There has been rapid expansion of greenhouse tomato production in New York State over the last 5 years. Greenhouse tomatoes capitalize on local markets and available labor. However, heating a greenhouse in upstate New York requires high-energy input and can be cost prohibitive. An alternative to a fully heated greenhouse is the hoop house or high tunnel. Unlike greenhouses, these structures have no supplemental heat or automated ventilation. High tunnels can be moved, which offers an advantage for rotating into fresh soil for tomato culture, to avoid pest and disease build-up, as well as nutrient depletion.
Until this trial, determinant, field varieties were grown in high tunnels. Due to the high yields obtained by local growers with hydroponic, indeterminate varieties in greenhouses, we decided to investigate if these varieties would perform better than determinate field types in an unheated high tunnel. A trial of 4 tomato varieties was established within an unheated high tunnel at a cooperating farm. 21 plants each of indeterminate varieties Boa, Trust, Big Beef, and determinate variety Mtn. Spring, were transplanted in a randomized complete block design with 4 replications. The indeterminate varieties were trained to a vertical trellis and single growing point, while the determinate variety was pruned for optimal production within a tomato cage.
Harvest and data collection began on July 1, 2004 and ended November 2, 2004. Yield data was recorded for each harvest using a digital scale. Total weight per block in pounds was recorded as well as number of fruit. For each variety in the trial mean weight per plant, mean fruit per plant and mean weight per fruit was calculated. Data were analyzed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA), and treatment means were separated using Fishers Least Significant Difference.
Varieties Big Beef and Boa had significantly higher yields than Mtn. Spring and Trust as measured by mean tomato yield per plant. Big Beef and Boa also yielded significantly higher number of mean fruit per plant than Mtn. Spring. Big Beef yielded a significantly heavier mean weight per fruit than the other three varieties. These results suggest that high tunnel tomato growers could realize higher yields by adopting indeterminate varieties and trellis methods of heated greenhouses, but the trial should be repeated another season before conclusions are made.
We hoped to compare 4 tomato varieties in an unheated high tunnel by measuring yield in total weight, total number of fruit, and mean fruit weight.
We endeavored to share our information with other growers in the region.
We wanted to compare vertical to horizontal trellising.
We wanted to observe disease and insect pest trends in the high tunnel, and manage them in a sustainable manner.