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What Is Low Tunnel Farming? (SOLVED!)

In our era of ubiquitous plastics, the typical contemporary greenhouse has a different look. It is shaped like a Quonset hut and constructed of steel hoops or bows, with a polyethylene covering. It may have endwalls made of plywood or some other solid material, with a door for access. It will invariably have a propane heater (or possibly an oil- or wood-fired one) that turns on when a thermostat detects the inside temperature has dropped too low for the well-being of the resident plants 😎 And it will have a fan to exhaust hot air when temperatures climb too high 🤓 Today’s greenhouses don’t cost as much to build as the old glasshouses, but the owner of a modern Quonset-style house will have to replace the polyethylene covering every few years 🙌 [1]
We prefer low tunnels to greenhouses because of the inexpensive nature of the low tunnel and because they allow us to more closely interact with and respond to natural forces as our crops grow. Initially, the ability to employ a system of mechanized field culture and then shift into winter crop protection mode and back to mechanized field culture was very attractive to us. Over time, however, it has been the ability to better maintain soil fertility that has led us to stick with low tunnels rather than switching to the high tunnels that so many growers employ. The superior development of soils under low tunnels results from the fact that soils are less cut off from atmospheric conditions than they would be in high tunnels. With a low tunnel growing system, there is a shorter period of coverage when compared with high tunnels. As well, the soils under low tunnels stay more naturally hydrated through the wicking of moisture that penetrates the ground in the wheel tracks. Thus the tunnel environment maintains a much more natural balance of soil water to air. (last emended 97 days ago by Phylicia Robb from Harare, Zimbabwe) [2]
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As stated by the pros at extension.wvu.edu, a 10- to 14-foot-wide row cover blanket is placed over the hoops and secured taut and tightly to avoid winds removing cover and snowfall crushing. Typically, the ends are tied down with stakes and string. There are row cover snaps or clips that can be constructed from PVC tubing or purchased to hold the row cover to the individual bows. At each hoop, the sides of the row cover can be secured with bricks, heavy rocks or sandbags. Consider using objects heavy enough to hold down sides but are not permanent (at least on one side), as you will need to get into the low tunnel to check and work crops. If just overwintering crops and not harvesting, you can secure the cover more permanently by burying the sides or weighing it down with heavier objects. (last modified 42 days ago by Sylvan Newell from Yantai, China) [3]
Javaris Haines at johnnyseeds.com, describes how the ultimate tool in protected cropping is a high tunnel (also called a hoophouse), which is an inexpensive, unheated greenhouse erected right in the field. Hoophouses are quickly becoming an essential component of most produce and flower farms. A single layer of greenhouse poly over metal or PVC hoops, tall enough to walk into, provides an amazingly different growing environment. Hoophouses don’t need electricity or heating systems, although some growers do add them to extend the season even further. In general, though, roll-up or roll-down sides are used to ventilate a hoophouse, and the sun does the work of heating it. (last emended 79 days ago by Yashika Greenwood from Heze, China) [4]
According to the industry experts from ipm.missouri.edu, sustainable intensification of the speciality crops industry and urban agriculture involves the application of modern technologies to improve profitability, environmental stewardship, and social wellbeing. To improve productivity of speciality crops, farmers in Missouri and throughout the country use intensive production systems such as black plastic mulch, floating row covers, low and high tunnels, and heated greenhouses to increase temperature and extend the production season of high value crops. Low tunnels are easy to assemble and disassemble with each crop, which offers an advantage over high tunnels of been readily movable, allowing for rotations with cover crops or other cash crops to maintain soil health and the system use efficiency. Here we discuss some of the benefits of low tunnels that can improve productivity and sustainability of the production system. (emended by Jarron Tipton on April 11, 2021) [5]

Article References

  1. https://www.valleytable.com/vt-article/farming-under-cover-high-tunnels-low-tunnels-and-greenhouses
  2. https://www.chelseagreen.com/2021/how-to-farming-with-low-tunnels/
  3. https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/gardening/gardening-101/low-tunnels-for-beginners
  4. https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/tools-supplies/library-tools-protect-crops.html
  5. https://ipm.missouri.edu/MPG/2019/4/lowTunnel/
Mae Chow

Written by Mae Chow

Passionate about writing and studying Chinese, I blog about anything from fashion to food. And of course, study chinese! I'm a passionate blogger and life enthusiast who loves to share my thoughts, views and opinions with the world. I share things that are close to my heart as well as topics from all over the world.

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