Improving High Tunnel Management with Soil Steamers through an Equipment Sharing Model

Project Overview

ONE20-370
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $29,997.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Cheshire County Conservation District
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Amanda Littleton
Cheshire County Conservation District

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: greenhouses, high tunnels or hoop houses
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives
  • Pest Management: disease vectors, eradication, other, sanitation, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: other
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    Fruit and vegetable growers are dependent on the use of high tunnels to produce high value crops.  There has been a strong increase in the number of tunnels in NH for vegetable and fruit production since 2010, when the USDA NRCS first offered high tunnels as a practice through EQIP.  These tunnels provide a necessary protection from extreme weather events.  Though vital for farm viability, high tunnels also create environments that are ideal for disease development and persistent pest and weed problems.   

    Organic producers, and those farms who use limited inputs, have restricted tools to manage these challenges.   Soil steaming is an emerging technology that is being utilized to manage disease, weeds, and pests in high tunnels.  There is also an application for steam in sanitizing greenhouse goods and distribution containers, a solution to a perennial challenge for growers.   Although this is a proven technology, it is not yet widely adopted in the Northeast.  A problem is that soil steamers are expensive and unattainable for small and medium scale producers, who make up the bulk of fruit and vegetable producers in NH.  We are proposing to make a soil steamer available to specialty crop producers through an equipment sharing model.  This model will allow producers to access the equipment in an affordable manner.  The Conservation District will be the third-party manager of this equipment sharing model and will work with farmers to provide trainings, on-farm demos, and facilitate peer to peer education on the best practices of soil steaming.

     

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to improve high tunnel management by making soil steaming equipment available to farmers through an equipment sharing model, and providing education and trainings to farmers through workshops, on-farm demonstrations, and one-on-one technical assistance.  

     

    The benefits to farmers include increased access to affordable equipment for managing weeds and disease in high tunnels.  This equipment also has the capacity to be used to combat viruses and bacteria through steam sterilization in sanitizing greenhouse goods (e.g. trays, pots) and distribution containers.  This benefits farms by improving their sanitation and food safety practices.  Overall the participation in this project will benefit farms by improving their productivity, reducing their labor costs, and lead to an increase in farm income. 

    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.