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- Author or Editor: Dillon Feuz x
High tunnels have been used successfully in many areas of the world to extend the growing season for numerous crops. However, very little research has been conducted to evaluate the season extension benefits offered by high tunnels for small fruit crops in high-elevation growing areas such as the Intermountain West region of the United States. The use of high tunnels was investigated in North Logan, UT (lat. 41.766 N, elev. 1405 m, 119 freeze-free days) to extend the growing season for June-bearing strawberries. Growing systems included a fall-planted annual hill system and vertical growing systems in two different orientations. Optimum planting date for each system was determined by transplanting ‘Chandler’ plugs at 2-week intervals over 10 weeks. For the second year of the study, a field planting was also included. Over two seasons, the optimum planting dates were approximately the first week of September. The vertical systems were more susceptible to winter injury likely resulting from the temperature extremes in the root zone. Where winter injury was prevented, the vertical systems had higher yields per tunnel area than the in-ground system, but yield increases did not compensate for higher construction and management costs. The production window for the in-ground high tunnel planting was ≈4 weeks earlier than the field-grown plants and increased profitability by $13/m2 of tunnel area.
Small-scale fruit and vegetable growers increasingly use high tunnels to expand production windows and exploit demand for local produce. Day-neutral cultivars, high tunnels, low tunnels, and targeted heating were investigated in North Logan, UT (lat. 41.766° N, 1405 m elevation, 119 freeze-free days) to extend the availability of local strawberries. Day-neutral cultivars Albion, Evie 2, Seascape, and Tribute were spring-planted in an annual hill system both inside and outside of high tunnels. Within the high tunnels, low tunnels and targeted root zone heating were tested in replicated plots. During the summer months, plastic was removed from the high tunnels and replaced with shadecloth. Treatments were evaluated for yields, fruit size, and production season. Fruit production in the tunnels began in late May and continued sporadically until December. Combinations of high and low tunnels provided more hours of optimal growing conditions than high tunnels alone, but managing the combination to maintain optimum temperatures proved difficult with temperatures often exceeding the optimum for strawberry. Targeted root zone heating efficiently increased root and canopy temperatures, preventing flower bud damage during extreme cold events, but did not significantly improve total season yields. Of the cultivars tested, ‘Evie 2’ and ‘Seascape’ had the most consistent yields and acceptable fruit size. Economic analysis indicated that growing spring-planted day-neutral strawberries in high tunnels was marginally profitable, whereas field production at this location would be a money-losing enterprise.
Three cold-climate strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) production systems, conventional matted row (CMR), advanced matted row (AMR), and cold-climate plasticulture (CCP), were compared for horticultural and economic aspects of sustainability over a 3-year planting cycle. The systems were tested using a single cultivar, Allstar, to avoid treatment × cultivar interaction. System-specific management operations and materials affected the total production costs of each system. Both CMR and AMR had higher management costs than CCP as a result of labor costs for weed control, but CCP had much higher cost of materials. Overall expenses were lowest for CMR and highest for AMR. Yields in the first fruiting year were highest for CMR at 17.4 Mg·ha−1 followed by AMR and CCP at 13.2 Mg·ha−1 and 11.8 Mg·ha−1, respectively. In the 2004 harvest season, CMR and AMR were the highest yielding at 10.0 Mg·ha−1 and 9.0 Mg·ha−1, respectively, with CCP the lowest yielding at 6.0 Mg·ha−1. Low yield and fruit size in the second year and high material costs for establishment limit the economic viability for CCP when managed as a perennial system.