We completed in-depth interviews with a group of eight organic farmers with extensive experience using high tunnels. Participants identified six related sets of decisions that organic high tunnel users must make and for which there are few, if any, science-based recommendations:
- Decisions about the cropping system (crop selection, cover crops, and crop rotations)
- Management of the high tunnel environment through ventilation and heating
- Soil and nutrient management
- Pest and disease management
- Attracting pollinators and beneficial insects
We summarized the major needs expressed by the expert panel and sent a questionnaire to the panel members. We asked them to rank the six broad topical areas in terms of importance as an area for research and to identify the three most important crops to include in the research. Respondents clarified two points:
- Pollinators and beneficial insects are a subset of the topic pest and disease management.
- Economic issues are specific to each key decision that growers make and are a major factor in assessing the biological research.
We developed and distributed a questionnaire to all organic vegetable growers using high tunnels in Florida and Georgia. We asked respondents to rank specific research topics on a scale of 1 (not at all important) to 5 (extremely important). The findings will direct our research objectives in future high-tunnel projects focused on improving organic vegetable production and management.
Sattanno, K., Swisher, M. E., Colee, J., Zhao, X., Gao, Z., and Black, Z. (2018) Growing High Tunnel Use for Organic Vegetable Production in the Southeast. American Society of Horticultural Sciences Annual Conference. High Tunnel Planning ASHS 2018 Poster