Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Plants, Soils, and Climate
The growing season for vegetable crops is limited by freezing temperatures in arid high elevation climates such as northern Utah. Logan, Utah (41.73 N, 111.83 W, 1382 m elevation) has a short, variable growing season with an average frost-free period of 135 days. Extending the growing season provides growers with an opportunity to extend revenue into a normally unproductive period and benefit from out-of-season price premiums. High tunnels have been used to effectively extend the growing season for numerous crops by providing cold temperature protection. However, limited high tunnel research has been performed in arid high elevation regions that experience extreme temperature fluctuations. The use of high tunnels was investigated in North Logan, Utah to extend the growing season for tomatoes and lettuce. In 2009 and 2010, supplemental heating under low tunnels within high tunnels was investigated to provide early season cold temperature protection for tomatoes. Sunbrite tomatoes were transplanted into four high tunnels over three planting dates. Tomatoes were subjected to supplemental heating treatments including soil warming cables alone or in conjunction with 40-watt incandescent lights for air heating. The highest early season and overall yield was achieved with the 17 Mar. planting date. Early season yield was significantly less for the latest planting date (7 Apr.) compared to the 17 Mar. and 30 Mar. planting dates. Early season yield was significantly greater for treatment plots with soil plus air heating, and soil heating alone significantly improved total yield. The use of a vertical structure within a high tunnel was investigated to improve productivity for lettuce. Parris Island Cos lettuce was consecutively transplanted from spring 2008 to spring 2010 in a high tunnel at the same site. The vertical growing system allowed for 31 plants*m-2 in south oriented gutters, and 45 plants*m-2 in east/west oriented gutters compared to 25 plants*m-2 in the ground including space for maintenance. Root zone temperatures in the gutters fluctuated widely in response to air temperatures, and super-optimal soil temperatures impeded growth. Productivity (g*m-2) in the gutters was only significantly greater than productivity in the ground soil during the spring and fall months when soil and air temperatures were not frequently below 0 °C or above 24 °C. This thesis includes both research results and extension factsheets intended for growers interested in high tunnel production of tomato and lettuce.
Hunter, Britney L., "Enhancing Out-of-Season Production of Tomatoes and Lettuce Using High Tunnels" (2010). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 811.
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