High Tunnel and Field System Comparison for Spring Organic Lettuce Production in Georgia

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $11,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Georgia
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Suzanne O'Connell
University of Georgia
HortScience Journal article: Abstract: High tunnels may help mitigate unfavorable climate and weather on lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) production leading to greater yields and quality, yet information for using these systems in the Southeast region is lacking. This study evaluated the effect of high tunnels and three planting dates (PDs) (early March, late-March, and mid-April) on spring organic lettuce production. A 25% to 36% increase in marketable fresh weight for butterhead and romaine lettuce, respectively, was observed under high tunnels compared with the field in 2016, but there was no difference among the two growing systems in 2015. High tunnel lettuce was harvested ’2 to 7 days earlier than in the field in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Pest and disease pressure (e.g., Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) as well as the incidence of physiological disorders (i.e., bolting, tip burn, and undersized heads) were similar between the two systems indicating that our high tunnel system did not provide a benefit for these issues. High tunnel air temperatures were ’3 to 5 8C greater on the coldest mornings and only 1 8C greater on the warmest days compared with the field. Average relative humidity (RH), leaf wetness, and light levels were all lower under the high tunnels. Our results indicate that high tunnels can help increase the production of spring organic lettuce in Georgia, but that the advantage may depend on yearly weather conditions.
Peer-reviewed Journal Article
Theekshana C. Jayalath, Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia
George E. Boyhan, Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia
Elizabeth L. Little, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Georgia
Robert I. Tate, Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia
Suzanne O’Connell, Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.