- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Crop Production: grafting, high tunnels or hoop houses
Short growing seasons in the North Central Region limit farmers’ participation in local food markets. High tunnels are valuable tools for season extension. Farmers who consistently grow tomatoes in high tunnels need additional high-value crops to increase the sustainability of the production systems. As a potentially promising alternative, greenhouse cucumbers are high-value and high-demand crops, but low soil temperatures in early spring limit its extended season production in high tunnel systems. This project introduces grafting technology with cold tolerant rootstocks to address this challenge. Nine farmers in Indiana and one farmer in OH have collaborated in the project. Fifteen on-farm trials were conducted in 2017 and 2018 spring production season. Grafted cucumbers enhanced transplant survival rate, and in most cases, increased early-season cucumber yield. The most pronounced effects were observed when cucumbers were grown in heated high tunnels that the crop was planted as early as in February. The estimated cost of the grafted transplants was about 2.3 times more expensive than normal cucumber transplant, but partial return analysis indicated that farmers growing the grafted plants is economically feasible. Results of the project were distributed to farmers through presentations, demonstrations at grower meetings, field days and newsletter articles. An extension bulletin and a video were developed to teach the grafting technology. Immediate outcomes of the project are improved yield and extended harvest duration of cucumbers grown in high tunnel systems. In the long term, the changes in farmers’ activities increase the sustainability of high tunnel production system and increase farmer income.
Project objectives:div style="margin-left:1em;">
Objective 1. Evaluate the effectiveness of using grafting technology to enhance early season
production, control pests and increase the yield of seedless cucumbers grown in high tunnel systems.
Objective 2. Determine the economic feasibility of integrating grafting technology into high tunnel greenhouse cucumber production systems.
Objective 3. Train farmers on cucumber grafting technique, and develop and deliver extension programs on the integrated use of grafting technology in growing greenhouse cucumbers in high tunnel systems in the North Central Region.