Monitoring Impacts of High Tunnels on Growing Conditions and Season Extension in Southcentral Alaska

2014 Annual Report for FW12-046

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2012: $19,615.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Alaska
Principal Investigator:
Rachel Lord
Alaska Stems (formerly Harambee Gardens)

Monitoring Impacts of High Tunnels on Growing Conditions and Season Extension in Southcentral Alaska


In 2013 this project got off of the ground with data logger deployment, initial data exploration and the creation of the Alaska High Tunnel website. We have been pleased with the progress of the project to-date and look forward to a strong year in 2014 of data collection, full analysis and the development of accompanying outreach materials and activities, including a newspaper report and high tunnel user group meetings, during which we will engage producers in efforts to fully utilize the data collected through this project. Work on this project is occurring on-time and is on schedule to be completed by the March 2015 deadline.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1. Establish a baseline of data for air temperature, soil temperature and relative humidity effects of high tunnels at representative elevations in the Lower Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. In 2013 data loggers were deployed at 11 high tunnels in and around Homer. Tunnels were selected to represent high and low elevations, and single- and double-poly covers. We looked for participants who leave their covers on year-round and who have 30’x72’ tunnels. This has proved to be difficult, since with high snow loads in recent years, many growers are removing their plastic during the winter. We are still waiting for one more double-layer, high-elevation participant. However if no one is found by spring 2014, we will likely deploy that set of loggers in a smaller sized tunnel to get some data on temperature fluctuations at a smaller size, as there are many smaller tunnels in the area.

Data loggers were mostly deployed in June 2013; however two sets were not put out until October. The ones deployed in the summer were retrieved and the air temperature/relative humidity data downloaded in November. Soil temperatures were not downloaded as the soil had mostly frozen by the time we went to retrieve the loggers. Soil and air loggers will be read again in early summer, once the soil has thawed.

Data were downloaded and are all available in an Excel spreadsheet on the high tunnel website ( Summarizing graphs are also available in that spreadsheet. In 2014 I will work to provide more comprehensive summaries of seasonal data on the website for easy access by growers.

Objective 2. Begin to understand the effects of single- versus double-layer polyethylene high tunnel covers on soil temperature, air temperature and relative humidity in this region.

Data collected during summer/fall 2013 do not provide enough information to begin working towards this objective. Further data collected in 2014 will give us what we need to develop a better understanding of these effects. A full report on this objective will be included in the final report.

Objective 3. Educate and engage the agricultural community of established and new local producers in order to maximize the potential of high tunnels in this region using local data.

During 2013, Kyra worked with contractor BlinkTank Studio to develop the high tunnel website for this project: We have already seen many people excited by this online resource, especially producers who are just starting out with high tunnels. As the content of the website expands in 2014, we anticipate much more use by established producers throughout Alaska.

Rachel has provided project updates at a series of high tunnel meetings held at a local community center and included an overview of this project at a talk she gave to the Alaska Peony Growers Association in January 2014. Rachel is currently exploring outreach opportunities for 2014, including a presentation at the Kenai Peninsula Agricultural Forum in April. More outreach products will be developed from this project in 2014-15, once more data have been collected and analyzed.


  • Deployment of 22 soil temperature loggers (11 inside high tunnels and 11 outside tunnels) and 22 air temperature/relative humidity loggers (similarly distributed at 11 different sites, inside and outside of tunnels).
  • Initial data download and basic review of data, with all raw data and summarizing graphs available online.
  • launched as a state-wide resource for high tunnel growers throughout Alaska.
  • Informal outreach conducted at two high tunnel grower meetings and a presentation given that included information on this project to the Alaska Peony Growers Association. One commercial peony grower is included in the data collection component of this project.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Impacts and contributions from this project will be better developed in 2014-2015, as our data are collected and we develop a baseline understanding of temperature/relative humidity dynamics in our project tunnels. Also in 2014 we will be releasing the interactive database component of the high tunnel website, creating an unprecedented resource for high tunnel growers to share and learn from one another on planting and variety information.


Dr. Meriam Karlsson
Technical Advisor
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department of High Latitude Agriculture
Fairbanks, AK 99775
Office Phone: 9074747005
Kyra Wagner
PO Box 1801
Homer, AK 99603
Office Phone: 9072356953
Emily Garrity
60831 Andrey Ln.
Homer, AK 99603
Office Phone: 9072352621