- Vegetables: artichokes
- Crop Production: multiple cropping
- Production Systems: general crop production
Currently 99% of globe artichokes available commercially are from California. This means that the crop must be shipped to all other parts of the US, impacting the environment from vehicle emissions. They are generally grown on large monoculture farms, using conventional farming practices, and in areas such as desert that require more irrigation from long distances away. The cost to New England consumers are high, and the freshness is low, since globe artichoke are a highly perishable item that has a short shelf life. In addition New England farmers struggle, due to the short growing season, to grow a more diverse variety of crops to meet the consumer demand. There is a movement to eat locally, and this trend could allow local farmers to benefit by growing artichokes in New England. The globe artichoke is a crop harvested from annual or perennial plants that need a chilling period below 50 degrees before flowering will occur, and need protection from the harsh winter freezes. We believe a low tunnel will add enough protection to allow the plants to survive the winter and also allow annual plants to be set out earlier to extend the harvest season. Proving that globe artichokes can be grow in the northeast will demonstrate to farmers in other parts of the US that they could consider growing this crop and increase the diversity of what they can grow and offer their customers.
Project objectives from proposal:
The objective of this project is to evaluate overwintering perennial globe artichokes using low tunnels, and compare that to growing globe artichokes as annuals. We wish to evaluate the the ability to harvest globe artichokes sooner from perennial plants, as well as the higher quality harvest from perennial plants. We will also look at the potential cost saving of perennial plants versus annual plants, as well as the potential profit from the longer season that perennial globe artichokes have. All the globe artichoke plants will be grown using IPM and organic weed management since this is a sustainable approach to crop production that we follow, and this project would need to grow successfully under these management practices to be successful for our purposes. We will start globe artichoke seed in late January and early February in our greenhouse. The plots for the plants will be covered by the low tunnels in April, or once the ground can be accessed depending on spring rains, to warm the soil for transplanting. The plants will be transplanted in early May to chill them and vernalize the plants to produce buds the first year. The plants will be spaced 4 feet apart in rows in a double rowed bed, row spacing will be 5 feet apart and the rows will be staggered. We will trial different varieties of globe artichoke from seed and from root stock to evaluate the hardiness, days to bud, and vigor of the plant. After the first frost the plants will be trimmed back to 12 inches tall and covered with the low tunnel that will be 6 feet wide and 24 feet long. The low tunnels will be made by bending ½ inch metal tubing using a pipe bender made specifically for this purpose. The low tunnels will be covered by a clear covering made for low tunnel applications that allows light through and can hold up to UV light and is strong enough to take the snow load that we could potentially get. We will also take soil moisture and soil temperature readings both when the plants are uncovered and covered by the low tunnels, as well as air temperature readings inside the low tunnels throughout the project. There will be one control plot for the perennial system that will not be covered by just by mulch, with no low tunnel. We will grow a control crop for the annual system starting the seeds in late February and then plant them out without vernalization. In the second season we will also compare the dates of harvest and percent harvested between new annual globe artichokes being started in January, to the plants that were wintered over in the low tunnels. This comparison will be to look at the cost of starting seed in January including the cost of heating a greenhouse, against wintering over the plants and the possible financial benefit of saving and potential season extension with perennial globe artichokes.
We will measure the yield of buds harvested by weight, percent survival of plants through winter, and a comparison between the yield of perennial plants versus annual plants. Probes to measure soil moisture and temperature will be placed in each plot, and a data logger used to access the data and upload to a computer program to analyze the data. The measurements will be taken every 30 minutes, to have a good idea of all the temperature fluctuations within the low tunnels in winter conditions. Soil tests will be taken to assess the type of soil and nutrient content, pH level and organic matter to best control the inputs involved in the project.
We plan to create a presentation to be given on our farm with and open farm day in September. We will invite the public, send invites to NOFANH, and also send an invite to UNH Cooperative Extension to reach their network of growers as well. We will write a research report, and Beck Sideman (UNH Cooperative Extension Vegetable and Fruit Specialist) has agreed to publish this in the NH Vegetable & Fruit Newsletter, which reaches 300+ growers throughout NH. We will place photos of the ongoing project to our followers on Facebook, and create a press release to be sent to New England farming publications.