Monday, April 23, 2012

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes April 23, 2012

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes 04-23-2012

Summary: Tomatoes in northern and southern Indiana are doing well. Discussion topics included tomato varieties and advice on tunnel suppliers, structures, and construction. Additional resources are listed at the end of the posting.

Join us again on May 7, 2012, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30-12:30 Central. Point your web browser to and click on the phone icon to be dialed in to the call, or dial 1-866-492-6283.

In southern Indiana, tomatoes in greenhouse and hoophouse look good. Butterflies/moths were observed in greenhouse last two weeks so an organic Bt product was used which controlled them well. One problem this year has been the ground cover. In past years black plastic mulch in the row and straw between the rows worked well. This year no black plastic in rows was used because weather was so warm it seemed unlikely there would be a benefit. However, the absence of plastic has really slowed the crop down. He has tried black weed control fabric in the past and it worked ok, but no longer uses it because it is necessary to clean and sanitize it at the end of the season.

In northern Indiana tomatoes planted in a small high tunnel (15X50) in the beginning of March are knee-high with buds, and are doing well. A second crop plant the end of March in a 30X72 tunnel also looks good. The tomatoes in both tunnels are covered with a row cover when it gets cold (40s, 30s, or 20s). Peppers were also planted at the end of March, even though it may be a little cold for them. This operation grows a number of tomato varieties; they are still experimenting to see what will work best. Most are indeterminate. Examples include: Big Beef, Cherokee Purple, Fourth of July (an early variety, did well last year with tomatoes harvested in June). Also cherry tomatoes: Sweet 100, Sweet Million, a black cherry, and Sungold.

In east central Indiana an organic farm is in the process of tunnel construction and plans to have 12,000 sq. ft. under cover by the end of the summer.

In Wanatah, the frame for the first movable tunnel at Pinney-Purdue has been erected and can be rolled along the rails.

Questions/Discussion: Determinate vs Indeterminate Tomatoes
What’s better? Some say determinates won’t do well inside, will get pithy, and won’t taste good. One participants’ experience with Mt. Spring bore this out: the plant got large and tomatoes were not good eating quality. He uses mostly indeterminates now. However, he has seen determinates in a stake and weave system in Haygrove tunnels, managed using tractors like one would in a field situation. What experiences do people have in Indiana? Is anyone using determinate varieties in tunnels with stake and weave? How do they do?

A northern Indiana grower reports that he used BHN 589 last year, with stake and weave. Plants did well and tomatoes tasted good.

Some other varieties that have been observed in Indiana tunnels or in greenhouses using in-ground culture with stake and weave or cages for support include: Mountain Fresh, Celebrity, Florida 91, BHN varieties. Plants usually get bigger than outdoors Less nitrogen is needed inside. It is not uncommon for plants to get so big that the stake and weave or cage doesn’t adequately support them. For some images of various tomatoes and support systems in high tunnels, see

The high tunnel listserv from KSU has had discussions on this topic (see link to listserv in Resources section). Some varieties mentioned on that list include: Polbig, Florida 91, and BHN 589.

Questions/Discussion: Construction: Where to Get Tunnels, What Size, Mistakes to Avoid, etc.
The high tunnels web site has a list of sources for structures:

One individual purchased a 30X72 tunnel from R&M Produce Suppliers in Goshen. 

It’s important to make the tunnel strong enough to support snow, any crop supports (e.g. tomato strings) you might attach to the tunnel, and also to anchor it well against wind.

It’s important to think about how to get the heat out of the tunnel. Wider hoophouses are more difficult to cool with a passive system. In S. Indiana a 30-ft. wide structure with 4-ft. sidewalls, 4-ft. roof vent, and top 4 ft. of end walls dropped down still gets too hot for tomatoes in the summer. 30% shade cloth is used to reduce heat. Past experience showed that 50% or 60% shade cloth was too much shade for tomatoes.
In northern Indiana a grower is looking into applying a ‘whitewash’ to the hoophouse for shade in the summer.
In both northern and southern Indiana yellow shoulder on tomato has been a problem when temperatures are high in the tunnel.

It’s common for people to buy kits and put the structure together themselves.

The high tunnels listserv has also had discussions on structures. The discussion can be found by searching the listserv archive.

Please contribute to this discussion. Share your questions, experiences, and ideas by posting comments.

High Tunnel Listserv

Pesticide Use in Greenhouse and High Tunnels from the Midwest Vegetable Production Guide 2012 (ID-56). Includes tables of insecticides and fungicides labeled for greenhouse use on vegetables.

The March 20, 2008 Hoophouses and High Tunnels program includes a nice presentation by Adam Montri about structures and building a hoophouse. You can download a pdf of the powerpoint, and watch the recorded presentation.

Thanks to Roy Ballard for the following resources. Included are publications with enterprise budgets, and tomato and bramble production guidelines. They will be available in the file share pod of the HTCT Adobe Connect meeting room for a while.

Horticultural Crop Production in High Tunnels in the United States: A Snapshot. T. Carey et al. 2009. HortTech 19:37-43.
High Tunnel Raspberries and Blackberries. C. Heidenreich et al. 2008. Cornell University.
Iowa Vegetable Budgets. C. Chase. 2006. A1-17.
High Tunnel Yields. L. Jett. W. Virginia University.
Model Business Plan for Season Extension with Hoophouses. D. Conner. 2010. Michigan State University.
High Tunnel Tomato Production. L. Jett. 2004. Univ. of Missouri.
In-Ground Greenhouse Tomato Production. A. Carver. 2008(?). Univ. of Tennessee.
Should Production in High Tunnels Be Part of Your Specialty Crop Enterprise? HC Wien et al. 2009. Smart Marketing Newsletter. Cornell University.

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes, April 9, 2012

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes: April 9, 2012
Report: Tony Bailey provided information regarding the NRCS EQIP program for high tunnels. This is a program designed to help offset the cost of a high tunnel for producers. Currently there are already forty-seven contracts confirmed for the program (in Indiana) for a total of $300,000. At this point, all the funds allocated for this year have been claimed. There are still some funding opportunities available for those interested in switching to organic or who already grow crops organically. There is a small chance funds will be shifted from other states that did not utilize their entire allotment and thus NRCS is still taking applications.
Report: A producer in southern IN shared information on his tomatoes. He indicated that two varieties that perform well for him are ‘Trust’ and ‘Match’ in a greenhouse and high tunnel setting. He is also growing two other varieties (‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Better Boy’) in tunnels and the field. Some of the issues he has dealt with in past seasons included heat build-up in the summer and disease issues. With the excess heat in the summer time, production falls off and since he continues to maintain the crop it allows little time for him to establish a cover crop in the tunnels to build up organic matter. Some of the pathogens he deals with most seasons in tomatoes are sclerotinia and grey mold. He has noticed this season with the early warm weather that insects such as caterpillars/worms and weeds have become a problem earlier than normal.
Report: Shubin Saha and Scott Monroe. There was discussion regarding tomato symptoms seen in various locations in southwestern Indiana. Scott Monroe had images from high tunnel tomato operations which showed tomato plants exhibiting leaf curling. Based on the images, it seems that the cause is most likely related to physiological tomato curling. ( , images Shubin had from the current research underway at SWPAC were of tomatoes that exhibited some leaf curling and distortion. ( and . The symptoms of these plants appeared different than what was shared by Scott. These symptoms were more similar to damage associated with growth regulator herbicide exposure. 
Join us again on April 23, 2012, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30-12:30 Central. Point your web browser to and click on the phone icon to be dialed in to the call, or dial 1-866-492-6283.

Monday, April 02, 2012

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes April 2, 2012

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes April 2, 2012

We had a High Tunnel Crop Talk this week since it had been advertised, but normally plan to talk every other week.  Join us again on April 9, 2012, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Eastern/11:30-12:30 Central. Point your web browser to and click on the phone icon to be dialed in to the call, or dial 1-866-492-6283. Tony Bailey from NRCS will join us to talk about the EQIP program for high tunnel grants in Indiana.

Reports: In southern Indiana tomatoes transplanted into tunnels around the first of March were about a foot high last week. If weather turns wet, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some Sclerotinia (also known as white mold or timber rot) turn up. (Scott Monroe) (see issues 435 and 463 of the Vegetable Crops Hotline (VCH) for an image and description)

Another problem often seen on tomatoes around this time of year is curling leaves. Sometimes this is observed when there is too much moisture. In other cases a heater that is improperly vented or exhausted releases enough ethylene into the air to cause tomato leaves to bend down or curl. Other pollutants from heaters can cause speckling of leaves and/or scorching of leaf margins. (See VCH issues 487 and 474 for image of epinasty on fall-grown greenhouse tomatoes and information on heaters in greenhouses.)

In Wanatah, rails for the first movable tunnel at Pinney-Purdue have been installed They are on packed gravel that was placed in a trench approximately 7 in. deep x 8 in. wide. Each 3-ft. ground post at the end of the rail has a short piece of horizontal rebar through holes drilled about 10 in. from the bottom end of the post The rebar will help to anchor the post into the concrete poured in the hole around the post. (Liz Maynard)

Suggestions for future topics: General information about high tunnels and their uses, supplying plant nutrients during the growing season.