High Tunnel Production
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High Tunnel production is an emerging type of Controlled Environment Agriculture that is very closely related to greenhouse production, but less expensive regarding initial start-up costs and overhead. The structures are similar in design but differ in hardware such as heaters and evaporative cooling systems. They are often referred to as Hoop Houses or Tunnel greenhouses, covered with a single layer of poly plastic for protection. High-Tunnel production provides the grower a cost-effective choice to improve their outdoor operations without the hassle of constructing a permanent structure such as a traditional greenhouse. Another benefit is that high yield production can be reached on a minimal amount of land.
Production can take place via direct planting within the structure or growers can install raised beds or potted production systems. So, let’s explore the benefits of High-tunnel production: Season Extension in ground crops can be produced longer due to protection from the elements and warmer temperatures. Increased Yields are reached by an improved environment via consistent irrigation, scheduled fertilization, and temperature control. Reasonable Pricing, growers can purchase High-Tunnel structures cheaper than purchasing a traditional style greenhouse which requires a heating and electrical system. Another benefit is the potential for grant funding such as the National Resources Construction Services (NCRS) EQIP Grant. Straight-forward construction is another perk, structures can be easily erected by just a couple of workers. Regarding mobility High-Tunnels are easy to relocate if location issues become a problem. These structures are also easy to expand; several structures can be located side by side without production or yields being compromised. In conclusion, High -Tunnels are easy to ventilate due to roll up sides so cool air is introduced into the structure at plant level, pesticide use is also reduced, because treatment takes place on a smaller scale versus field production; the final benefit is crop diversity (crops with the same environmental needs can be grown at the same time.
One last bit of information, the Mitchell Extension Center is pleased to be assisting TRACTOR, and the NC Farm Stewardship Association with a High Tunnel Workshop which will be held on September 15, 2023. Click here for workshop start times and registration requirements.