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  • Author or Editor: William J. Lamont Jr. x
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High tunnels have been used for many years worldwide, but in the United States, the utilization of high tunnel technology for the production of horticultural crops is a relatively recent phenomenon. Single and multibay high tunnels are used throughout the world to extend the production season. One big advantage of high tunnels in the temperate and tropical regions of the world is the exclusion of rain, thus reducing the amount of disease pressure and crop loss while improving crop quality and shelf life. In temperate regions of the world, high tunnels are used to increase temperatures for crop production in spring, fall, and sometimes winter seasons. The use of high tunnels in their many forms continues to increase worldwide, and many different kinds of vegetables, small fruit, tree fruit, and flowers are being cultivated. One impediment in determining high tunnel usage worldwide is the failure of many authors and agricultural census takers to distinguish between high tunnels and plastic-covered greenhouses. In many instances, they are presented together under the heading “protected cultivation.”

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Abstract

Field studies were conducted in 1984 and 1985 to document the effects of plastic mulches and row covers on soil and air temperatures and yield of muskmelons (Cucumis melo L.) in North Carolina. Treatments included bare ground, black plastic, and clear plastic, each with and without a slitted clear plastic row cover. In addition, both trickle and overhead sprinkler irrigation were evaluated. Soil temperatures were increased by plastic mulches, with clear polyethylene resulting in the highest soil temperatures. Air temperatures were increased by row covers. In 1984, total and early yields were increased over bare ground plots with the use of either clear or black polyethylene mulches. Row covers did not influence yields. In 1985, a warmer year than 1984, no total yield increases resulted from use of either row covers or mulches; however, row covers and clear plastic mulch increased early yield. Trickle irrigation used less water than did overhead irrigation, but did not increase yields.

Open Access

Mulches usable in organic production were evaluated in high tunnels for their ability to suppress weeds. Mulch treatments were shredded newspaper, sheets of newspaper, straw, and a no-mulch control that was weeded once. Four cucumber (Cucumis sativus) cultivars were also evaluated. Yields were highest and fruit largest from ‘Sweet Marketmore’ and lowest from ‘Lemon’. Yields were unaffected by mulch treatments. Weed populations were highest in control plots and lowest in those with shredded newspaper. Cultivars did not affect weed populations. Sheets of newspaper degraded the most, followed by shredded newspaper and straw. Yields were not influenced by any mulch treatment, indicating weed populations remained below yield-depressing levels regardless of treatment.

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Four cover crops {alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. `Kansas Common'), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), Austrian winter pea [Pisum sativum subsp. arvense (L.) Poir], and winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L. `Tam 107')}, alone and in combination with feedlot beef manure at 5 t·ha–1 were evaluated for 2 years to determine whether sufficient N could be supplied solely by winter cover cropping and manure application to produce high-quality muskmelons (Cucumis melo L. `Magnum 45') in an intensive production system using plastic mulch and drip irrigation. Among the legumes, hairy vetch produced the most biomass (8.9 t·ha–1) and accumulated the most N (247 kg·ha–1). Winter wheat produced more biomass (9.8 t·ha–1) than any of the legumes but accumulated the least N (87 kg·ha–1). Melon yields produced using legume cover crops alone were similar to those receiving synthetic N fertilizer at 70 or 100 kg·ha–1. Melons produced on plots with cover crops combined with beef manure did not differ significantly in yield from those produced on plots with only cover crops. Legume cover crops alone, used with plastic mulch and drip irrigation, provided sufficient N for the production of high-quality muskmelons.

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