Multimedia Training Resources on Sustainable Greenhouse Vegetable Production

Final Report for ES99-043

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1999: $39,887.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Mary Peet
North Carolina State University
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Project Information


The original project proposed development of two videos: organic fertilization and greenhouse IPM. The greenhouse IPM video has been completed, evaluated and 100 copies have been made and over half already distributed, mostly to NC extension agents and growers, but also to professional colleagues and cooperators in other states and countries. A greenhouse IPM videocassette was included in the 2002 annual report, and more can be made available on request for distribution by SR-SARE. Initial greenhouse IPM videocassette distribution was made to county offices in NC as well as individual contacts with agents and growers at meetings and conferences. The organic fertilization video has been filmed, scripted, and edited, and is in the production process. It has not yet been evaluated. A semi-final version is being mailed with the hard copies of the final report. Funds were obtained from campus SARE-PDP sources to film a third video on best management practices. This video has been filmed, time-coded, and is in the process of being converted to DVD for editing. A website has also been developed ( greenhouse_veg/). We expect to use segments of the greenhouse IPM and organic video footage on the website as well as posting both scripts. A distance education course, which includes material developed as part of this project, was developed and taught twice to a total of 30 students. As part of that course, students visited greenhouses in Canada and Arizona. It will be taught again in 2005, with a probable class visit to Florida.In addition an greenhouse image database which includes pictures of biocontrols and cultural practices has been created and mounted on a server.

Project Objectives:

1) Decrease the use of broad-spectrum and high-risk pesticides in greenhouses, with attendant environmental benefits. This will be accomplished by creating a high-quality 15-minute training video containing information about biological controls and reduced-risk pesticides. A greenhouse video also reinforces general IPM principles since the efficacy of biological control and some other IPM practices are easier to document in the greenhouse than in the field.
2) Decrease greenhouse use of high-analysis soluble chemical fertilizers and increase the use of composts and organic fertilizers, thereby reducing nutrient pollution of waterways and ground water. This will be accomplished by creating a high quality 15-minute training video on use of organic media and fertilizers. Making trainers more familiar with organic crop requirements will also help them with recommendations to field producers interested in fertilizing organically.
3) Increase the ability of trainers to prepare their own web, slide or print presentations on these subjects by creating a web-based digital image library on greenhouse vegetable production. The database will be searchable using keywords, such as fertilization, pest control, whiteflies, environmental controls, etc. so it can also be used as a teaching tool. Availability of this material should also increase the ability and willingness of extension personnel to make presentations on biological control and organic fertilization to all audiences.
4) Distribute and publicize the information developed. Evaluation will take place during the distribution phase, as described below.


Declining profitability of traditional crops and livestock threatens the economic sustainability of small farms and rural communities. This has increased interest in alternative enterprises, such as greenhouse tomatoes, which can be highly profitable on small acreages. By using sustainable practices, growers can access markets unavailable to field tomato growers or large greenhouses and may receive higher prices. However, greenhouse tomato production is a highly technical and specialized field. Most states do not have extension specialists with expertise in this area, so few extension resources (and no videos) are available on either sustainable or conventional greenhouse vegetable production. No information of any type is available on organic fertilizers for greenhouse production. This lack of information resources can be attributed both to the highly specialized and technical nature of production and to the fact that historically greenhouse vegetable production has only represented a small segment of the produce industry. This has changed dramatically, however, as greenhouse tomatoes have increased from less than 5% to 20-50% of U.S. consumption of fresh-market tomatoes (excluding the food service industry).
The goal of this project was to provide a much-needed training tool in an area where acreage and demand for information is increasing rapidly, but few information resources are available, especially on sustainable aspects. We have created videos that trainers can use with audiences varying both in their level of technical sophistication and in reading ability. Agents and NGO participants can use these materials at scheduled events, to answer individual requests and to develop their own materials. By having these resources, trainers are in a better position to help growers make the transition into more sustainable practices, such as the use of greenhouse IPM and organic fertilizers.

Education & Outreach Initiatives



1) Prepare one 15-minute training video to illustrate how IPM principles and biocontol practices are utilized in grower and research/demonstration greenhouses and another to explain the use of organic fertilizers in greenhouse tomato production.
For both videos, an initial cooperator meeting was held in Raleigh before script development. Out-of-state cooperators were included via conference call but did not travel to these meetings. Rick Snyder of Mississippi State did travel to NC to lecture on greenhouse tomato production and to tour the greenhouses where filming took place. He also received a copy of the video to evaluate. Agricultural Communications personnel (Ken Ellzey) from NCState served as technical advisor and Mike Gray provided the narration. A video prepared by NC A&T in 1992 and a sample NCState video were viewed as a basis for discussion by cooperators. Cooperators were asked about the information needs of their audience, how the sustainable aspects of the video can be emphasized, how much technical detail to include, useful images for the database, and the type of printed documentation to accompany the video. The group also discussed distribution, publicity and evaluation. After the initial meeting, the project coordinator (Keith Baldwin, now at NC A&T), P.I.s and video specialists met to prepare a preliminary script and storyline which was distributed to cooperators for comments before being finalized. After the final script editing, filming took place on campus and in grower greenhouses, mostly in Spring-Summer 2000.

Footage documenting crop operations throughout the growing season and biocontrol release and establishment were taken in the SR-IPM research/demonstration greenhouses as Raleigh-based facilities were easily accessible to the video production crew. As part of the SR-IPM project, we were testing a newly commercialized parasitoid for silverleaf whiteflies, Eretmocerus eremicus/californicus, which is yet not widely used in grower greenhouses. We were also using Encarsia formosa for greenhouse whitefly control, but this parasitoid is of questionable efficacy against the silverleaf whitefly.

In a pesticide-free greenhouse,it is necessary to distinguish between whitefly types in order to introduce the correct biocontrol. Identification of parasitized immatures is also critical to determine if biocontrol is successful so growers were shown the difference between immatures of different types of whiteflies parasitized by Eretmocerus and Encarsia formosa. Both healthy and parasitized pupae of the 3 whitefly species differ in appearance. As these identifications are difficult, growers were shown video images briefly, then referred to the website for further information. Some information was also provided in the video and script on how to run quality control tests on shipments received. This is necessary because the quality of shipped beneficials varies widely and growers need to document to their supplier non-viability of materials received. Such IPM practices as the use of reduced-risk pesticides, disinfectant pads and screening boxes to exclude whiteflies were also documented. We have added relatively inexpensive control computers as part of the SR-IPM project to monitor and control important aspects of the greenhouse environment, such as humidity, which affects disease development. These were shown and the role of prevention in disease management will be emphasized.

Footage for the biocontrol video was also taken at SunnySlope Greenhouses in Bear Creek, NC where Jim LeTendre has managed his soil-based operation pesticide-free for more than 20 years using soil solarization coupled with additions of native and purchased beneficials. The use of bumblebees for pollination was demonstrated in his houses as well as some cultural practices. Additional footage for the organic fertilizers video was taken at Thatchmore Greenhouses, where Tom Elmore produces a certified organic greenhouse tomato crop in the soil. Several trips to SunnySlope took place, as it is a relatively short distance from campus, but only one trip was made to Thatchmore, which is in Leicester, NC, a 5-6 hour trip one-way from Raleigh.

Footage on the use of organic media and fertilization in the bag system was taken in the research greenhouses. We documented media mixing (special soilless media blend with no added nutrient charge, coir, and compost), mixing and injection of soluble organic fertilizers into the drip irrigation lines, and normal production practices, such as transplanting, pruning, training, pollinating and harvest. Actual formulas developed as part of the SR-IPM project were included in the scripts. After assembling footage, voice-over narration and special effects, a first cut was sent to cooperators for comments before th
e final editing.

2) Increase the ability of trainers to advise by preparing scripts with in-depth information on the topics presented in the videos. The scripts were developed by the Project coordinator (Baldwin), but extensively edited by the P.I. (Peet) and Communication Services personnel (Formerly Ag Communications). Scripts covered the same material as in the videos, but print presentation allowed in-depth discussion and easier comprehension of technical material, such as insect names and fertilizer and substrate formulations. These scripts will also be made available on the greenhouse website (

3) Develop a digital image database
Slide images were scanned into a NCState Hort. Sci. Departmental computer until 2003, when the project acquired a digital camera. The initial intention was to make a FileMaker Pro database available on the NCSU server, using Lasso, and effort and staff time was devoted to utilizing FileMaker Pro. Ultimately, however, the decision was made to switch to a product specifically for digital asset management which offered easier cataloging. Also NCSU did not have a server where a filemaker database could be accessed and software to mount a database on our own server was expensive. We have been exploring University options for image databases since 1996, but none to date have been satisfactory.

Starting in 2001, the images were assembled into a database using Extensis Portfolio ( Extensis Portfolio included a free utility (PortWeb) to mount the image catalog on the web. This software could not be placed on the University server, so an older Apple computer about to go to Surplus was acquired and upgraded for the purpose of serving up the images. This has not been entirely satisfactory, because the free PortWeb utility requires extensive knowledge of HTML, and only runs on older server software. However, a programmer is working to make the catalogs searchable and add other features to make it more user-friendly. Several thousand thumbnail images, keywords and descriptions are already available, and for most of them a larger image is served up when the thumbnail is selected. Funding for this server and personnel to develop the web interface was been through various sources, including University Outreach grants to M. Peet and D. Bailey and through a grant from the Horticultural Science Endowment Fund to Bailey, Peet, and others.

4. Publicize and distribute the information resources
The greenhouse IPM video has been mastered and copied, and each project participant has received at least 1 copy (more if requested). Availability of the videos was announced in the horticulture agents listserv and copies sent to any agents requesting them. In addition, copies were distributed at grower meetings, NC Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Board meetings, District conferences, the SE Veg Expo and other meetings and conferences both in North Carolina and other locations in the Southern Region. Peet gave a talk and presented a poster on the project in 2001 at the American Society of Horticultural Science meeting in Sacramento, CA. At that time, attendees signed up for copies of the video, which have now been distributed.

Outreach and Publications

There is increasing interest in greenhouse vegetable production nationally, especially in the protocols developed for organic greenhouse tomato production, and at least three NC growers, a Canadian grower, and one from Washington State, are in the process of implementing these protocols based on the initial information we developed from the 1999 survey. Numerous manufacturers and researchers have also contacted us for our procedures. Evidence of the national interest this subject is that I have been an invited speaker on organic greenhouse and other subjects related to this proposal at the following national and international growers’ conferences: International Society for Horticultural Science, March 27, 2004, Workshop on Protected Cultivation in Mild Winter Climates, Orlando, Florida, attendance 200+; Canadian Greenhouse Conference, October 6, 1999, Guelph, Ontario, Canada and October 8, 2003, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and the Professional Pest Management Association of BC (Canada) and Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association Horticulture Growers' Short Course meetings Vancouver, BC for an additional 2 talks, Crop King Hydroponics Conference (2 talks each ), Orlando, FL, Nov. 12, 1999 and November 9-10, 2000; attendance 300+; Sustainable Agriculture Conference, High Point, NC, November 13, 1999 attendance (my session, one talk 40+); Western Vegetable Growers Conference, Asheville, NC, Feb, 2003, Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers Convention, Hershey, Pa., Jan. 25, 2000 and Jan. 29, 2002, Conference attendance 600+; Season Extension Class, AB Tech, Madison Campus, Dec. 6, 1999, 35+ in class; Veg Congress, Toledo, Ohio, February 8-9 2001 (2 talks), NE Vegetable and Berry Conference, Sturbridge, MA, Dec. 12, 2001, conference attendance 1200, and numerous other in-state presentations. Also presented invited lecture, Guangzhou Agricultural Institute, Guangdong Province, China, April 12, 2004. Showed videocassette in China, but color coding was wrong for non-US VHS players, so video appeared in black and white rather than color. Will send a DVD/CD version in the future.

I also taught a graduate-level class in 2001 and 2003 ( on greenhouse vegetable production to approximately 15 students each year, including agents. This class included extensive material on greenhouse IPM and organic production and included a trip to Ontario, Canada in 2001 and Tucson, AZ in 2003 for all class members to view state-of-the art biocontrol practices. Student evaluations were extremely positive. A trip report containing student comments is available at the HS734 website listed above.

In addition, greenhouse IPM and other greenhouse images have been entered into a database on a web server in my office. This database is still in development, but allows agents and other to preview several thousand images as thumbnails or small files. They can either download the small files or request larger images from me. A description and keywords are also included. A search feature is being developed and image size is being standardized. Currently this can be accessed at:, but we are working on a homepage link which will offer a choice of image databases from the server which will have a shorter name ( The server is somewhat unstable, because we are using an older machine and software, but we also hope to be able to upgrade these aspects of the image database.

Outcomes and impacts:

A total of 32 evaluations have been received to date and summarized. Responders included extension agents, students, regional agronomists, faculty, a grower, and a technician. All evaluations received to date indicate that this is a valuable resource in the area of greenhouse IPM. All applicable reviewers also said they would use this material in their extension programming. It was rated highest on ‘containing information that growers can put to use’ (4.9/5), being interesting (4.8/5) and informational content (4.7/5). Comments included: ‘Short + Sweet, to the point, great information’; and ‘a welcome initiative in the field of greenhouse disease management’. The only negative point raised by evaluators is that the video did not cover or give equal time to chemical pest management alternatives. However, information on Agricultural chemicals is already available in NC Ag. Chemicals Manual, which is distributed both in a print form and on the web. A summary of answers to specific questions is attached. An Excel spreadsheet showing all comments to all questions is also attached.

Additional information on biocontrol and organic fertilization has been posted on the greenhouse vegetable production website developed for this project:, and is periodically updated. A number of evaluators requested an accompanying handout, so we propose to post the greenhouse IPM and organic scripts on the greenhouse website.

The organic fertilization video has been filmed, scripted, and edited, and the soundtrack added. This project was held up because of some of the differences between the proposed greenhouse rules for the National Organic Standards and what had previously been required by the individual certifying agencies. In 1999 we surveyed all the organic certifying groups we could locate, obtained copies of their standards, and extracted the parts relevant to greenhouse standards. These groups included CCOF, FOG, FVO, GOA, MOFGA, NHDAMF, NOFA (New York and Massachusetts), RIOCC, VOF, and CFSA in the US as well as several groups in Canada. This information, and other research data on organic greenhouse production we developed under a grant from OFRF were shared with ATTRA, which developed a bulletin on Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production in 2000. Research from the OFRF are posted online both on the OFRF and on our greenhouse website.

Enhancement funds were obtained in 2001 from campus SARE-PDP sources to film a third video on best management practices. This video has been filmed, time-coded but not scripted or edited. It is currently being converted to DVD for easier editing and we may distribute on DVD or CD instead of videocassette to reduce mailing costs. The organization of the cultural practices video is somewhat different from the two previous videos. Instead of demonstrating practices in our greenhouses, we paid a well-known greenhouse consultant to visit several NC greenhouse growers. He discussed their practices, including biocontrol, and made recommendations based on what he saw and heard. This consultant is well-known nationally, and has been a popular speaker at our North Carolina Greenhouse Vegetable Growers’ meetings. By putting his name on the videos, and including some state-of-the art material, we hoped to interest established growers, as well as new growers in viewing the video series. An additional Canadian consultant visited NC in 2004 and we may also add footage from his visit

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

see also outcomes and impacts:
The original project proposed development of two videos: organic fertilization and greenhouse IPM. (See 1999-2002 reports for descriptions of cooperator inputs, filming and script development for these videos). The greenhouse IPM video was extensively edited, but is now completed and evaluated. Peet gave a presentation on this project at the ASHS meeting July 2001 in Sacramento, CA. The report was well received and most attendees signed a list to receive an evaluation copy of the video. These copies have been sent, along with an evaluation form. We have distributed approximately half of the 100+ copies produced.


Potential Contributions

see outcomes and impacts

Future Recommendations

A TV-videocassette recorder has been acquired to take to future grower meetings to aid display and publicity of the video.

A new Extensis upgrade and a $200 Net Publish utility are coming out in May, and we hope to be able to purchase a copy and upgrade the current server to a more modern operating system. This should also make database maintenance easier. The greenhouse image database can be accessed from the greenhouse website ( We plan on more extensive publicity on the image database once images are being served up reliably and a better user interface is in place.

In summary, making these videos has been a catalyst for many activities related to IPM and organic greenhouse production. The video production itself has been slower than anticipated because of cutbacks in staffing and reorganization in the Ag Communication Dept. (now Communication Services). However, we are promised final editing on the second video, and will probably finish the final video (cultural practices) using Final Cut Pro software once we get a digitized version of the footage edited to date from Communication Services.

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.