Enhancing crop production using hoophouses
Natural Resources and Environmental Science
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An increase in demand for locally grown produce has led to a need for additional knowledge on how hoophouses in the high desert can be utilized to potentially increase quality, yield, and growing season of warm and cool season crops. With as few as 90 frost free days in northern Nevada, these potential benefits of hoophouses are important for local growers. Plant physiological knowledge was applied in two different studies: (1) application of wind to lettuce grown at the production scale using high and low density plantings in hoophouse and greenhouse environments; and (2) potential of hoophouses to enhance yield and extend the growing season of warm and cool season crops. Hoophouses provide a protected environment for growing vegetable crops by reducing wind, but at the cost of natural benefits provided by some level of mechanical stimulation. If wind can be manipulated to generate a higher quality baby salad mix at production scale planting densities, then applying wind has the potential to benefit producers and consumers. Major questions include: (a) how will wind alter leaf characteristics associated with high quality lettuce; (b) can wind generate a leaf response at production scale densities; and (c) what quantity of wind is required. To address these questions, lettuce was grown in hoophouse and greenhouse environments using high and low density plantings under different wind treatments. Wind treatments did not produce desirable leaf characteristics in any of the different set of experiments and thus is not a practical cultivation technique in northern Nevada. Three additional sets of studies determined if hoophouses in northern Nevada provide environmental conditions sufficient to increase yield and extend the growing season of warm and cool season crops. Hoophouses outperformed field plots in terms of yield, regulating environmental plant stressors, and managing rodent problems. Winter crops planted in early October generated harvestable produce throughout the winter months with the added protection of hoophouses and a headstart on spring harvest. In addition, early season extension was successfully applied to hoophouse grown tomatoes.