Monday, May 07, 2012

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes 05-07-12

High Tunnel Crop Talk Notes 05-07-2012

Summary: Discussion of bramble, especially raspberry, production in high tunnels. Tomatoes and strawberries are being harvested from tunnels in S. Ohio.
Raspberries in high tunnel.
Raspberries in high tunnel, photo courtesy J. Miller.
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N. Central Illinois: Growers Supply 30x96 ClearSpan tunnel was erected with USDA grant funds in Spring 2011. Planted ‘Josephine’ red raspberries. Plants are supported with steel T posts and a double wire. Two hundred plants (2, 100-ft. rows about 7 ft. apart) produced 356 pints between Aug. 30 and Nov. 10 last year, the first harvest. Berry quality was excellent, much better than is found in grocery store. Berries could also be harvested both spring (June – mid-July) and fall.
They have had u-pick raspberries in the field for many years. Their existing U-pick market will not support a price high enough to cover extra costs of tunnel production. They have not tried a pre-pick market.
Maintenance of the tunnel, including putting on and taking off the cover, is too labor-intensive. In a normal year, the cover would need to be put on by April 1 to avoid frost/freeze injury. In the future would choose a different brand of tunnel, perhaps a single-bay tunnel from Haygrove.
‘Sandra Rose’ cherries were also planted in Spring 2011 the same tunnel as the raspberries. The trees came in as whips and were trained to the UFO system. They do not take as much area per plant as the raspberries. They produce well but it doesn’t seem like it is possible to get a decent price. The blooms this spring were killed by the freeze. (They were not covered.) He is also experimenting with primocane fruiting black raspberries in the tunnel.
More photos:
Pint of raspberries harvested from high tunnel.
Raspberry harvested from a high tunnel.

S. Central Indiana: New tunnel grant recipient is interested in growing greens, fruit, and berries.

S. Ohio: Harvest of earliest tunnel tomatoes began about 4 weeks ago from plants that were put in a tunnel with ground heat in January, and then benefited from the sunny weather since. ‘Normally’ tomatoes are planted in tunnels the last week of February. Harvest of tunnel strawberries began about 3 weeks ago. In the field, some sweet corn and cabbage that got frozen will be replanted. Excess rains last week (over 5 inches). High temperatures last week were pushing strawberries to get overripe.

N. Indiana: Report of caterpillar inside stem of pepper plant in a high tunnel, probably stalk borer. The tunnel had housed a cover crop over the winter, and tillage had not completely killed the cover crop along edge of the tunnel. It is possible that stalk borer eggs overwintered on the cover crop. See for image and description of stalk borer life cycle. Stalk borers are known to attack tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetable crops at times.

What are economics of raspberries or other brambles in tunnels?

It may be hard to get enough income from a single crop to justify the cost of a permanent high tunnel. The brambles will be taking up space in the tunnel the entire year, but producing for only a short period. A better option may be to use a temporary tunnel, like the ‘caterpillar’ tunnels, to cover a few rows in a field production system. They are interested in looking at this at the Purdue Meigs research farm near Lafayette. – B. Bordelon

In any system, finding the right niche market is probably going to be very important.

Strawberries in the field on plastic mulch:
In Central Indiana and S. Ohio, have been picking field strawberries in a plasticulture system for about three weeks. In Ohio they have gone to producing their own starts for field planting on plastic in late summer/fall. In N. Ohio they plant at the end of August or Early September; in S. Ohio they need to get them in the ground by Sept. 20. In the tunnel they can plant later.

Has anyone used SARE Farmer/Rancher grants to do research on tunnels?

In Ohio Extension has worked with growers on two grants, one on lavender and one on raspberries. Grants awarded and reports are posted on the SARE website; it is possible to search by keyword.  – B. Bergefurd.

To search just Farmer/Rancher grants, in the drop-down menu for ‘project type’ choose ‘Farmer/Rancher Project’. I used an ‘OR’ search and typed ‘tunnel’ and ‘hoophouse’ into the search string box. One hundred results showed up.
Here is one example that was funded in the Northeast Region of SARE: Using High Tunnels to Produce Blackberries Organically in West Virginia.
You can find the final report here:

For more info on SARE Farmer/Rancher grants (usually due in December) see:

What are people growing in tunnels besides tomatoes?

A partial list: Cucumbers, peppers, green beans, cut flowers, raspberries, blackberries, greens.

Thanks to Bruce Bordelon for Lewis Jett’s ‘Growing Strawberries in High Tunnels’. The pdf will be available for download in the ‘file share’ pod of the HTCT Adobe Connect meeting room for a while.  or

Notes by L. Maynard. Please get in touch with corrections or additions, or just post a comment.

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