer species Tree Physiol. 34 730 743
Masarirambi, M.T., Mhazo, N., Oseni, T.O. & Shongwe, V.D. 2009 Common physiological disorders of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) fruit found in Swaziland J. Agr. Social Sci. 5 123 127
Miles, C., Wallace, R., Wszelaki, A., Martin, J., Cowan, J., Walters, T. & Inglis, D. 2012 Deterioration of potentially biodegradable alternatives to black plastic mulch in three tomato production regions HortScience 47 1270 1277
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) 2019 Sunshine average percent of possible. NCEI, Asheville, NC. 2 Oct. 2019. <https://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ccd-data/pctposrank.txt>
O’Connell, S., Rivard, C., Peet, M.M., Harlow, C. & Louws, F. 2012 High tunnel and field production of organic heirloom tomatoes: Yield, fruit quality, disease, and microclimate HortScience 47 1283 1290
O’Shaughnessy, S.A., Evett, S.R., Colaizzi, P.D., O’Shaughnessy, S.A., Evett, S.R. & Colaizzi, P.D. 2015 Dynamic prescription maps for site-specific variable rate irrigation of cotton Agr. Water Mgt. 159 123 138
Ogden, A.B. & van Iersel, M.W. 2009 Southern highbush blueberry production in high tunnels: Temperatures, development, yield, and fruit quality during the establishment years HortScience 44 1850 1856
Perry, K.B., Sanders, D.C., Granberry, D.M., Garrett, T., Decoteau, D.R., Nagata, R.T., Dufault, R.J., Batal, K.D. & Mclaurin, W.J. 1993 Heat units, solar radiation and daylength as pepper harvest predictors Agr. Forest Meteorol. 65 197 205
Powell, M., Gundersen, B., Cowan, J., Miles, C.A. & Inglis, D.A. 2014 The effect of open-ended high tunnels in western Washington on late blight and physiological leaf roll among five tomato cultivars Plant Dis. 98 1639 1647
R Core Team 2016 A language and environment for statistical computing. R Core Team, Vienna, Austria. 10 Mar. 2020. <https://www.r-project.org/>
Scanlon, B.R., Faunt, C.C., Longuevergne, L., Reedy, R.C., Alley, W.M., Mcguire, V.L. & Mcmahon, P.B. 2012 Groundwater depletion and sustainability of irrigation in the US High Plains and Central Valley Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 109 9320 9325
Turner, C.G., AcAfee, K., Pandey, S. & Sunley, A. 2011 Irrigation metering and water use estimates: A comparative analysis, 1999-2007. Texas Water Dept. Board, Austin, TX
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) 2019 USDA FoodData Central. USDA ARS, Beltsville, MA. 16 Oct. 2019. <https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/>
USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) 2012 USDA plant hardiness zone map. USDA ARS, Beltsville, MA. 12 Mar. 2020 <https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/>
USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) 2019 USDA-NASS Quick Stats. NASS, Washington, DC. 16 Oct. 2019. <https://www.nass.usda.gov/Quick_Stats/index.php>
Wallace, R.W., Wszelaki, A.L., Miles, C.A., Cowan, J.S., Martin, J., Roozen, J., Gundersen, B. & Inglis, D.A. 2012 Lettuce yield and quality when grown in high tunnel and open-field production systems under three diverse climates HortTechnology 22 659 668
Yue, C. & Tong, C. 2009 Organic or local? investigating consumer preference for fresh produce using a choice experiment with real economic incentives HortScience 44 366 371
Zhao, X. & Carey, E.E. 2009 Summer production of lettuce, and microclimate in high tunnel and open field plots in Kansas HortTechnology 19 113 119