Low and high tunnels and root-zone heating systems are proven tools in horticultural production. However, impacts of their separate and combined application on crop yield, composition, and microclimates are underreported. We addressed these gaps in the literature by exposing lettuce (Lactuca sativa) to four microclimates established with low and high tunnels and root-zone heating during the spring and fall of 2 years in Wooster, OH. Red-leaved romaine lettuce cultivars Outredgeous and Flagship were direct-seeded into raised beds in both outdoor and high-tunnel settings in early October and late March and harvested multiple times over 4 weeks. Half of all plots in each setting were underlain by electric heating cables, and half were covered with 0.8-mil, clear, vented, low tunnels. A growing medium consisting of peat moss, compost, soil, and red clover (Trifolium pratense) hay was used, and all plots were overhead-irrigated. Soil and air temperatures were monitored throughout the experiments, which were repeated four times (2 seasons/year × 2 years). Here, we report primarily on treatment effects on crop yield and related variables. Root- and shoot-zone conditions and cultivar significantly affected leaf biomass in both settings (outdoor, high tunnel), while population was more often affected in the outdoor experiments. Microclimate main effects were more prevalent than cultivar effects or interactions. Leaf yield was greater in low-tunnel-covered and bottom-heated plots than in uncovered and unheated plots. We take these data as further evidence of the potential to alter lettuce yield through root- and shoot-zone microclimate modification, particularly in regions prone to dynamic seasonal and within-season temperature and light conditions. The data also suggest that the relative performance of low and high tunnels in the production of short-statured, quick-cycling crops during fall and spring be more thoroughly evaluated.
Low and high tunnels and root-zone heating systems are proven tools in horticultural production. However, impacts of their individual and combined application on crop yield, composition, and microclimates are under-reported. We set out to enhance the record of management strategy effects on abiotic environmental conditions and cropping variables in open field and high-tunnel settings. In each setting, raised bed plots were subsurface heated (underlain by electric heating cables), aerial covered (0.8-mil, clear, vented, low tunnels), subsurface heated and aerial covered, or unheated and uncovered (control). The study was repeated four times in spring and fall seasons across 3 years in Wooster, OH. Red-leaved romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa ‘Outredgeous’ and ‘Flagship’) was direct seeded in all plots in early October and late March and harvested after ≈4 weeks. Subsurface and aerial temperatures were monitored throughout the experiments. Here, we report primarily on treatment effects on crop microclimate conditions, including temperature and light, and related cropping variables. Subsurface and aerial temperatures varied consistently with plot microenvironment management. Relative to control plots, variability in shoot- and root-zone temperatures generally increased and decreased, respectively, with the addition of low tunnels and electric heating cables, regardless of setting. Still, the relative influence of aerial and soil temperature on crop biomass appeared to differ by setting; aerial temperature correlated most strongly with yield in the high tunnel, while the combination of aerial and root-zone temperature correlated most strongly with yield in the field. Growing degree day accumulation was least in control plots. And, the highest thermal energy to plant biomass conversion efficiency was recorded in the high tunnel. Comparing study-wide and historical climatic data collected in Wooster and other locations in the region suggests that results reported here may hold over a larger area and longer time frame in Wooster, OH.