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  • Author or Editor: Suzanne O’Connell x
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There is a lack of information related to adapting high tunnel systems to humid, subtropical climates in the Southeastern United States, resulting in a disadvantage for their use to extend growing seasons and meet the increasing demand for local horticulture products. This research project explored the possibility of growing organic broccoli and cauliflower (Brassica oleracea L.) under high tunnels during two consecutive fall/winter seasons in northeast Georgia (USDA plant hardiness zone 8a), particularly evaluating questions related to crop feasibility, planting dates and cultivar choices. Marketable yields for high tunnel broccoli ranged from ≈11,800 to 15,800 kg·ha−1 and were not consistently affected by either planting date or cultivar type. Broccoli required an additional 8–45 days to reach maturity compared with seed catalog estimates with harvesting occurring during mid-December to mid-January. Marketable yields for high tunnel cauliflower ranged from ≈8600 to 26,000 kg·ha−1 and were affected primarily by the cultivar type. Cauliflower required an additional 19–56 days to mature with harvesting occurring during the entire month of January. The first season was cooler than the second with the lowest growing degree days (GDD) units accumulated during the months of January and February. Differences in air temperature at the crop canopy between the high tunnel system and open field were largely related to high tunnel ventilation protocols that changed as the season progressed. An average heat gain of 7 to 8 °C under the high tunnels at crop canopy height was documented on the coldest days and an average of 1 °C gain on the warmest days compared with the open field. Overall, winter broccoli appeared more adaptable to high tunnels than cauliflower but production of both crops may be possible if planting dates and cultivar types are taken into account for the region.

Open Access

Organic and heirloom tomatoes are high-value products with growing demand but there are many challenges to successful cultivation. A systems comparison study was carried out to evaluate the production of the popular heirloom tomato ‘Cherokee Purple’ (Solanum lycopersicum L.) under high tunnel and open field systems in North Carolina from 2007 to 2008. Management of the high tunnel (i.e., temperature and irrigation), weather events as well as pest and disease pressure influenced crop quality and yield. The high tunnel and field systems achieved similar total yields (100 t·ha−1) the first season but yields were 33% greater in the high tunnel system than the field system in the second year (100 t·ha−1 and 67 t·ha−1, respectively). Both years, the tomatoes were planted in high tunnels 1 month earlier and harvested 3 weeks earlier than the field. The accumulation of ≈1100 growing degree-days (GDD) was required in both systems before 50% of the fruit was harvested. Fruit cracking, cat-facing, blossom-end rot, and insect damage were the major categories of defects in both systems. Incidence of both Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) and Gray Leaf Spot (GLS) were lower in the high tunnel compared with the field in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Results of this study suggest that with proper management techniques, high tunnels can optimize yields, increase fruit quality, and provide season extension opportunities for high-value horticultural crops.

Free access

High tunnels may help mitigate unfavorable climate and weather on lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) production leading to greater yields and quality, yet information for using these systems in the Southeast region is lacking. This study evaluated the effect of high tunnels and three planting dates (PDs) (early March, late-March, and mid-April) on spring organic lettuce production. A 25% to 36% increase in marketable fresh weight for butterhead and romaine lettuce, respectively, was observed under high tunnels compared with the field in 2016, but there was no difference among the two growing systems in 2015. High tunnel lettuce was harvested ≈2 to 7 days earlier than in the field in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Pest and disease pressure (e.g., Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) as well as the incidence of physiological disorders (i.e., bolting, tip burn, and undersized heads) were similar between the two systems indicating that our high tunnel system did not provide a benefit for these issues. High tunnel air temperatures were ≈3 to 5 °C greater on the coldest mornings and only 1 °C greater on the warmest days compared with the field. Average relative humidity (RH), leaf wetness, and light levels were all lower under the high tunnels. Our results indicate that high tunnels can help increase the production of spring organic lettuce in Georgia, but that the advantage may depend on yearly weather conditions.

Open Access