The Texas High Plains has a semi-arid, hot, windy climate that features high evapotranspiration (ET) demands for crop production. Irrigation is essential for vegetable production in the region, but it is constrained by depleting groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer. High-tunnel (HT) production systems may reduce irrigation water demand and protect crops from severe weather events (e.g., hail, high wind, freezing) common to the region. The objective of this study was to compare yields, fruit quality, crop water use, and crop water use efficiency (WUE) of jalapeno pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) and tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.) in HT and open field (OF) production systems. We hypothesized that the protection from dry and high winds by HT would improve yields and quality of fruits and reduce water use of peppers and tomatoes. During the 2018 and 2019 growing seasons, peppers and tomatoes were transplanted on two HT plots and two identical OF plots. Plastic mulch was used in combination with a surface drip irrigation system. Micrometeorological variables (incoming solar irradiance, air temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed) and soil physical variables (soil temperature and volumetric soil water) were measured. Air temperatures were significantly higher during the daytime, and wind speed and light intensity were significantly lower in HT compared with OF. Despite the lower light intensity, yields were greater in HT compared with OF. The fruits grown in HT did not show significant differences in chemical quality attributes, such as ascorbic acid and lycopene contents, compared with those grown in OF. Because of protection from dry, high winds, plants in HT required less total water over the growing seasons compared with OF, resulting in increased WUE. The 2018 and 2019 data showed that HT production is advantageous as compared to conventional OF production in terms of increased WUE and severe weather risk mitigation for high-value vegetable production in the Texas High Plains.
We aimed to develop a more accurate transpiration model for cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) plants to optimize irrigation and nutrient usage in soilless greenhouse cultivation. Accurate modeling of transpiration in greenhouse-grown cucumbers is crucial for effective cultivation practices. Existing models have limitations that hinder their applicability. Therefore, this research focused on refining the modeling approach to address these limitations. To achieve this, a comprehensive methodology was employed. The actual transpiration rates of three cucumber plants were measured using a load cell, enabling crop fresh weight changes to be calculated. The transpiration model was developed by making specific corrections to the formula derived from the Penman-Monteith equation. In addition, the study investigated the relationship between transpiration rate and solar radiation (Rad) and vapor pressure deficit (VPD), identifying a nonlinear association between these variables. The transpiration model was adjusted to account for these nonlinear relationships and compensate for Rad and VPD. Comparative analysis between the actual and estimated transpiration rates demonstrated that the developed cucumber transpiration model reduced overestimation by 23.69%. Furthermore, the model exhibited higher coefficients of determination and root mean square error (RMSE) values than existing models, suggesting its superior accuracy in predicting transpiration rates. Implementing the transpiration model-based irrigation method demonstrated the potential for ∼21% nutrient savings compared with conventional irrigation practices. This finding highlights the practical applications of the developed model—accounting for a nonlinearity of Rad and VPD—in optimizing irrigation practices for greenhouse cucumber cultivation.