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.

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