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SWROC High Tunnels: Extending the Season for Organic Vegetable Production 2014

Final Report to The Ceres Trust

Paulo Pagliari, Soil Scientist
Lee Klossner, Research Fellow
Pauline Nickel, Head

University of Minnesota, Southwest Research and Outreach Center

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March 2014

Introduction

High tunnels are plastic covered, low-energy use structures capable of extending the growing season earlier in the spring and later in the fall, increasing the availability and amount of locally grown food. 2012 was the last year for the research being conducted with funds from The Ceres Trust in the high tunnels at the University of Minnesota’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center (SWROC) near Lamberton. The research conducted in the SWROC tunnels have resulted in a wealth of research-based information to local organic high tunnel growers. The research was highlighted at the annual Extending the Season Field Day’s in 2011 and 2012, and the 2011 and 2012 Organic Field Days organized by the SWROC. Results from the trial were presented as a poster presentation at the 2013 Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) conference, and as an oral presentation at the Third Crop Producers meeting in March of 2013 at Fairmont, MN. Recently results were presented in a poster presentation at the ASA-CSA-SSSA international annual meeting held in November 2013 at Tampa, FL. The organic high tunnel project provided an excellent way to reach out to organic producers with new, research-based information about organic production methods and get their inputs on what problems they are faced with and how we can help. The SWROC has also formed an organic committee composed of organic producers and faculty from the SWROC. This committee has met several times over the past two years (2011 and 2012) and they have expressed the need for research-based information on soil fertility and nutrient management on organic cropping systems. Therefore, presenting the organic growers with scientific data on how to improve soil health should be a priority for SWROC and many others organic researchers.

The objective of the high tunnel program at the SWROC is an experimental-based research and outreach program focusing on extending the growing season for organic vegetable production. This research that is ending was centered on soil and plant fertility and variety trials for Southwestern Minnesota. Results of this research provide information for organic growers, and will be submitted for publication in peer reviewed journals. In addition, we work to collaborate with University of Minnesota high tunnel research in other parts of the state, and with University of Minnesota Extension Educators, as interest in organic and local food continues to expand.

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