Evaluation of High Tunnel Systems for Spring Organic Lettuce Production in Georgia

2016 Annual Report for GS15-147

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $11,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Georgia
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Suzanne O'Connell
University of Georgia

Evaluation of High Tunnel Systems for Spring Organic Lettuce Production in Georgia


The goal of this project is to investigate the performance of multiple lettuce varieties for spring production of organic head lettuce under high tunnels compared to the open field in Georgia. We will evaluate the effects of high tunnels on marketable yields as well as the performance of multiple varieties of lettuce at three planting dates. A consumer survey focused on visual appeal and taste testing will add to the development of a tailored approach for profitable and environmentally friendly production of organic lettuce in Georgia.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) Evaluate the effect of high tunnels on spring organic lettuce production in Georgia.

2) Compare the performance of different lettuce varieties in each growing system.

3) Assess the effect of three different planting dates on crop yield. 

4) Describe the microclimate of each growing system throughout the spring season. 

5) Conduct consumer taste test and visual assessment of the top-performing lettuce varieties to better understand market preferences.


  • Local organic farmers and seeds companies were contacted for their advice about lettuce variety selection and crop management.
  • Soil samples were analyzed from field and high tunnel areas and then a fertilizer plan was created.
  • Field and high tunnel planting areas at the UGA Horticulture Research Farm were prepared.
  • Supplies were ordered.
  • The soil was tilled and raised beds were formed.
  • Fertilizers were applied.
  • Drip irrigation system was set up.
  • Microclimate monitoring stations were installed.
  • Transplants were grown in a heated organic greenhouse.
  • Lettuce seedlings were transplanted over a series of dates in March and April and the data collection has begun.
  • The consumer preference survey has been reviewed and approved by the UGA Institutional Review Board (IRB) and we are planning to administer the survey later this spring.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  • In fall 2016/winter 2017, we plan on publishing findings in a peer-reviewed academic journal as well as sharing results with Georgia farmers via a popular press outlet.
  • In winter 2017, we anticipate presenting results at an annual farm conference such as the Georgia Organics Conference.


Theekshana Jayalath

Graduate Student Research Assistant
University of Georgia
1111 Plant Sci. Bldg.
Athens, GA 30602-7273