On-farm evaluation of shade cloth as a tool for reducing heat-related losses in tomato seed production

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2023: $74,757.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Organic Seed Alliance
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
Jared Zystro
Organic Seed Alliance


  • Vegetables: tomatoes


  • Crop Production: seed saving, shade cloth
  • Education and Training: participatory research

    Proposal abstract:

    By conducting participatory research on shade cloth in seed production and disseminating the results, this project will reduce risk for seed producers, improving their quality of life, as well as increasing the reliability of the supply of regionally adapted seed. 

    The quality, quantity and diversity of seed varieties available to producers impact their economic success, and their ability to farm in an environmentally sound manner. Increasing the number of successful seed producers contributes to the economic viability, environmental soundness, and social responsibility of our agricultural system. However, seed production is risky, especially in the face of increasing climate extremes. The Western states are an important region for the production of high quality vegetable seed, including tomatoes. These same states have been among the most impacted by increasing temperatures. 

    Based on surveys, interviews and focus groups, shade cloth was identified as the heat management option producers were most interested in researching, and tomatoes were identified as the crop for which Western seed producers have felt the most impact from extreme temperatures during pollination.

    This project will conduct on-farm shade cloth tomato seed trials in WA, HI, and AZ, collecting plant, seed and climate data at all sites. A Partial Budget Analysis will be conducted to calculate the cost-effectiveness of using shade cloth in tomato seed production. 

    A publication will be written with results and methods of the trials and Budget Analysis. Field days and a webinar will be conducted on shade cloth for tomato seed production.



    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objective 1: In 2023 and 2024, evaluate the impact of shade cloth on tomato seed yield and quality in 10 replicated trials across three Western states.

    Research Objective 2: Conduct Partial Budget Analysis to report on the change in profit from using shade cloth to improve tomato seed yield in 2025.

    Educational Objective 1: Develop publication on the use of shade cloth to manage high temperatures in tomato seed crops and distribute to 100+ producers by 2025

    Educational Objective 2: Develop a webinar on the use of shade cloth to manage high temperatures in tomato seed crops and present webinar to 100+ producers by 2025

    Educational Objective 3: Host 5 Field Tours and Virtual Tours for 100+ producers by 2025. 

    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.