High Tunnel Grape Production Systems: A Novel Sustainable Approach to Growing Grapes

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2017: $266,986.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Renee Threlfall
University of Arkansas
Dr. M. Elena Garcia
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Information Products

Grape Sour Rot (Multimedia)


  • Fruits: grapes


  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses, varieties and cultivars, Trellis systems
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management


    Grape production is a high profit global enterprise with the United States (US) as one of the top ten countries in yield, area harvested, and tons produced. Although the majority of US grape production occurs in California, grape production in the southern region can be a profitable enterprise. However, grapes grown in the southern region are an extremely high input crop because of pest pressures (diseases and arthropods) in a humid climate requiring frequent fungicide and insecticide inputs (6-8 fungicides and 4-6 pesticide applications per season). Organic grape production is not an economically viable option in the southeastern United States due to the prevalence of disease and insect pests (e.g. black rot and grape berry moth). The economic and environmental sustainability of table grape production in the southern United States could be improved by producing grapes in protected agriculture systems such as high tunnels (HT).  Preliminary results of table grape cultivation at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) under HT systems has demonstrated that production can be advanced (production can be achieved one year after planting instead of the two to three years in field production), fruit quality can be improved, and fungicide and insecticide inputs can be reduced (from 10-14 spray applications in open field vineyards to 2-4 in HTs). Establishment costs and payback periods for HT production of table grapes are needed to assess economic feasibility for southern region growers, but could be applied to other grape production regions. A multidisciplinary approach by the UA System Division of Agriculture will evaluate HT grape production as a sustainable way to diversify farm operations. Division researchers in horticulture, food science, pest management, and economic fields will collaborate with the Arkansas Association of Grape Growers and local growers in underserved regions. Production requirements, pest management, postharvest qualities, and economic and marketing considerations will be identified, assessed, and incorporated into educational programs. A partnership with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will aid in developing and disseminating project deliverables and publications. The information generated over the course of this project will guide future growers and entrepreneurs through the decision­ making processes involved in implementing this novel approach to HT table grape production.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1. Evaluate high tunnel table grape cultural and pest management methods by investigating potential management techniques.

    Objective 2. Determine marketable attributes through the evaluation of physiochemical and post-harvest attributes for table grapes grown under high tunnels.

    Objective 3. Develop economic budgets for high tunnel table grape production by determining economic breakeven analysis.

    Objective 4. Generate production practices for high tunnel grape growers by creating pest management and best practice guides from project research results.

    Objective 5.  Expand outreach efforts for high tunnel grape production.


    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.