Using high tunnels to provide peony with a longer growing season to increase productivity in northern latitudes and cold soils

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,751.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Western
State: Alaska
Principal Investigator:
Jan Hanscom
Polar Peonies, LLC

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal summary:

    Recent research in Alaska has shown that peonies for cut flower production is a viable northern agricultural product. Some of the limiting factors on Polar Peonies' farm are the varied spring thaw, unpredictable early fall frosts, and cold soils. This project will use high tunnels in a field production setting to gather information on extending both the spring and fall seasons as well as warming the soils. Potentially, this technology could allow production of peonies on cold soils or in micro-climate areas that are just a little colder than is optimal for the best peony production.
    This project hopes to address several of the limiting factors with the use of high tunnels in the following manner:
    *attempt to increase spring soil temperatures for earlier and uniform plant emergence,
    *attempt to extend fall growing season (delaying frost) to increase the time for plant root nutrient storage which will increased plant vigor,
    *attempt to increase overall growing season length to potentially allow production on colder, more northern sites, thereby providing alternative agricultural crop choices in other parts of the state which may now have marginal agriculture production.
    This project would benefit from a three-year study because perennials take longer to exhibit the changes we want to see. A minimum of two years should show some change but three would be better.

    While Alaska has had few sustainable agricultural exports, the current research, marketing, and development of the peony industry indicates that this agricultural commodity is sustainable. Peonies are not available anywhere in the world during the Alaska harvest window. This creates a steady demand for this commodity on the local, state, national, and even international markets.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Identify the value of using high tunnels in field-grown peony production.

    To meet this objectives we will:
    1. Monitor soil and air temperatures both inside and outside of high tunnels to determine impacts and optimum uses of high tunnel technology. Tunnels will be erected in an existing peony field during the fall of 2010. Data loggers will be added at the same time.

    2. Determine spring emergence dates for plants inside and outside the high tunnels to determine if plant emergence timing is effected. Emergence dates will be recorded for plants in plot areas. This will be done over three growing seasons. Currently plants emerge over a 3-4 week time span.

    3. Determine if increased growing days are possible with the use of high tunnels, especially extending into the fall. Data collection will include visual inspection for frost damaged vegetation and data loggers will record air temperature on an hourly basis over the growing season.

    4. Determine if there is increased plant survival and vigor with the use of the high tunnels. Data collection will consist of pictures and count of the number of stems in the plot area before harvest over three growing seasons.

    5. Determine if there is increased flower production with the use of high tunnels. Marketable flowers will be counted in plot areas over three seasons.

    6. Monitor diseases by sampling and doing surveys in plot areas.

    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.