High Tunnel Research, Demonstration and Education
University soil and horticulture faculty led research, demonstration and education in the
use of high tunnels to extend the growing season in Zone 3. Work included high tunnel research in vegetable varieties, nutrient management, irrigation and season-long demonstrations and education events. Numerous growers have invested in high tunnels as a result of this research.
Local citizen/producers participated in the research, providing some labor and inputs for the project. At least 10 high tunnels were erected by local farmers for the following growing season. Project leaders included several University faculty and Extension educators. University researchers worked with Central Lakes College Ag staff and citizens in daily monitoring and maintenance of the tunnel, harvesting and selling produce.
- The variety study included a variety of vegetables at different spacing to identify the best use of tunnel space per square foot.
- The nutrient study involved monitoring all nutrient inputs, outputs and nutrients remaining in the soil to determine if fertilizers are managed properly. Nitrogen and potassium fertilizer was applied in the drip system through the season.
- A drip irrigation system set up with a user friendly soil monitoring system was used to demonstrate how effective it is at assisting the site operator in deciding when to irrigate and how much time is required to manage the irrigation system.
- Drip irrigation and soil moisture monitoring systems will be shown and discussed during field days and classroom educational workshops and forums.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, carrots, beets, glads, broccoli and other crops were planted the first week in May. Tomatoes were harvested about 30 days earlier in the high tunnels with yields of 15-25 pounds per plant depending on variety. Tomatoes planted in the outside plots yielded less than five pounds per plant. Tomatoes were also harvested as much as three weeks later in the fall. Outside tomatoes were under strong disease pressure; there were no like diseases in the high tunnel and no chemical applications of fungicides were used. The plants inside remained healthy until the tunnels were terminated in mid-October. Yields of cucumbers in the high tunnels averaged nearly 35 pounds per plant and harvest started early June. Initial observations and research indicate yields of tomatoes and other crops in the high tunnel could be increased by increasing plant density and strategic spacing.
$41,650 from the CRSDP
Cooperating Farmers (In-Kind) $18,000.00
Green Lands, Blue Waters Project: UM College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences $4,450.00
Initiative Foundation $2,000.00
University of Minnesota Extension Service (In-Kind) $7,500.00
College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences (In-Kind) $5,500.00