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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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Upcoming Events

Wine Sensory Evaluation Workshop

April 26, 2024 : Wine Sensory Evaluation Workshop
Staatsburg, NY

In collaboration with Jeremy Schuster, Viticulture Specialist at the ENYCHP, Dr. Anna Katharine Mansfield and Chris Gerling, Enology Extension Specialists with the Cornell Craft Beverage Institute, will be presenting a wine production-focused, interactive workshop on sensory evaluation. 

View Wine Sensory Evaluation Workshop Details

What is my vine trying to tell me?

May 15, 2024 : What is my vine trying to tell me?
Plattsburgh, NY

Are your grapevines showing signs of discoloration or stunted growth? Don't ignore these warning signs! Join us on May 15th at the Cliton County CCE office to learn about the essential nutrients that grapevines require to thrive, identify the symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, and how to fix them. Don't miss out on this opportunity to improve your grapevine cultivation skills! Attendance is free, but registration is required.

View What is my vine trying to tell me? Details

How man's best friend can help find Spotted Lanternfly

May 21, 2024
Millbrook, NY

Come and join us at the Dutchess County CCE office on May 21st for a special demonstration by Jennifer Fimbel, the Agriculture and Horticulture Program Leader with Dutchess County CCE. You will get to see her SLF K9 Cole in action as they demonstrate how man's best friend can be used to detect the Spotted Lanternfly. Attendance is free, but registration is required

View How man's best friend can help find Spotted Lanternfly Details

Announcements

2023 Spotted Wing Drosophila Monitoring/Management

All berry farmers are watching for monitoring reports that indicate Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) adults are in their region. Mid-season berry crops should be sprayed as soon as berries begin to ripen unless you've elected to use insect exclusion netting.

- For general information about SWD, and to enroll for free monitoring reports, visit the Cornell SWD blog https://blogs.cornell.edu/swd1/.
- Click here for the 2023 Quick Guide for Pesticide Management. 
- For some great instructional videos and fact sheets on insect exclusion netting, visit the University of Vermont's Ag Engineering blog.


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

Winter Greens Grower Interviews in Northern New York

October 22, 2022
In this episode, vegetable specialist Elisabeth Hodgdon interviews Lindsey Pashow, ag business development and marketing specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York team. They discuss findings from a series of interviews with winter greens producers in northern New York. Lindsey shares production and marketing challenges associated with growing winter greens in this cold and rural part of the state, success stories and advice from growers, and tips for those interested in adding new crop enterprises to their operation.

Funding for this project was provided by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. The episode was edited by Miles Todaro of the ENYCHP team.

Resources:
• Crop enterprise budget resources available from Penn State Extension (field and tunnel vegetables: https://extension.psu.edu/small-scale-field-grown-and-season-extension-budgets), UMass Extension (winter spinach budgets: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/outreach-project/improving-production-yield-of-winter-greens-in-northeast and field vegetables: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/fact-sheets/crop-production-budgets), and Cornell Cooperative Extension (high tunnel vegetables: https://blogs.cornell.edu/hightunnels/economics/sample-budgets-spreadsheets/). Use these budgets as templates when developing your own crop enterprise budget.
• The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, by Richard Wiswall
• The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Eliot Coleman

For questions about the winter greens project discussed in this podcast, reach out to Lindsey Pashow (lep67@cornell.edu) or Elisabeth Hodgdon(eh528@cornell.edu).

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