Improving nutrient and pest management in high tunnel tomato production

Final report for LNE15-343

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2015: $249,539.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of New Hampshire
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Dr. Rebecca Sideman
UNH Cooperative Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

A rapid increase in high tunnel production throughout the Northeast has created a new group of growers needing information. Over- and under-fertilization is common in tunnels, and both situations reduce marketable yields, crop quality, and revenues. Arthropod pests (mites, thrips, aphids, whiteflies) also significantly reduce tunnel crop yield, quality and revenues.  We proposed to address these challenges with an integrated research and education program. Specifically, we aimed to improve farmers’ nutrient and pest management in high tunnels through a combination of research and outreach. Our educational approach addressed tunnel-related topics broadly, with specific topics chosen in conjunction with our grower advisory group. Our efforts included several presentations, two in-depth grower conferences (which will continue past the end of the project), direct work with growers, twilight meetings and farmer-to-farmer roundtables, online webinettes and research reports.

Our two main research objectives for tunnel tomato production were to: 1) identify soil test critical levels and to 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.

  • We conducted experiments in three sites over three years; by first depleting soil K levels and then establishing low to high soil K gradients by applying potassium sulfate prior to planting tomato cv. Big Beef. We monitored soil K levels throughout the three years and collected yield data, assessed incidence and severity of yellow shoulder (YS) and other crop defects, and measured leaf tissue potassium levels. We found that 1) even extremely high levels of applied potassium were depleted quickly from high tunnel soils, 2) in general, soil potassium levels were positively correlated with marketable fruit weight, and negatively correlated with incidence and severity of YS and percentage of cull fruit. However, factors aside from potassium level appeared to be very important in promoting YS, as even very high potassium levels did not reduce YS to acceptable levels.
  • Demonstration plantings were established in University-managed production-scale high tunnels in NH and ME, and we found that habitat plantings were very attractive to a wide array of beneficial organisms. By incorporating plant-mediated IPM systems such as habitat plants into production high tunnels and monitoring the effects on pests and beneficial insects in several sites, this enabled us to provide advice to growers about the pros and cons of this and other biocontrol approaches.

In additional to regular measurement of learning outcomes (see below), we measured impacts of our project activities by conducting baseline (2016) and followup (2019) surveys to directly measure project participation and impacts. Specifically, we found that:

  • In 2019, 78 out of 110 respondents (71%) reported that they participated in at least one of our project activities during the previous three years. Working directly with a project team member was most frequently mentioned; but many growers attended presentations by project team members, watched webinettes or read research reports, and attended the 2016 and 2018 High Tunnel Conferences.
  • Of the 79 respondents that participated in at least one of our project activities, 53 people (68%) reported that they made changes to their farming operation specifically as a result of things they learned at project activities. Changes in production practices were reported for 534,844 square feet (12.3 acres). These included: improved nutrient management (14 producers, on 4.93 acres), ventilation (5 producers, 2.14 acres), pest management (8 producers, 3.15 acres), irrigation (8 producers, 0.96 acres) and other cultural practices (12 producers, 1.15 acres).
  • In 2019, 10% more growers reported using crop rotation, predators, use of sticky cards, habitat or guardian plants, indicator or trap plants, and beneficial nematodes, as compared with 2016. This was particularly encouraging, as our research & outreach efforts focused on the use of habitat plants, indicator/trap plants, predators, and sticky cards.
Performance Target:

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.

Introduction:

High tunnel production is economically critical to Northeastern vegetable growers, and tunnel production area is increasing rapidly. Our project provided 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 was 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 addressed tunnel production issues broadly. Growers tell us they learn and adopt new practices more readily by hearing from fellow growers. Therefore we facilitated exchange among growers by establishing communication networks and involving growers in training and educational events. The education portion of this project complemented our research activities, and incorporated research results as they became available, but was not dependent on the results.

Introduction:

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 proposed to address these challenges with an integrated research and education program that encourages a whole-system crop production strategy.

Our holistic approach provided 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 was 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 addressed tunnel production issues broadly, focusing on grower-identified needs. Our research and educational work was 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.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Heather Bryant (Educator and Researcher)
  • Carol Glenister
  • Bruce Hoskins (Educator and Researcher)
  • Mark Hutton (Educator and Researcher)
  • Eric Sideman (Educator and Researcher)
  • Margaret Skinner (Educator and Researcher)
  • John Spargo
  • Cheryl Frank Sullivan (Educator and Researcher)

Research

Hypothesis:

Our Research Hypotheses:

  1. The optimum soil test levels of potassium and nitrogen are higher for tunnel-grown tomato than previously determined for field-grown tomato.
  2. 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.
  3. Including habitat plants within a high tunnel tomato ecosystem will increase the presence of beneficial insects compared with one without them.
Materials and methods:

Original Materials & Methods:

Tomatoes were grown using standard practices for the region. Plants were spaced 18” apart, trained to single leaders and grown on black plastic mulch with drip irrigation, using tensiometers to guide watering decisions. Each site used a randomized complete block design with 4-6 reps (depending on site) using a single cultivar susceptible to leaf mold and yellow shoulders (cv. ‘Big Beef’).

Habitat plants were grown in 0606 flats prior to transplanting into the high tunnels, and were transplanted at the same time as tomatoes. Habitat plantings included alyssum, borage, dill, green bean and marigold. Habitat plants were placed at the front and back of each crop row as needed to provide the same density in each location. They were watered and fertilized to maintain vigor and deadheaded to stimulate flowering. New habitat plants were started to replace those that stopped flowering or that died. Recommended cultural practices (weed in/around tunnels, removal of infested plant residues, etc.) were followed.

Data Collection:

Habitat Plants: Both tunnels at the sites testing habitat plants were divided into 4 sections with 1 yellow sticky card/section. Crop and habitat plants and sticky cards were 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: Potassium (K) gradients were established by applying different rates of potassium sulfate (0-0-50) to provide varying rates of K (0, 168, 336, 504, 674, and 841 kg/ha of actual K2O). Soil samples were taken from each plot three times: before adding amendments, at first harvest, and just after final harvest. Each sample was assessed using Mehlich-3, Modified Morgan and SME tests. We also measured whole leaf nutrient status and petiole sap nitrogen and potassium twice (at the first and last harvest of each year). 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 assessed at each harvest.

Research results and discussion:

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. 

Project personnel learning how to scout for and identify natural enemies and pests.
SARE project collaborators learn how to identify aphids.

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.

A young habitat plant system, installed in a high tunnel full of peppers in Durham, NH
Hoverfly larvae searching for aphids on a young pepper plant. (there is one down near the growing point as well as on the closest leaf).
Students learning to scout habitat plantings for insect pests and their natural enemies
Students learning to scout crop plantings for insect pests and their natural enemies

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. 

Several degrees of yellow shoulder, ranging from very mild (L) to severe (R).

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.
    Two formulations of potassium sulfate, with very different particle sizes.

    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 showed that finely granulated potassium sulfate, whether dissolved or incorporated, were recovered in rates proportional to the rates applied, as would be expected. Split applications showed no benefit over pre-plant applications of similar rates, suggesting that pre-plant incorporation is a viable strategy for farmers.

    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. 

Research conclusions:

Habitat Plants:

Results showed that natural enemies were abundant in habitat plant systems. Overall, the average percentage of natural enemies visiting these systems were as follows: 18% syrphid fly adults, 34% parasitic wasps and mummies (parasitized aphids), 3% lady beetles, 3% predatory fly maggots (syrphids and others), 22% Orius adults and nymphs (predatory bug) and 4% lacewings.

Taken together, more natural enemies 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 & Nutrient Management:

We found that high tunnel tomato appears to be a luxury consumer of K, such that 500-600 lbs/acre of applied K minimized yellow shoulder and maximized yields. We also found that soil type affects K availability, and therefore K needs, suggesting that tunnels with high proportions of clay may need to be managed differently than those with high proportions of organic matter.

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. Despite that, applying even very high rates of K did not prevent yellow shoulder – other strategies are needed.

Lastly, we learned some unexpected things: water management is critical in optimizing nutrient management, as soils must be moist in order for plants to reach nutrients; and thorough mixing prior to soil testing is important as nutrient salts may stratify and become concentrated in the very top of the soil profile during the winter months. 

 

Participation Summary
6 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

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.

 

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

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.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
110
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2016
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
June 1, 2016
Accomplishments:

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

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

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.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
6
Proposed Completion Date:
November 1, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 1, 2017
Accomplishments:

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. 

 

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

6 growers who serve as farmer-cooperators adopt one or more new production practices learned through this project in their tunnels.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
6
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
22
Proposed Completion Date:
August 30, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

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 28 visits to 12 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.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

150 growers attend 2016 Tunnel Tomato Conference, and learn about IPM, soil management, and general crop production practices.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
102
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
December 14, 2016
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 14, 2016
Accomplishments:

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.

tunnelconference_flier

Conference Evaluation

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

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.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
200
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
2899
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
307
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

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 year 4, at least 981 growers, 51 agricultural professionals, 85 scientists and 35 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).

Skinner, M. & C.E.F. Sullivan. 2019. How do your High Tunnel Vegetables Grow?: Using Habitat Plants and Beneficials Effectively. Twilight Grower Meeting, 10 June, 2019. On-Farm Workshops for Commercial Vegetable and Berry Growers. UVM Extension & Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers. Sam Mazza’s Farm Market & Greenhouses, Colchester, VT. Attendees: 45 growers, 5 Extension specialists.

Sullivan, C.E.F. 2019. Monitoring, use of biocontrols and other IPM strategies for high tunnel pest control. On-Farm Workshops for Commercial Vegetable and Berry Growers. UVM Extension & Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers. Intervale Community Farm, Burlington, VT, July 10. Attendees: 30 growers, 5 Extension specialists.

Sullivan, C.E. Frank. 2019. Scouting for Pests & Natural Enemies in Greenhouses and High Tunnels. Hands on Staff Training. Allen Bros Farm, Westminster, VT. April 11, 2019. Attendees: 10 growers

Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. 2019. How do your High Tunnel Vegetables Grow?: Using Habitat Plants and Beneficials Effectively. Twilight Grower Meeting, 10 June, 2019. Sam Mazza’s Farm Market & Greenhouses, Colchester, VT. Attendees: 45 growers, 5 Extension specialists.

Sánchez, E. 2019. Habitat plants to attract natural enemies into high tunnel crops. Penn State University HORT 433 Vegetable Crops course, September 12, 2019, Pennsylvania Furnace, PA. Attendees: 35 undergrad students

Skinner, M. & C. F. Sullivan. 2019. IPM for High Tunnel Vegetables: Practical Pathways for Organic Crop Protection. Farmer-to-Farmer Conference, Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Assoc. 4 Nov. 2019. Northport, ME. Attendees: 15 growers, 3 IPM specialists. Attendees: 45 growers, 5 Extension specialists.

Sullivan, C.E.F., M. Skinner & Elsa Sanchez. 2019. Guidelines & Tips for Scouting High Tunnel Crops. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. PennState Ag Progress Days, Rock Springs, PA. August 13-15, 2019. Attendees: 45 growers, 5 Extension specialists.

Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. 2019. Attracting & Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. PennState Ag Progress Days, Rock Springs, PA. August 13-15, 2019. Attendees: 45 growers, 5 Extension specialists.

Skinner, M., B.L. Parker, C.F. Sullivan & A. Davari. 2019. Advances in IPM for Protected Agriculture: Plant-Mediated IPM Systems. IPM Training for Organic Farmers. 21 Feb. 2019. Beirut, Lebanon. Attendees: 100 growers, 5 pest specialists.

Sánchez, E., C.E.F. Sullivan and M. Skinner 2018. Using biocontrols to manage aphids in high tunnels. Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, February 1, 2018, Hershey, PA. Attendees: 100 growers, 5 pest specialists.

Sánchez, E., C.E.F. Sullivan and M. Skinner 2019. Using biocontrols to manage aphids in high tunnels. New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show, February 5, 2019, Atlantic City, NJ. Attendees: 75 growers, 6 pest specialists.

Sánchez, E., C.E.F. Sullivan and M. Skinner 2019. Habitat plants to attract natural enemies into high tunnel crops. Penn State Extension In-Service, August 7, 2019, Pennsylvania Furnace, PA. Attendees: 50 growers, 5 pest specialists.

Bryant H., 2019. Getting Started in High  Tunnels: A Farmer to Farmer  Exchange, Campton, NH, 10 participants.  21 Jun 2019.

Bryant H., 2019. High Tunnel Farmer to Farmer, Randolph, NH, 11 participants.  23 Aug 2019.

Hutton, M. 2019. High Tunnel IPM and habitat plants update. Maine Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers Annual meeting, 16 Jan 2019 Augusta,ME: 65 mixed veg growers

Hutton, M. 2019. High Tunnel IPM & tomato production. 25 Mar 2019. Maine Vegetable School. Portland ME.  55 mixed veg growers, 4 service providers

Hutton, M. 2019. High Tunnel IPM & tomato production. Maine Vegetable and Small Fruit Growers Annual meeting, 26 Mar 2019 Bangor,ME: 40 mixed veg growers, (3 extension educators)

Hutton, M. 2019. High Tunnel tomato, fertility, compost, habitat plants. Highmoor Summer Tour. July 31, 2019, Monmouth, ME. 35 mixed veg growers.

High tunnel tomato nutrient management: lessons learned. Sideman, B., B. Hoskins, M. Hutton, H. Bryant, and E. Sideman. January 2019. Connecticut Vegetable & Small Fruit Growers’ Conference. S. Windsor, CT. 250 producers.

Sideman, RG, B Hoskins, M Hutton, H Bryant and E Sideman. 2019. Optimizing potassium application in organically-grown high tunnel tomato in the northeastern United States. Greensys International Symposium on Advanced Technologies and Management for Innovative Greenhouses. Angers, France. June, 2019. 85 scientists.

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

150 vegetable growers report in evaluations that they implemented one or more new practices learned at a project educational event, in their tunnels.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
297
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

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.

At the 2019 High Tunnel Conference

Of the 54% (of 138) 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.

This conference was the second high tunnel conference planned by the SARE High Tunnel Group; the first was held in December 2016. Participants were asked directly whether they attended that first conference, and whether they ACTUALLY 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).

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

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.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
476
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
8679
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

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. In 2019, an additional 1600 hits were received. 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 510 views by 196 visitors from June 2016 (inception) – August 2019.

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 562 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. 

Two webinettes were produced, incorporating feedback from growers who said shorter educational sessions fit better into their busy schedule.

The following documents were published and distributed to the broader scientific community in 2019:

Skinner, M., B.L. Parker & C.F. Sullivan. 2019. Chapter 31. Integrated Pest Management in Greenhouse and Other Protected Cultivation Systems. In: Current and Future Developments in IPM; Eds: M. Kogan & L. Higley, Burleigh Dodds Science Publ. Cambridge, UK.

Sideman, RG, B Hoskins, M Hutton, H Bryant and E Sideman. 2019. Optimizing potassium application in organically-grown high tunnel tomato in the northeastern United States. Proceedings of the Greensys International Symposium on Advanced Technologies and Management for Innovative Greenhouses. Angers, France. In Press.

The following factsheets/grower publications were distributed to over 200 growers at various educational events in 2017:

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. What have we been up to.2016

Sullivan, C.E.F., & M. Skinner. 2017. Attracting & Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. 2 pp. Factsheet. Habitat Plants in High Tunnels Natural Enemies 2019 version

Sanchez, E., C. Frank Sullivan & M. Skinner. 2017.  High Tunnel Vegetable Crops: Designing a Scouting Plan. PennState Extension. 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. UnBeelieveableBeneficials Brochure UVM updated 2019 – online

The following factsheets/grower publications were developed and distributed in 2019:

Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. 2018. Critical Questions to Consider to Help Manage Persistent Pest Problems Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH – December 3-4. 1p. In 2019 Disseminated to: 150 growers and 20 agricultural service providers.

Critical Questions & Habitat Plants UVM High Tunnels 12-2-2018

Sullivan, C.E.F. & M. Skinner. 2018. Attracting & Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. Expand Your Tunnel Vision: High Tunnel Production Conference, Manchester, NH – December 3-4. 1p. In 2019 Disseminated to: 150 growers and 20 agricultural service providers. HighTunnelNatEnemiesFacsteetHighTunnelsJan2018update

Sullivan, C.E.F. Skinner, M. & Parker, B.L. 2018. What have we been up to in 2017?  Attracting & Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels. Tri-State Greenhouse IPM Workshops.  Manchester, ME., Durham, NH & Burlington, VT. 1/2p in 2pp. In 2019, Disseminated to: 150 growers and vegetable specialists

What have we been up to.2017

Sullivan, C.E.F., & M. Skinner. 2018. Attracting & Sustaining Aphid Natural Enemies in High Tunnels UPDATE. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. 2 pp. In 2019, Disseminated to: 150 growers and vegetable specialists

HighTunnelNatEnemiesHighTunnelsJan2018update

Sullivan, C.E. Frank & M. Skinner. 2019.  Bringing In Un-Bee-lievable Beneficials. Public Awareness Brochure – updated. Univ. of VT Entomology Research Laboratory. In 2019, Disseminated to: 150 growers and vegetable specialists

Un-Beelievable 2019

Sánchez, E., C.E.F. Sullivan and M. Skinner 2019. Using biocontrols to manage aphids in high tunnels. New Jersey Agricultural Convention and Trade Show Proceedings.

Sullivan, C. F. & M. Skinner. 2019. Habitat Plantings Harbor Happy Beneficial Bugs. VT Vegetable &Berry Newsletter – compiled by Vernon Grubinger, March 12, 2019   HabitatPlants

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

150 growers attend 2018 Tunnel Tomato Conference and learn about IPM, soil management, and crop production practices, including recent research results.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
123
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 4, 2018
Accomplishments:

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

TunnelConfEval2018

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.

Conference participants try different tools used for monitoring for pests in high tunnels in a hands-on session.
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

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

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
600
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
600
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

In Spring 2019, in collaboration with our Grower Advisory Committee, we designed a high tunnel survey very similar to the one administered at the start of the project. Our goals were to verify the situation (current fertilization and pest management practices), and to measure project impact. To permit direct comparison, the 2019 survey was identical to the 2016 survey with the exception of three questions added to the 2019 survey to directly measure project participation and impacts.

110 people responded to our survey, which was distributed via electronic grower newsletters in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. The 2019 survey is available at the following link: 2019_hightunnelsurvey. Survey respondents covered 339 tunnels, covering an estimated 17.4 acres throughout New England. Results of the survey were summarized in Summer 2019.

The full detailed survey results are provided below:

HighTunnelSAREimpacts

Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

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.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
53
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 30, 2019
Accomplishments:

In 2019, 78 out of 110 respondents to our evaluation survey reported that they participated in at least one of our project activities during the previous three years. Working directly with a project team member was the most frequently mentioned type of participation; but many growers also attended presentations by project team members, watched webinettes or read research reports, and attended the 2016 and 2018 High Tunnel Conferences

Of the 78 respondents that participated in at least one of our SARE project activities, 53 people (68% of participants) reported that they made changes to their farming operation specifically as a result of things they learned at project activities.

Because we measured impacts for only a small subset of the thousands of project participants, we expect that many more have made changes. While this is a small percentage of actual project participants, these respondents are probably the most involved participants and therefore the most likely to have made large changes based on project activities. 

Overall, the 2019 survey respondents reporting growing in tunnels covering 758,454 square feet, or 17.4 acres. Project participants accounted for the overwhelming majority (84.6%) of this acreage (641,664 square feet, 14.7 acres). Changes in production practices were reported for 534,844 square feet (12.3 acres). Thirty-four growers (64% of those that stated they changed practices) described the specific changes made. These included: improved nutrient management (14 producers, 4.93 acres), ventilation (5 producers, 2.14 acres), pest management (8 producers, 3.15 acres), irrigation (8 producers, 0.96 acres) and other cultural practices (12 producers, 1.15 acres).

Gross revenue. Because we thought it would be very difficult/impossible to link gross revenue with project activities, we had planned to instead ask about the specific outcomes of fruit yields and quality, which could clearly be linked to project activities.  We asked respondents to estimate average total high tunnel tomato yield in pounds of marketable fruit per plant during the prior year. Using average values for each range, the mean yields increased from 9.5 (in 2016) to 10.4 lbs/plant (in 2019). If we make several assumptions (64% of participants reportedly grow tomato; 80% of those participants’ tunnel acreage (350,000 sq feet) is in tomato, typical tomato spacing is 9 sq feet/plant, average tomato yields increased by 0.9 lbs per plant) – this may have resulted in increased production of over 35,000 lbs of fruit overall. At even conservative prices of $2/lb, this would represent a $70,000 increase in revenue. However, there are several problems with this estimate, aside from the many assumptions required. Yield for cherry tomatoes would be different (and much less) than yields of indeterminate greenhouse tomatoes, for example; and shifts in variety selection (e.g. growing more beefsteak varieties) could easily explain the observed yield differences. Further, in both years, approximately 25% of respondents did not know their yields during the previous year – making it impossible to measure changes and therefore impacts.

Pesticide use. Most respondents (46-98%, depending on the category of material) did not use pesticides in their high tunnels in the year prior to the survey. This was true both at the start of the project AND at the end of the project. Among those that used pesticides, most used general-use insecticides or fungicides 1-3 times during the year. Based on the numbers of respondents and number of applications reported, we estimated 117 and 101 applications of general use insecticides (GI) and fungicides (GF), respectively, and only 29 and 33 applications of restricted use insecticides (RI) and fungicides (RF), respectively, were made among all respondents in 2016. In 2019, we estimated 92 and 104 applications of GI and GF, respectively, and only 22 and 14 applications of RI and RF, respectively, were made among all respondents. Herbicides were very rarely used in high tunnels. While our data DO suggest reductions in use of most categories of pesticides over the past three years (-21%, +3%, -24%, -56% for GI, GF, RI, and RF respectively), conclusions should be made with caution, based on these small numbers of respondents and small numbers of applications. Our surveys confirm that, in general, high tunnel growers use relatively few chemical pesticide inputs in their high tunnels.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

140 Consultations
8 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 On-farm demonstrations
34 Webinars / talks / presentations
18 Workshop field days
2 Other

Participation Summary

1338 Farmers
118 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

113 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
10 Service providers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of project outreach
10 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

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

Target #1

Target: number of farmers:
150
Target: change/adoption:

improve soil fertility and pest management in high tunnel tomatoes

Target: amount of production affected:

15 acres

Target: quantified benefit(s):

increased annual crop revenues by $1000 per farm, and/or reduced pesticide use by at least one application per year.

Actual: number of farmers:
53
Actual: change/adoption:

improved their nutrient management (14 farmers), improved their ventilation (5 farmers), improved their pest management (8 farmers), improved irrigation strategies (8 farmers), and improved other cultural practices for high tunnel crops (12 farmers), or made other unspecified changes (11 farmers).

Actual: amount of production affected:

534,844 square feet (12.3 acres)

Actual: quantified benefit(s):

Mean high tunnel tomato yields increased from 9.5 (in 2016) to 10.4 lbs/plant (in 2019). If we make several assumptions (64% of participants reportedly grow tomato; 80% of those participants’ tunnel acreage (350,000 sq feet) is in tomato, typical tomato spacing is 9 sq feet/plant, average tomato yields increased by 0.9 lbs per plant) – this may have resulted in increased production of over 35,000 lbs of fruit overall. At even conservative prices of $2/lb, this would represent a $70,000 increase in revenue.

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

This is described under milestones 9 and 10 in detail, but I will re-state here:

In Spring 2019, in collaboration with our Grower Advisory Committee, we designed a high tunnel survey very similar to the one administered at the start of the project. Our goals were to verify the situation (current fertilization and pest management practices), and to measure project impact. To permit direct comparison, the 2019 survey was identical to the 2016 survey with the exception of three questions added to the 2019 survey to directly measure project participation and impacts. 110 people responded to our survey, which was distributed via electronic grower newsletters in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. The 2019 survey is available at the following link: https://unh.box.com/s/hnwnx5az221qtkt3dm9jmeyh2zrd0d9q. Survey respondents covered 339 tunnels, covering an estimated 17.4 acres throughout New England.

In 2019, 78 out of 110 respondents to our evaluation survey reported that they participated in at least one of our project activities during the previous three years. Working directly with a project team member was the most frequently mentioned type of participation; but many growers also attended presentations by project team members, watched webinettes or read research reports, and attended the 2016 and 2018 High Tunnel Conferences. This is a small percentage of actual project participants, but we estimate that our respondents are the most involved participants and therefore the most likely to have made changes based on project activities.

Of the 78 respondents that participated in at least one of our SARE project activities, 53 people (68%) reported that they made changes to their farming operation specifically as a result of things they learned at project activities. Overall, the 2019 survey respondents reporting growing in tunnels covering 758,454 square feet, or 17.4 acres. Project participants accounted for the overwhelming majority (84.6%) of this acreage (641,664 square feet, 14.7 acres). Changes in production practices were reported for 534,844 square feet (12.3 acres), and in some (but not all) cases, the specific changes were described.

Gross revenue. Because we thought it would be very difficult/impossible to link gross revenue with project activities, we had planned to instead ask about the specific outcomes of fruit yields and quality, which could clearly be linked to project activities.  We asked respondents to estimate average total high tunnel tomato yield in pounds of marketable fruit per plant during the prior year. Using average values for each range, the mean yields increased from 9.5 (in 2016) to 10.4 lbs/plant (in 2019). If we make several assumptions (64% of participants reportedly grow tomato; 80% of those participants’ tunnel acreage (350,000 sq feet) is in tomato, typical tomato spacing is 9 sq feet/plant, average tomato yields increased by 0.9 lbs per plant) – this may have resulted in increased production of over 35,000 lbs of fruit overall. At even conservative prices of $2/lb, this would represent a $70,000 increase in revenue. However, there are several problems with this estimate, aside from the many assumptions required. Yield for cherry tomatoes would be different (and much less) than yields of indeterminate greenhouse tomatoes, for example; and shifts in variety selection (e.g. growing more beefsteak varieties) could easily explain the observed yield differences. Further, in both years, approximately 25% of respondents did not know their yields during the previous year – making it impossible to measure changes and therefore impacts.

Pesticide use. Most respondents (46-98%, depending on the category of material) did not use pesticides in their high tunnels in the year prior to the survey. This was true both at the start of the project AND at the end of the project. Among those that used pesticides, most used general-use insecticides or fungicides 1-3 times during the year. Based on the numbers of respondents and number of applications reported, we estimated 117 and 101 applications of general use insecticides (GI) and fungicides (GF), respectively, and only 29 and 33 applications of restricted use insecticides (RI) and fungicides (RF), respectively, were made among all respondents in 2016. In 2019, we estimated 92 and 104 applications of GI and GF, respectively, and only 22 and 14 applications of RI and RF, respectively, were made among all respondents. Herbicides were very rarely used in high tunnels. While our data DO suggest reductions in use of most categories of pesticides over the past three years (-21%, +3%, -24%, -56% for GI, GF, RI, and RF respectively), conclusions should be made with caution, based on these small numbers of respondents and small numbers of applications. Our surveys confirm that, in general, high tunnel growers use relatively few chemical pesticide inputs in their high tunnels.

53 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

Additional Project Outcomes

2 New working collaborations
Success stories:

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.”

Another example of IPM-related impacts of our VT team members: Neil Comstock is the pest manager at a large market garden in Colchester, VT. He hosted a grower twilight meeting for growers where he described his extensive use of plant-mediated IPM systems in his operation, both for ornamentals and high-tunnel tomatoes. He described the problems he had serious problems for years with spider mites on his high-tunnel tomatoes. The infestations would get really bad later in the summer, and because the plants were so dense and tall, he could not effectively treat them with a chemical pesticide. He adopted the use of green beans as an indicator, trap and banker plant for two-spotted spider mite. Now he is able to scout the beans and detect an infestation early. He releases natural enemies on these plants at the first sign of spider mites. For several years he has had no spider mite problems and uses no chemical insecticides to grow his tomatoes. In addition, his growing season has been extended so that he has tomatoes for 1-2 months longer in the fall than he used to. This means greater revenues as well as no insecticide residues on his crop. He is very happy with the results. This is only one grower, but considering the increase (based on the survey) in use of various plant-mediated IPM systems, there are likely others.

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.