Evaluation of Production Efficiencies and Market Season Extension Options for RainFresh Harvests Year-Round Production of Herbs and Specialty Vegetables
Cool wet conditions delayed field plantings until late May. Hot and humid early summer conditions helped establish crops quickly after planting and led to rapid growth and reasonably good yields through mid-summer. These conditions were also favorable for the development of downy mildew on the Basil crop, severely reducing late summer harvestable yields, in spite of regular application of Serenade biocontrol once the disease was present. Similar reductions in late season tomato yields resulted in little surplus produce for market season extension testing options. Client response to the quality of items supplied in 2009 was favorable and demand for fresh items was greater than the supply for most of the 2010 season, especially so during the late summer when disease problems significantly reduced marketable yields.
Data collection was continued for key crops, including labor for growing, harvesting, yields and income.
Arugula was identified during the 2009 season as having the best potential for year-round production in the two greenhouse production systems and additional data was collected in 2010 to evaluate differences between passive solar greenhouse production in raised soil beds, 3 inch pots on greenhouse benches, 3 inch pots in a greenhouse aquaponics recirculating system with gutters over fish tanks, and in larger containers (1-3 gallons) on greenhouse benches.
Significant time was spent recording and summarizing data collected over 3 plus years of production observations.
In addition to several on-site tours, a PowerPoint program was presented at the Farmers Forum at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in Columbia, Missouri in November of 2010.
Key results from 2010 included:
• Use of drip irrigation was limited due to even distribution of rainfall during most of the season, with the exception of a couple weeks during early summer and again during later summer. Drip irrigation was not seen as an energy reduction but as a labor reduction practice.
• Processing of surplus crops was limited due to increased demand of fresh items from successful marketing to new clients during the previous season combined with reduced yields due to late season disease pressures.
• Late fall and early spring harvests of field grown Arugula were possible with use of row cover. This row cover was also critical for reduction of flea beetle damage noted in the previous spring and for extending the harvest season.
• Insect problems were minimal during early summer, possibly due to cold, wet spring conditions. Late season cucumber beetles would likely have substantially reduced Basil yields if the downy mildew had not already significantly damaged the crop.
• Mizuna was added to the mix of greenhouse greens and was in demand by chefs during the winter of 2010-2011 harvest season, in spite of significantly higher pricing due to reduced yields per square foot.
WORK PLAN FOR 2011
Based on 2010 results:
• Summarize data to identify the most productive crops that provided highest yields and most income per square foot, based on production, harvesting and processing inputs.
• Preliminary results have indicated that Basil is most cost effective for passive solar greenhouse and field production during the summer months, while Arugula and Mizuna having the greatest potential for year-round greenhouse production during reduced light and temperature during the fall, winter, and spring seasons.
• Preventative summer sprays for downy mildew and cucumber beetles will be incorporated into the 2011 growing season plan of action.
• Continued use of stopwatch and scales to evaluate crop inputs, harvest labor and yields per square foot will help to provide critical evaluation towards growing the most productive crops while maximizing profitability.
• Decreased emphasis for developing value-added products with emphasis on fresh market sales.
Information was shared about sustainable growing, and renewable energy used for year-round production in greenhouses was shared. During 2010, field day tours were offered to the general public and also for inquiring groups that were interested in sustainable greenhouse growing, including the following dates and numbers attending:
• Spring Open Greenhouse Tours on May 8th. Cold weather limited attendance to about 46 attendees this year.
• 2010 Ohio Solar Tour, Oct 2nd -- Fall Open Greenhouse Tours in cooperation with Green Energy Ohio. A total of 58 visitors including a large school group of 23 students and instructors from Ohio State University.
• Provided a tour on October 21st for Tom Barnhardt working with the Marysville Food Pantry to develop a year-round aquaponics greenhouse.
• Speaker at the Farmers Forum for the 2010 National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference on Saturday, November 6th in Missouri. PowerPoint Presentation --Intensive Production and Value-Added Products Evaluations for Year-Round
Production in Central Ohio.
• Several other requests during the year were deferred to the two main tour/open house dates to be more efficient and allow networking between participants at those tours.
• Two Open Greenhouse Tours are planned again for 2011 in May and October.