Low Tunnel Materials for Protection and Phenological Acceleration of Figs

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2021: $3,420.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Finger Lakes Grape Program/Annelise Farms
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Don Caldwell
Finger Lakes Grape Program/Annelise Farms


  • Fruits: figs


  • Crop Production: low tunnels
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    I aim to explore the two greatest challenges of growing figs, their cold hardiness (or tenderness) and their need for a long growing season. By using different combinations of protection materials in a low tunnel system I intend to both protect fig trees against winter damage, and accelerate their phenology to boost production and therefore economic viability.

    I will place Wi-Fi connected sensors recording temperature and humidity outside of the tunnel structures, and within each layer to decouple the effects of each material. Phenological data will be collected regarding the date of bud break, number of shoots that emerged from buds left after pruning, date of fig formation, date of first ripe fig, average weight of fig by variety, total number of figs harvest per tree, and pruning weight in the fall. This data will be analyzed to find the most reliable and effective materials combination that both protects and accelerates fig production.

    The potential benefits of this project will be shared with others primarily through field days and workshops coordinated with local cooperative extension bodies. I aim to present my data at a relevant conference and if fruit production allows, host a fig tasting with the public. If a viable protection scheme is found, it could be applied to any number of fringe fruit trees that are typically grown in areas with mild winter temperatures and longer growing seasons, giving local farmers more growing options.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to find a combination of protection materials in a low tunnel system that will allow figs to both survive winters in the northeast, and accelerate the ripening of figs for increased production.

    1. Winter fig survival through protection materials in low tunnel system.
      1. Temperature data: Within/without low tunnel. Inside 1st/2nd
      2. Phenology data: How many shoots emerged from the buds left after pruning and protecting over the winter.
    2. Accelerating fig ripening with the same materials used in low tunnel system.
      1. Temperature data: How much hotter/cooler depending on combination.
      2. Phenology data: When did bud break occur? When did the first fig form? When did the first fig ripen? How many figs per tree, per treatment?
      3. Pruning weights. Did the phenological boost result in increased growth?

    If a combination of materials can be found that protects figs, and accelerates their ripening for increased productivity, farmers will have a system capable of being applied to other semi-hardy perennial crops. Figs, and many of these other crops, require few chemical inputs and outside of low tunnel setup, little labor.

    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.