High tunnel production is economically critical to Northeastern vegetable growers, and tunnel production area is increasing rapidly. Our project provides a comprehensive approach to help growers manage tunnel ecosystems through a multi-faceted education program, supported by research on significant production challenges: management of soil fertility and arthropod pests.
Our goal is to help growers improve their crop production by adopting the following practices: 1) monitor pest populations and soil fertility in high tunnels; 2) accurately identify pests, disorders and nutrient deficiencies; and 3) follow revised soil nutrient and pest management strategies. This will lead to tunnel crops that are better managed to produce high yields of quality crops while reducing production costs and negative environmental impacts.
The educational component addresses tunnel production issues broadly. Growers tell us they learn and adopt new practices more readily by hearing from fellow growers. Therefore we will facilitate exchange among growers by establishing communication networks and involving growers in training and educational events. The education portion of this project complements our research activities, and incorporates research results as they become available, but is not dependent on the results.
A rapid increase in high tunnel production throughout the Northeast has created a new group of growers needing information and opportunities to network with other producers (700 tunnels have been installed in ME, NH and VT in the last four years through NRCS programs alone [Brandon Smith, personal communication]). In addition, high tunnels are already an economically significant production environment in the region (>33% of producers reported that >20% of their annual revenue came from high tunnels, from M. Skinner survey).
Over- and under-fertilization is common in tunnels, and both situations reduce marketable yields, crop quality, and revenues. Recent surveys indicate that 30-50% of growers do not use soil testing to monitor nutrient levels in tunnels (4, 12, Appendix 1). When soil tests are conducted, a significant portion of tunnels have either extremely high or low soil nutrient status (7, 9). UNH tunnel soil tests over the past 4 years revealed that 50% had Low or Very Low potassium levels, >75% had Excessive phosphorus levels, and >25% had salinity levels high enough to negatively affect sensitive crops (Sideman, unpublished). These extremes are undesirable – excessive nutrient applications negatively affect plant growth and have harmful environmental impacts. Under-application reduces yield and can negatively affect fruit quality. For example, several disorders associated with low potassium (yellow shoulder, internal white tissue, uneven ripening) are common in Northern New England tunnel tomato production (22). There has been limited research to develop/validate soil testing methods and provide fertility recommendations for tunnel crops. Current techniques to measure and interpret soil nutrient levels are adapted from field production, or from greenhouse systems using water-soluble fertilizers, neither of which accurately reflect tunnel conditions.
Arthropod pests (mites, thrips, aphids, whiteflies) significantly reduce tunnel crop yield, quality and revenues. They reproduce quickly and thrive in the absence of natural enemies. The key to managing pests without pesticides is early intervention, yet growers commonly don’t scout crops or correctly identify their pests or natural enemies. Habitat plants offer low-cost and environmentally-friendly options to provide a sustained source of beneficials to manage pests, but research on their efficacy in high tunnels is lacking. Testing in research and on-farm settings is needed to determine their suitability and cost-effectiveness. There are other barriers to improved pest management in tunnels, including growers’ limited skills with pest identification, and choosing the right biocontrol option.
We propose to address these challenges with an integrated research and education program that encourages a whole-system crop production strategy.
Our holistic approach will provide a broad array of educational opportunities on high tunnel production while conducting research and on-farm demonstration activities focused on two significant issues: soil fertility and arthropod pests. Our goal is to help growers improve their crop production by adopting the following practices: 1) monitor pest populations and soil fertility in high tunnels; 2) accurately identify pests, disorders and nutrient deficiencies; and 3) follow revised soil nutrient and pest management strategies. This will lead to tunnel crops that are better managed to produce high yields of quality crops while reducing production costs and negative environmental impacts.
The educational component addresses tunnel production issues broadly, focusing on grower-identified needs. Our research and educational work will be informed through input from our very knowledgeable grower advisory group, which includes following experienced high tunnel tomato growers from ME, VT and NH: Jack Manix, Dummerston VT, Mary Skovsted, St. Johnsbury VT, Pooh Sprague, Plainfield NH, Tasha Dunning, New London NH, Andrew Mefford, Cornville ME, and Brendan McQuillen, New Castle ME.
Objectives: Our educational approach will include two grower conferences that address tunnel production practices, including nutrient and pest management. Six growers will cooperate in participatory on-farm research/demonstration programs, working with the project team to develop, assess, and demonstrate customized biocontrol and nutrient management plans for their production systems. Tunnel production topics will be presented at workshops and twilight meetings, and through published and electronic approaches. With input from our grower advisory group, we will develop grower-friendly resources, e.g. videos, webinars and factsheets demonstrating IPM techniques, a website on tunnel tomato production and our research results, and new ways for growers to network and exchange information.
Our two main research objectives for tunnel tomato production are: 1) identify soil test critical levels for nitrogen (N) and potassium (K), and calibrate common soil tests under tunnel conditions to determine appropriate methods for predicting nutrient availability; and 2) demonstrate the efficacy of habitat plants to increase biodiversity and reduce pest problems. Trials will be conducted in University-managed production-scale high tunnels in NH and ME, which will also serve as educational workshop locations.
Performance Target: Over 150 growers (covering >15 acres) will improve soil fertility and pest management in high tunnel tomatoes, resulting in 75 producers increasing their annual crop revenues by an average of $1000 per farm, and 75 producers reducing pesticide use by at least one application per year.
Our Research Hypotheses:
- The optimum soil test levels of potassium and nitrogen are higher for tunnel-grown tomato than previously determined for field-grown tomato.
- The Saturated Media Extract (SME) test, alone or in conjunction with standard field soil tests, will improve prediction of nutrient availability for high tunnel tomato.
- Including habitat plants within a high tunnel tomato ecosystem will increase the presence of beneficial insects compared with one without them.
Original Materials & Methods:
Tomatoes will be grown using standard practices for the region. Plants will be spaced 18” apart, trained to single leaders and grown on black plastic mulch with drip irrigation, using tensiometers to guide watering decisions. Each site will use a split-plot design where each plot will include two indeterminate tomato cultivars, representing a productive greenhouse hybrid (e.g. ‘Geronimo’) and a cultivar susceptible to leaf mold and yellow shoulders (e.g. ‘Big Beef’).
Habitat plants will be grown in 15”-diameter plastic pots to the flowering stage prior to tomato transplanting. Each pot will include lobularia, ornamental pepper, green bean and marigold. After placement in the tunnel, natural enemies will be released: Orius insidiosus, Aphidius colemani and Aphidoletes aphidymiza. Habitat plants will be placed at the front and back of each crop row, and at two intervals within the row. They will be watered and fertilized to maintain vigor and deadheaded to stimulate flowering. New habitat plants will be started should original ones decline, cease flowering or die. They will be removed if a pesticide treatment is made. Recommended cultural practices (weed in/around tunnels, removal of infested plant residues, etc.) will be followed.
Habitat Plants: Both tunnels at the sites testing habitat plants will be divided into 4 sections with 1 yellow sticky card/section. Crop and habitat plants and sticky cards will be sampled every 2 wks to determine pest and natural enemy populations according to group (e.g., aphids, parasites, predators, thrips, whiteflies, etc.) and evidence of parasitism and hyperparasitism. Foliar damage on the crop and habitat plants will also be assessed.
Soil Fertility: Soil samples will be taken from each plot twice: before adding amendments, and just after final harvest. Each sample will be assessed using Mehlich-3, Modified Morgan and SME tests. We will measure whole leaf nutrient status and petiole sap nitrogen and potassium twice (mid-bloom first and fifth cluster). Marketable and total fruit yield data will be collected weekly; fruit size and any defects/disorders (cracking, uneven ripening, internal white tissue, yellow shoulder, etc.) will be assessed at each harvest.
IPM Research. The high tunnel survey revealed aphids as one of the top insect pests that plague high tunnel growers with few reaping the benefits that habitat plants offer to support aphid natural enemies.
Guidelines for the integration of plant-mediated IPM systems into high tunnel production were developed and tested across 2 states, over two years (ME & NH). Habitat plant systems containing borage, alyssum, bean, marigold and dill were installed at 4 locations (1 ME, 3 NH) to determine if including these systems in high tunnel production increased the presence of naturally-occurring aphid natural enemies.
Scouting protocols for summer high tunnel crops (tomatoes, peppers) and habitat plant systems were developed to detect aphids and their natural enemies. Routine scouting was performed bi-weekly throughout both years. All project personnel participated in an intensive one-day training program was conducted in June 2016, attended by 15 University personnel and grower collaborators. It focused on the identification of aphids and other high tunnel pests and their associated natural enemies (wild and released), the development of comprehensive scouting programs and IPM programs tailored to specific cropping systems within high tunnels.
Results from monitoring experiments conducted in years 1 and 2 showed that over 2,000 individual natural enemies were observed on habitat plant systems. Overall, the average percentage of common natural enemies visiting these systems were as follows: 18% syrphid fly adults, 34% parasitic wasps and mummies (parasitized aphids), 3% lady beetles (various life stages), 3% predatory fly maggots (syrphids and others), 22% Orius adults and nymphs (predatory bug) and 4% lacewings (various life stages). When the number of all natural enemies observed was combined, more were found on borage (52%) than alyssum (30%), dill (13%) or marigold. Common pests observed on habitat plants included aphids, thrips, spider mites and flea beetles.
Soil Fertility Research. Prior to the start of this project, preliminary work had been conducted in three sites (Durham NH, Monmouth ME and North Haverhill NH). This preliminary work was partially supported by SARE graduate student grant GNE14-077, and by a grant from the Maine Agricultural Center.
Building on that preliminary work, in years 1 and 2 we conducted an additional set of experiments in all three sites to establish potassium needs for high tunnel tomato, using six levels of potassium ranging from 0-900 lbs/acre, at a single moderate rate of nitrogen; with four replicates in each site.
There were minor modifications to the experimental protocol, to increase the likelihood of obtaining meaningful results. A single cultivar, ‘Big Beef’, was used for all experiments. Tomatoes were grown using standard practices for the region. Soil samples were taken from each plot at three times: before adding amendments, at first harvest, and just after final harvest, and soil analysis (SME and Modified Morgan) is still underway for these samples. Whole leaves were collected twice (mid-bloom first and fifth cluster) for nutrient status evaluation (currently underway). Marketable and total fruit yield data were collected weekly; fruit size and any defects/disorders (cracking, uneven ripening, internal white tissue, yellow shoulder, etc.) were also assessed at each harvest.
Results from the experiments conducted in years 1 and 2 suggest new information regarding potassium fertility in high tunnels. Based on very large decreases in soil K levels at even the highest K application rates, tomato may be a luxury consumer of potassium. It also appears that there was, as we hypothesized, a strong relationship between K application rate, soil K levels, and marketable yields, as well as the disorder yellow shoulder.
Additional unexpected findings of interest include the following:
- During winter months, high tunnel soil became strongly stratified in terms of soluble salt levels. In two test sites, there was a 10-fold difference in soluble salts between measurements from the top inch of soil vs. a sample 2-3 inches deep. This has implications in terms of soil sampling strategies as well as mixing prior to seed germination.
- We learned that sources of potassium sulfate varied widely in particle size, and this, in turn affects solubility and release rate. In our potassium studies, we inadvertently used a formulation with very large particles (several mm diameter), and we found that some large particles were still intact 2 years after application. These would not be available for plant uptake despite being measured by soil tests. This has implications for predicting nutrient release rates as well as for crop availability.
Data from years 1 and 2 were used to refine experimental plans for year 3. In year 3, we sought to compare crop response to dissolved vs. granular potassium sulfate at different rates, applied pre-plant or in split applications. Results from these experiments are currently being analyzed, and will be summarized in project final reports and outreach products for growers.
Soil testing. In our roles affiliated with state soil testing labs, we continue to conduct high tunnel soil tests and issue local recommendations for high tunnel soils. The UMaine Analytical Lab performed 358 high tunnel soil tests in 2016, 380 in 2017 and 444 in 2018. The UNH Soil Testing Service issued recommendations for 68 high tunnel soil tests in 2016, 138 in 2017, and 91 in 2018. These provide good baseline data, as well as an indication that growers are already recognizing the value of high tunnel soil testing as a nutrient management tool.
Our educational approach will include two grower conferences that address tunnel production practices, including nutrient and pest management. Six growers will cooperate in participatory on-farm research/demonstration programs, working with the project team to develop, assess, and demonstrate customized biocontrol and nutrient management plans for their production systems. Tunnel production topics will be presented at workshops and twilight meetings, and through published and electronic approaches. With input from our grower advisory group, we will develop grower-friendly resources, e.g. videos, webinars and factsheets demonstrating IPM techniques, a website on tunnel tomato production and our research results, and new ways for growers to network and exchange information.
600 growers receive a survey about their current high tunnel fertilization and pest management practices and challenges; 100 return it. Results are used to develop conference programs.
In Spring 2016, in collaboration with our Grower Advisory Committee, we designed a high tunnel survey with the goals of 1) establishing baseline data on pest and nutrient management practices in Northern New England high tunnels, and 2) identifying grower priorities for educational resources. This survey was disseminated throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont to over 1000 vegetable, berry, and greenhouse/ornamental producers. Of 110 survey respondents, 95 reported growing crops in high tunnels. The survey covered 311 tunnels, covering an estimated 15.7 acres, throughout Northern New England. Results of the survey were summarized in Summer/Fall 2016. The draft report is attached. SurveyResults1
6 growers serve as on-farm research/demonstration cooperators, working with project staff to develop and implement individualized production plans to address their specific pest/nutrient management challenges. All will agree to take part in pre- and post-production evaluations, complete a crop record form annually and serve as regional demonstration sites.
The project team solicited input from interested participants at the High Tunnel Conference in Fall 2016. In Winter 2017, we screened participants and selected 6 cooperators (2 each in ME, VT and NH). Throughout the 2017 and 2018 growing seasons, we visited our grower cooperators, identified specific needs, and designed individual on-farm research/demonstration programs to address those needs. Specific objectives included included nutrient management, irrigation management, biological controls, and habitat plant systems for insect pest management.
Results are described under “Success Stories” below.
6 growers who serve as farmer-cooperators adopt one or more new production practices learned through this project in their tunnels.
Over 30 visits to 10 vegetable farms with high tunnels were made by research and Extension personnel focused on IPM. Visits consisted of one-on-one consultations with growers and their staff on scouting for and the identification of pests and natural enemies, cultural practices to help reduce pest outbreaks and plant mediated IPM systems. Growers were advised about IPM options and received assistance with incorporation of plant-mediated IPM systems such as habitat plants into their production.
- 90% of the locations use habitat plantings to attract natural enemies into their tunnels. Alyssum, followed by marigolds were the most common habitat plant types incorporated into their production.
- 20% of locations use customized spreadsheets to plan for biocontrol releases based on previous year’s scouting information.
Over 18 visits to 6 vegetable farms with high tunnels were made by research and Extension personnel focused on crop and fertility management. Visits consisted of one-on-one consultations with growers and their staff on tomato crop and fertility management. Soil and tissue samples were collected at some of these sites for the purpose of understanding baseline conditions in typical well-managed high tunnels, and in other sites, growers were advised about fertility and crop management strategies and options.
150 growers attend 2016 Tunnel Tomato Conference, and learn about IPM, soil management, and general crop production practices.
This conference took place on 14 December 2016. Because of room limitations, we had to limit the number of participants. 112 participants from NH, ME, VT, MA, CT and NY attended. The conference brochure is attached, as are the results from our conference evaluation.
200 growers attend educational events in ME, VT and NH (demonstrations, workshops, twilight meetings, webinars, etc.) and learn about soil testing, biocontrol and other tunnel production subjects.
The following educational events were held as a part of this project. The total number of participants in Year 1 throughout ME, VT and NH were 460 growers and 87 agricultural professionals, and 25 master gardeners. In the mid-Atlantic region, another 275 growers participated in three of these events. In Year 2, at least 603 growers, 31 agricultural professionals, and 19 students participated in project activities. In Year 3, at least 352 growers and 71 agricultural professionals and students participated in project activities.
In Chronological Order; Years1-3:
Sullivan, C. & L. King. Jan. 2016. Habitat Plants for IPM in Vegetable High Tunnels and Greenhouse Ornamentals. How to make Habitat Plants work for you. Greenhouse IPM Workshop, Manchester, ME. (45 growers)
Sullivan, C. & L. King. Jan. 2016. Habitat Plants for IPM in Vegetable High Tunnels and Greenhouse Ornamentals. How to make Habitat Plants work for you. Greenhouse IPM Workshop, Durham, NH. (40 growers)
Sullivan, C. & L. King. Jan. 2016. Habitat Plants for IPM in Vegetable High Tunnels and Greenhouse Ornamentals. How to make Habitat Plants work for you. Greenhouse IPM Workshop Burlington, VT. (40 growers)
Eaton and B. Sideman. Feb 3, 2015. Managing Soil Fertility in High Tunnel Tomato Production. Certified Crop Advisors’ Workshop, Portsmouth NH (75 agricultural professionals)
Skinner, M., C. F. Sullivan, E. Sanchez, K. Ayers, M. Hutton & J. Lilley. Feb 2-4, 2016. Using Biocontrols for Insect Pests in High Tunnels. Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Con., Hershey, PA. (100 growers)
Skinner, M. & K. Demchak. Feb 3, 2016. Thrips Galore, and we don’t want more! Discussion of a Raspberry Pest. Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Con., Hershey, PA. (100 growers)
Skinner, M., C. F. Sullivan, E. Sanchez, K. Ayers, M. Hutton & J. Lilley. Feb 2, 2016. Common Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Con., Hershey, PA. (75 growers).
Hutton, M. Mar 15, 2016. High tunnel tomato nutrient management research, Maine Vegetable School. Portland, ME (85 growers).
Hutton, M. Mar 16, 2016. High tunnel tomato nutrient management research. Maine Vegetable School. Bangor, ME (75 growers).
Hoskins, B. Mar 16, 2016. Soil Fertility Mgt in High Tunnels for NRCS New Farmer Series in Union ME. (30 growers).
Sullivan, C. & M. Skinner. Mar. 24, 2016. Promoting the Establishment of Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. (5 growers, 5 agricultural professionals).
Sideman, E. May 24, 2016. Section within Apprentice Short Course on high tunnel pests and diseases. (25 growers)
Sullivan, C. Frank & M. Skinner. Jun 17, 2016. Sampling & Id of Aphids & Their Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. SARE High Tunnel Collaborator Training Session. Univ. of VT, Burlington, VT. (12 agricultural professionals)
Hutton, M. July 12, 2016. High Tunnel Nutrient Management Research. Twilight Meeting, Highmoor Farm, Monmouth ME. (35 growers)
Sideman, E. July 14, 2016. High Tunnel Q&A at Twilight Meeting. Black Kettle Farm, Lyman ME. (15 growers)
Hoskins, B. Aug 16, 2016. Soil Fertility Mgt in High Tunnels. Training webinar for Maryland NRCS on August 16, 2016. It was carried live to an unknown number of attendees.
Bryant, H., B. Sideman and E. Sideman. Aug 29, 2016. High Tunnel Q&A at Vegetable Growers’ Twilight Meeting. Pork Hill Farm, Ossipee, NH. (19 growers)
Hutton, M. Sept 21, 2016. High Tunnel Nutrient Management Research. Twilight Meeting, Highmoor Farm, Monmouth ME. (40 growers)
Sideman, B. Sept 22, 2016. High tunnel production systems and habitat plants for biocontrol. Tour and presentation to Master Gardeners, Woodman Farm, Durham NH. (25 master gardeners)
Sideman, E. Nov 6, 2016. Presentation at MOFGA’s Farmer to Farmer Conference: Fundamentals of Tomato Growing, Especially in High Tunnels. Northport, ME. (25 growers)
Sideman, B. and M. Hutton. December 2017. The finer points of high tunnel tomato production. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference. Manchester, NH. (105 Growers, 7 Agricultural Service Providers)
Hoskins, B. December 2017. Finessing Fertility for Fabulous Fruit. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference. Manchester, NH. (105 Growers, 7 Agricultural Service Providers)
Hazelrigg, A. December 2017. Managing tomato diseases in high tunnels. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference. Manchester, NH. (105 Growers, 7 Agricultural Service Providers)
Sideman, E. December 2015. Managing other diseases in high tunnels. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference. Manchester, NH. (105 Growers, 7 Agricultural Service Providers)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. December 2017. High Tunnel Tomato Pests & Their Natural Enemies. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference. Manchester, NH. (105 Growers, 7 Agricultural Service Providers)
Skinner, M., C.F. Sullivan & B.L. Parker. December 2016. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Novel IPM Strategies for Bugs in the Nursery. 7th Native Plants Conference, Vancouver, WA. (75 Participants)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. January 2017. Bringing In the Other Good Guys. Water Worries, Woes & Foes. Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Program Hands-on Workshop, Manchester, ME. (50 growers)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. January 2017. Bringing In the Other Good Guys. Water Worries, Woes & Foes. Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Program Hands-on Workshop, Durham, NH. (50 growers)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. January 2017. Bringing In the Other Good Guys. Water Worries, Woes & Foes. Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Program Hands-on Workshop, Burlington, VT (50 growers)
Hoskins, B. January 2017. Managing Soil Fertility in High Tunnel Production. Maine Agricultural Trades Show, Augusta, ME. (30 growers).
Sideman, E. January 2017. Diseases in High Tunnel Vegetable Production. Maine Agricultural Trades Show, Augusta, ME. (40 growers).
Sullivan, C.E.F. 2017. Natural enemies attracted to habitat plantings hands on demo. Hildene Greenhouses, Manchester, VT. (3 high school educators, 6 high school students)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. June 2017. Greenhouse/Tomato Workshop. Aphid Management & Habitat Plants for Natural Enemies Discussion & Demonstration. Jericho Settlers Farm, Jericho, VT. (35 growers)
Sideman, B. June 2017. High tunnel tomato research update, Woodman Farm Twilight Meeting, Durham, NH (10 researchers, 6 students)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. July 2017. Greenhouse/Tomato Round Table – Pest Management. Edgewater Farm, Plainfield, NH. (32 growers)
Hutton, M. July 2017. High Tunnel Tomato Fertility Research, Highmoor Farm Summer Tour, Monmouth ME. (45 growers).
Hutton, M., Hoskins, M., Bryant, H., Sideman, B, and Sideman E. August 2017. Tunnel Tomato Roundtable, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Albion ME. (18 growers, 14 agricultural service providers, and 4 students).
Sideman, B., B. Hoskins, M. Hutton, H. Bryant and E. Sideman. Jan 2018. High tunnel tomato nutrient management: lessons learned. Mid-Atlantic Vegetable & Fruit Growers’ Convention. Hershey, PA. (85 growers, 10 extension/research professionals)
Sideman, B. May 2018. High tunnel nutrient management research at UNH. Tour for master gardeners. Durham, NH. (26 master gardeners)
Sullivan, C.E. Frank. May 2018. Greenhouse/Tomato Workshop. Aphid Management & Habitat Plants for Natural Enemies Discussion & Demonstration. Intervale Community Farm, Burlington, VT. Organized by Vernon Grubinger, UVM Extension. (2 researchers, 38 growers)
Sullivan, C.E.F., M. Skinner & B. Spencer. July 2018. The importance of scouting for pests: tips for success. Success with Bio-control in High Tunnel Vegetables Twilight Meeting. Jericho Settlers Farm, Jericho, VT. (2 researchers, 3 graduate students, 1 commercial pest specialist, 14 growers)
Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. August 2018. Flower Power at the Hildene – Habitat Planting Demo & Training. The Hildene. Manchester, VT. July 2018 (2 researchers, 2 graduate students, 1 commercial pest specialist, 2 growers, 3 horticultural educators Press coverage received from local newspaper: Flower Power at the Hildene. Vermont Guide Newspaper. Audience: Circulation of 16,000 readers, including growers and general public. http://vermontnews-guide.com/flower-power-at-hildene/.)
Sideman, B. August 2018. High tunnel nutrient management research at UNH. Durham Farm Day. Durham, NH. (65 gardeners and farmers)
Bryant, H., Sideman, B., and Callahan C. August 2018. High Tunnel Twilight Meeting. Tunnel ventilation and design considerations, high tunnel tomato disease and fertility management. (25 growers, 4 extension professionals)
Hoskins, B. September 2018. Soil management in hoophouses and high tunnels. Common Ground Fair, Unity ME. (30 gardeners and farmers)
Hoskins, B. October 2018. Soil Fertility Management in High Tunnels. North Country Vegetable & Fruit Conference, Sherburne NH. (75 growers, 8 agricultural service providers).
Sullivan, C.E.F., M. Skinner, A. Wallingford & C. Glenister. December 2018. Identifying the Good, the Bad & the Ugly Hands on Pest & Natural Enemy Id session. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory, Univ. of NH & IPM Laboratories. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH. (123 growers and 15 agricultural service providers).
Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. December 2018. Lessons Learned from 5 years of Routine High Tunnel Scouting for Insect Pests & Natural Enemies: Lightning Round Update – Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH. (123 growers and 15 agricultural service providers).
Skinner, A. Ghalehgolabbehbahani & B. Parker. December 2018. Saffron: A Golden Opportunity for Diversified Farmers: Lightning Round Update – Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH . (123 growers and 15 agricultural service providers).
Hoskins, B., M. Hutchinson, K. Campbell-Nelson and O. Saunders. December 2018. Turning your soil test into practical recommendations. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH . (123 growers and 15 agricultural service providers).
Hoskins, B. December 2018. Recent research in high tunnel soil management: Lessons Learned. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH . (123 growers and 15 agricultural service providers).
Burnett, S. and M. Hutton. December 2018. The next quagmire: How to water tunnels effectively. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH . (123 growers and 15 agricultural service providers).
150 vegetable growers report in evaluations that they implemented one or more new practices learned at a project educational event, in their tunnels.
At the 2016 Greenhouse IPM workshop (January, 2016):
82% of the attendees who completed an evaluation for the Tristate greenhouse IPM workshops used biological control last year, compared to 70% in 2015: ME: 81%; NH: 69%; VT: 96%. Of those who used biological control, 84% used predators; 69% nematodes, 65% parasites, 45% insect killing fungi, 39% disease killing microbes (soil treatments) and 28% insect-killing bacteria.
60% of the growers who completed an evaluation for the Tri-state greenhouse IPM workshops indicated they used some form of a plant-mediated IPM system last year (81% of ME growers, 22% of NH growers and 78% of VT growers), including aphid banker plants, assorted trap/indicator plants (marigolds, eggplants and peppers).
Extrapolating to the all participants, we can estimate that 75-100 producers used biological controls OR some form of plant-mediated IPM system.
At the 2016 High Tunnel Conference (December, 2016):
82% of the growers who completed an evaluation for the High Tunnel Conference in Dec 2016 said that they planned to make one or more changes based on what they learned at the conference. Extrapolating to all conference attendees, we estimated that 90 producers planned to adopt new practices based on what was learned at the high tunnel conference.
DEMONSTRATED CHANGE (measured in 2018). 2018 conference participants were asked directly whether they attended the 2016 conference, and whether they made specific changes in their high tunnel production based on what they learned from the first conference. Of the 20 respondents that said they DID attend the 2016 conference, 50% (10 growers) described specific changes that they made based on what they learned. These ranged from soil management (purchasing and using soil moisture meters, using SME soil testing, testing compost for nutrients) to cultural practices (better weed control, experimentation with plant spacing, changing rowcover use to increase winter ventilation) and pest management (incorporating banker plants, and building second tunnel to increase crop rotation possibilities). Certainly, the relatively small number of 2018 conference attendees who said they attended the 2016 conference limited our ability to measure these changes; we will try to address this limitation in our end-of-project survey, to be distributed in winter 2019.
At the 2017 Greenhouse IPM workshops (January, 2017):
Most attendees reported that they have at least 1 high tunnel in which they grow tomatoes. 66% of the attendees used biological control last year: ME: 69%; NH: 50%; VT: 80%. Of those who used biological control, 67% used predators; 69% nematodes; 56%, parasites, 50%; and insect killing fungi, 21%.
57% of the growers indicated they used some form of a plant-mediated IPM system last year, including aphid banker plants, assorted trap/indicator plants (marigolds, eggplants and peppers).
Extrapolating to the all participants, we can estimate that 85-99 producers used biological controls OR some form of plant-mediated IPM system.
Taking into account that the same producers may have attended both 2016 and 2017 greenhouse IPM workshops, our estimated total number of producers that used (99) OR intended to use (90) new practices is 189.
500 growers learn about habitat plants, pest management and crop nutrition recommendations through the Tunnel Tomato Website, printed handouts, or web-based training produced by project personnel.
Our work towards this milestone has focused primarily on developing and populating project web pages, as follows:
In 2018, over 8,000 hits were received to our high tunnel website focused on IPM, which is regularly updated as information becomes available. www.uvm.edu/~entlab/High%20Tunnel%20IPM/HighTunnelIPM.html
The Tunnel Tomato Website for this project was established (https://hightunneltomatoproject.wordpress.com) in Summer 2016. This page has logged 479 views by 184 visitors from June 2016 (inception) – December 2018.
We have over 4,000 followers on the Facebook page of the University of Vermont Entomology Research Laboratory: https://www.facebook.com/UVMEntomologyResearchLaboratory/
We have 381 followers on the newly-launched Sideman Lab Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/unh_sidemanlab/). This account provides regular updates about many applied research projects, including this high tunnel project.
The first of our series of webinettes was produced. This is a 10-15 minute long web-based informational segment. It was designed based on feedback from growers who said shorter educational sessions fit better into their busy schedule. Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. 2017. Aphid 101: A Pictonar-based Webinette. https://www.uvm.edu/~entlab/High%20Tunnel%20IPM/Webinets/AphidIDWebinet.pdf
Four factsheets/grower publications were prepared containing information on how plant-mediated IPM systems work and how to use them. These have been distributed to over 200 growers at various educational events.
Sullivan, C.E., M. Skinner & B.L. Parker. 2017. What have we been up to in 2016? Attracting and Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Workshop. UVM Entomology Research Laboratory, Burlington, VT. Factsheet. https://www.uvm.edu/~entlab/Greenhouse%20IPM/Workshops/2017/OngoingResearch2017.pdf
Sullivan, C.E.F., & M. Skinner. 2017. Attracting & Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. 2 pp. Factsheet. https://www.uvm.edu/~entlab/High%20Tunnel%20IPM/Factsheets/HighTunnelNatEnemiesHighTunnelsJuly2017.pdf
Sanchez, E., C. Frank Sullivan & M. Skinner. 2017. High Tunnel Vegetable Crops: Designing a Scouting Plan. PennState Extension. https://extension.psu.edu/high-tunnel-vegetable-crops-designing-a-scouting-plan
Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. 2017. Bringing In Un-Bee-lievable Beneficials. Public Awareness Brochure. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. 2pp. https://www.uvm.edu/~entlab/High%20Tunnel%20IPM/Factsheets/Un-BEE-lievableBeneficials.pdf
150 growers attend 2018 Tunnel Tomato Conference and learn about IPM, soil management, and crop production practices, including recent research results.
This conference took place on 3-4 December, 2018. 138 participants from NH, ME, VT, MA, NY, CT, RY, and Quebec attended. The conference presentations are available at the link below, as are the results from our conference evaluation.
Tunnel Conference II Presentations – https://extension.unh.edu/blog/2018-high-tunnel-conference-presentations-available
Conference Evaluation – https://unh.box.com/s/lr5ut6cvavb32lzowco6uxfd2a248302
Of the 54% of growers that filled out conference evaluations, several stated an intent to try some new practices. The most frequently mentioned intended changes included adopting a new practice related to biocontrol in high tunnels (38 growers). Thirty-five (35) growers said that they had plans to adjust or fine-tune their high tunnel fertility programs, with most (20) saying that they intended to apply more, or a different formulation, of potassium fertilizers. Twenty-three (23) growers reported intent to change their irrigation practices. Several growers (17) reported intent to improve their greenhouse structures with ventilation, sensors, insulation, etc. (17); others aim to improve irrigation techniques (10) or change high tunnel soil management (5) strategies.
Extrapolating to the full list of conference attendees, we can estimate that at least 70 producers left the conference with intent to change one or more of their high tunnel production practices based on what they learned at the conference.
600 growers receive final follow-up survey and evaluation about their current tunnel fertilization and pest management practices; 100 return it. Data will be compiled to assess project impact
150 growers adopt new practices learned through this project and 1) increase gross revenue from their tunnels, and/or 2) reduce pesticide use by at least one application per year.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
112 participants attended the 2016 High Tunnel Conference, and 138 participants attended the 2018 High Tunnel Conference. Attendees included primarily growers, but also agricultural service providers/extension, and researchers. In both years, geographical representation of participants who filled out conference evaluations was similar to that of attendees on the whole. We estimated change in knowledge, attitudes, etc. by extrapolating to the entire population of conference attendees.
In 2016: 55% of participants filled out a conference evaluation. The most frequently mentioned intended/planned changes included changes in plant spacing and/or pruning (51%), changes in irrigation methods (including using tools like tensiometers to monitor soil water status, 49%), add/change varieties grown (33%), scout more frequently for insect/disease pests (33%), experiment with trap crops such as marigold and bean (27%), experiment with habitat plants such as alyssum (24%), increase soil testing (18%), and improve ventilation (18%).
In 2018: 54% of participants filled out conference evaluations. The most frequently mentioned intended changes included adopting a new practice related to biocontrol in high tunnels (51%). Forty-seven percent (47%) said that they had plans to adjust or fine-tune their high tunnel fertility programs, with most (27%) saying that they intended to apply more, or a different formulation, of potassium fertilizers. Thirty percent (30%) reported intent to change their irrigation practices. Several (23%) reported intent to improve their greenhouse structures with ventilation, sensors, insulation, etc. (23%); or to improve irrigation techniques (13%).
Performance Target Outcomes
improve soil fertility and pest management in high tunnel tomatoes
increased annual crop revenues by $1000 per farm, and/or reduced pesticide use by at least one application per year.
Additional Project Outcomes
In VT, we worked with two experienced high tunnel growers (A & B) that struggled with aphid infestations in their year-round production. Both were interested in developing scouting routines to detect aphids before they reach damaging levels and incorporating habitat plantings to encourage the establishment of aphid natural enemies for their management.
Grower A operates over 10 high tunnels with numerous seasonal and year round employees. Grower B operates 3 tunnels and is family run. Growers A and B and two head employees of Grower A were trained how to scout crops and the importance of identifying what species of aphids were on the crops. They also established habitat plantings consisting of alyssum, borage, dill, marigolds and beans. Through scouting, proper sanitation such as removal of infested debris during turnover and releasing the proper natural enemies for the species of aphids that were detected, both are confident less than 30% of the crops scouted will experience aphid outbreaks in the coming year. The importance of habitat plantings were demonstrated at both locations. They attracted syrphid flies, parasitic wasps and several other natural enemies that contribute to pest management in high tunnels. Grower A hosted an evening workshop where over 35 local growers saw these plantings in action and a habitat plant factsheet was distributed.
In NH, we worked with two high tunnel growers; an experienced grower (A) and a beginner (B). Grower A operates three tunnels, and identified water management as their main challenge. They were interested in experimenting with tensiometers. We purchased tensiometers, and trained the growers in how to install, use, and maintain them. We checked in periodically, and at the end of the season, the growers reported “The tensiometers were a big help to us this year. We think that otherwise, we were wasting water and sometimes over watering/sometimes underwatering. This gave us a great check point to respond to.” Grower B operated one tunnel in the 2016 and had experienced several production challenges in their first year of production, and they began operating a second tunnel in 2017. We worked with them to develop a nutrient management program and offered guidance for variety selection and crop management. They implemented our recommendations for variety choice and crop management, but only partially implemented the fertility recommendations, because the fertility recommended was much higher than they had previously been using. After nutrient deficiencies were identified mid-season, we revisited fertility management, and they experimented with increasing nutrient applications – and saw significant improvement in late season production. They reported that they will adjust their fertility program next year, and said “We just wanted to thank you again … even though its Nov, we are still producing 90lbs every 2-3 days.”