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Supplemental Heat for Winter Greens Production: What's the Cost?

Ethan Grundberg, Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

April 25, 2018

Winter Greens PFPWinter greens in high tunnels at then Poughkeepsie Farm Project

There seems to be little agreement among winter greens growers regarding the true costs and potential value of using supplemental heat all winter. With support from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (NE SARE) and the generous cooperation of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP), we tried to start gathering some data to add to the high tunnel heating debate. We tracked yield, soil nitrate availability, total nitrogen uptake, propane use, and soil temperature all winter in the two identical side-by-side 42'x196' double layer inflated poly Harnois high tunnels with one tunnel set to 33 degrees ambient air temperature and the other set to 40.

 

The data from the trial is still being analyzed, but here are a few key results that have emerged:

 

  • Maintaining adequate soil moisture and, ideally, living roots in the high tunnel before planting is necessary to preserve the soil microbial community that makes nitrogen available for plant uptake.
  • Soil nitrate levels were not significantly or consistently different between the two temperatures; however, total nitrogen uptake in the warmer tunnel was higher for curly kale, spinach, and especially for Salanova lettuce.
  • The warmer tunnel yielded three harvests in the same time that the cooler tunnel yielded only two.
  • It took 979 gallons of propane to heat the tunnel to 33 degrees from November through March. It took 2.1 times as much propane to add the extra 7 degrees to reach 40 over the same period.
  • Fertilizing to 70 pounds/acre of nitrogen in September provided sufficient nitrogen to kale, spinach, and Salanova until mid-February.
  • Targeted early spring fertigations with soluble Chilean nitrate carried those crops to maturity in early April

 

A big thanks to the great crew at PFP for all of the help tracking yield! Going forward, a group of vegetable specialists with Cornell Cooperative Extension hopes to continue to investigate fertility management in winter high tunnels generally and specifically the interplay between supplemental heating and nitrogen. If you are interested in collaborating, please reach out to Ethan at eg572@cornell.edu.

 

This article is from the April 26, 2018 edition of ENYCHP Vegetable News.  To read the full newsletter, CLICK HERE.



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Lettuce / Leafy Greens

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Pumpkins / Gourds

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Radishes

Raspberries / Blackberries

Raspberries / Blackberries

Rhubarb

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Squash - Summer

Squash - Summer

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Upcoming Events

Ag Manager Webinar Series: Ag Tax Topics - Sales Tax and Property Tax Issues for Ag in NYS

August 27, 2019
12:30 - 12:50pm

Join Liz Higgins from the CCE ENYCHP every other Tuesday at 12:30pm throughout the summer as she discusses pertinent business topics for busy farm managers.
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Willsboro Farm High Tunnel Twilight Meeting

August 27, 2019
5:00pm - 7:00pm
Willsboro, NY

Join vegetable specialists Elisabeth Hodgdon, Jud Reid, and farm manager Mike Davis for a high tunnel and field tour at Cornell's Willsboro Research Farm, where they will share research results for the following projects: 
  • Striped cucumber beetle management suing netting and row cover
  • Varietal differences in cucumber susceptibility to striped cucumber beetle
  • Ground cherry and goldenberry production in field and high tunnel environments
  • Overwintered high tunnel spinach nitrogen fertility 

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Announcements

Resources from CCE ENYCHP!

We are developing new ways to connect with the CCE ENYCHP team this year! We have a Youtube page located at this link. Check out videos on Table Grape Production, Pest Updates and the 20 Minute Ag Manager - in 4 Minutes series

We have a Facebook Page here as well as an Instagram page. We keep these places updated with current projects, events, and other interesting articles and deadlines.

There are also text alerts available. Fruit and vegetable farmers in 17 Eastern NY counties can now receive real time alerts on high risk disease and pest outbreaks texted directly to their cell phone. The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program, which is supported by local Cornell Cooperative Extension associations, will now offer text alerts to those that enroll in our program in 2019. 

The text alerts will be reserved for important crop alerts that could impact management decisions immediately. For instance, if there were an outbreak of Late Blight in the area, this would be transmitted to vegetable growers.

Farmers can choose the crop for which they wish to receive updates. Additionally they can request that Ag Business Alerts be sent to them. These alerts might include due dates for crop insurance deadlines, market opportunities etc.

If you have questions, please contact enychp@cornell.edu


Podcasts

Biweekly Vegetable News Podcast - Episode 9 - 08/21/19

August 21, 2019
The August 21st, 2019 edition of the Eastern New York Vegetable News covers the following topics:

Changes to Worker Housing Regulations in the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act (1:25)
Managing Alternaria Leaf Spot and Head Rot on Broccoli (4:25)
Gauging Winter Squash Maturity for Harvest (10:05)
Insects in Hemp, especially European Corn Borers (18:33)
Guidance on the Dropped Covered Produce Provision of the Food Safety Modernization Act (22:53)
Cucurbit Downy Mildew Management Update (27:02)
Report from the BioControl Field Day and Weed Management Recommendations (31:07)
Day Neutral Strawberries (40:33)

Here are links to additional resources mentioned in the episode:

Current Housing Regulations for Seasonal and Migrant Farmworkers
(On January 1, 2020, these will now apply to farms housing any number of seasonal and migrant farmworkers)

Public Health Law, section 225, NYCRR Title 10 Health, Part 15, Migrant Housing: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/nycrr/title_10/part_15/

Managing Alternaria Leaf Spot and Head Rot in Broccoli

Sue Scheufele “Can Alternaria Leaf Spot Be Managed Organically?” http://www.hort.cornell.edu/expo/proceedings/2013/Cole%20Crops/Cole%20Crops%20Scheufele%20Alternaria.pdf

Christy Hoepting “Control of Alternaria head rot in broccoli featuring exciting results from 2018 on‐farm fungicide trial” http://www.hort.cornell.edu/expo/pdf/20190115-all-day-hoepting.pdf

Dropped Covered Produce:
FDA Factsheet on Dropped Covered Produce: https://www.fda.gov/media/129568/download

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