High Value Crop Rotations for Utah High Tunnels

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $144,495.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Brent Black
PSC Department, Utah State University
Dr. Brent Black
Utah State University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, berries (brambles), cherries, peaches, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: peppers, cucurbits, tomatoes


  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, feasibility study, market study
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    While Utah’s climate and soils favor high yields, seasonal production windows are short and climatic conditions can impact early and late season productivity. Regions of Utah that have climates best suited to fruit and vegetable production now have high population densities with little remaining farmland. This remaining farmland is usually fragmented in small parcels that are generally not acceptable for large-scale field crop operations. The portions of the state that remain rural have short growing seasons not suitable for conventional fruit and vegetable production, or are faced with high land prices and pressure due to vacation and retirement development. High tunnels are a season-extension technology that provides a way for small, intensive growers to extend the spring and fall production periods and provide local produce to markets when prices are high. Developing high-tunnel production systems for the climatic regions of the Intermountain West will increase the returns that can be generated on small-parcel farms at the urban interface, and will also provide the ability to supply local produce to the region’s rural population. We propose to test various crop production schemes in an attempt to maximize production and farm profitability for intensive growers. Systems used will include early and late small fruits (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry), early and late warm season vegetables (tomatoes, pepper, squash, etc), and late fall and early spring salad greens. Each of these cropping systems could provide growers with season and market extensions to meet the growing demand for local produce in CSAs, farmers markets and other market outlets (farm gate, restaurants, etc). In harsher climates, season extension technology may make farmers markets and CSAs viable, by allowing a critical mass of product to be locally available. Replicated research trials will be conducted in tunnels at the Greenville Research Farm in North Logan, UT. Additional plantings will be established in tunnels and greenhouses on six commercial farms. These cooperating commercial farms were selected to represent diversity in farm size, local market potential, and climatic region. Some of these grower/cooperators are presently exploiting early and late season production for some crops and are interested in expanding to additional crops that will be compatible in a tunnel rotation and will fit their business plans and local market windows. The remaining grower/cooperators have expressed an interest in expanding their market windows and opportunities through season extension technology, but have not yet begun to employ season extension technologies. These growers are looking for the right crop and production system to fit into their current business plans. Data from both the Greenville farm and the cooperating commercial farms will be collected and analyzed to assess productivity, economic cost of production, and potential market returns. Commercial cooperators will also report on experience with marketing their produce over the extended season. Data from both the research farm and cooperating commercial farms will be synthesized into production guides and fact sheets, and will be disseminated through farm field days and industry conferences, newsletters, and research-oriented publications that will be available to farmers and interested audiences throughout the Intermountain West.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. To develop and disseminate meaningful management practices for high tunnels as an alternative season extension technology for the production of many vegetables and fruits. 1) To characterize the effect of high tunnels on crop productivity for a range of vegetables and small fruits grown early and late in the annual crop production cycle. 2) To determine compatible crop rotation strategies under organic production techniques. 3) To compare in-ground to containerized bench-top planting strategies for effectiveness in season extension and labor efficiency. 4) To assess the economic benefits of these different crop sequences and management techniques. 5) To distribute this information to urban and rural farmers and home gardeners of Utah and the Intermountain West at local field days, at extension educational events, and through print and electronic forms.
    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.