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Cornell Vegetable Program Delivers 46% Net Increase for Cooperating High Tunnels

high-tunnel-tomatoes-basketsx400From Cornell Vegetable Program Highlights (January – March 2016):

The CVP recently completed a NYFVI sponsored project examining nutrient management for high tunnel crops. Vegetable farmers participating in this project improved their ability to manage soil and nutrients through intensive soil, water and foliar analyses and then implemented CVP Best Management Practices.

The project team conducted 35 educational outreach events reaching over 1,100 growers with 24 farms cooperating on intensive sampling. 15 farms that provided economic data, documented an average net high tunnel income increase of $4,931.88, or 46%. Tunnel area increased by 16%, representing new capital investment of $32,050 in 12,820 square feet of high tunnel space erected during the project period.

Participating growers reported at the end of the project that they will erect an additional 41,156 square feet of tunnel space within the next two years, an investment of over $100,000. Continued funding has been sought from NYFVI, SCBG and the Towards Sustainability Foundation.

High tunnel research reports

Judson Reid, Cornell Vegetable Program specialist, has released several reports from his 2009 and 2010 research projects:

Northern N.Y. Growers Expect Good Crops from High Tunnels This Fall

PRESS RELEASE: August 30, 2010
Contacts: Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension Clinton County, 518-561-7450; or a grower in your area as listed at end of release

High tunnel farming equals low cost, high return for Northern New York fruit and vegetable growers, who are now selling their fresh produce at farmers markets throughout the region. The use of large, plastic-covered greenhouse-like structures allows the growers to extend their growing, harvest and sales seasons into fall and pays off in quality, yield and dollars, according to research trials funded by the farmer-driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP).

As part of a 2009 NNYADP project to help growers produce additional income after the summer farmers’ market excitement ends, eight farmers selected a fall crop and compared high tunnel production to field-grown results for that crop. The growers planted their crops in late August-early September and harvested into December.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County Executive Director Amy Ivy says, “These Northern New York Agricultural Development Program evaluation trials conducted on farms in the region produce valuable information to help growers throughout our six-county area produce the highest quality, highest yield crops. We learn more each year this type of research is done and our high tunnel growers are expecting good results from the extended 2010 fall season.”

One grower harvested two successive crops of high tunnel-grown salad greens compared to one month of field harvest. The difference in gross yield was $1.67 per square foot of high tunnel compared to $.42 per square foot of outside land. A grower with 360 square feet of high tunnel devoted to salad greens produced more than the grower could sell.

One grower who sold salad greens mix increased gross yield from the high tunnel crops to $2.43 per square foot calculated on an average of retail and wholesale sales.

Ivy says the research participants also share production experiences and tips on such factors as crop spacing and temperature, moisture and pest control.

“An interesting point from the 2009 evaluation trials conducted at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station at the E.V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm in Willsboro, N.Y., is that while late blight disease caused severe damage in field-grown tomatoes, the tomato plants grown in the high tunnel survived with minimal control measures,” Ivy says.

The Baker Farm also conducted high tunnel vs. field grown trials with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in 2009. Farm Manager Michael Davis says, “The strawberries protected by the high tunnel from the very wet weather last year produced fruit that was cleaner, had fewer blemishes, and was ready to pick one week earlier than the berries grown outside. The higher yields of nicer quality fruit that ripens earlier and continues to ripen for a longer time highlight the advantages of high tunnel production.”

Davis says the raspberries and blackberries produced exceptional yields in the high tunnel at the Baker Farm.

Earlier NNYADP high tunnel research showed that while the high tunnel production of the summer crops of cucumbers and tomatoes carries higher costs for trellising and pruning, the opportunity for return was $1.49 per square foot gross yield with cucumbers and $2.60 to $4.66 per square foot gross yield for wholesale and retail production of tomatoes.

For more information on high tunnel production, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office or visit the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at

Project Leaders:

  • Amy Ivy, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County, 518-561-7450
  • Michael Davis, E. V. Baker Agricultural Research Farm, 518-963-7492
  • H.C. Wien, Cornell University Department of Horticulture, 607-255-4570

Participating Farmers:

  • Clinton County: Beth Spaugh, Peru, 518-643-7822
  • Essex County: Adam Hainer, Westport/Wadhams, 518-962-4522; Rob Hastings, Keene Valley, 518-576-4686
  • Franklin County: Roseanne Gallagher, Malone, 518-481-5320
  • Jefferson County: Almeda Grandjean, Adams Center, 315-583-5660
  • St. Lawrence County: Dan Kent, Heuvelton, 315-344-6571

Hanging baskets of petunias and tomatoes in high tunnels?

Here’s a new research report available on the Cornell High Tunnel website:

High Tunnel Hanging Baskets
A new crop trial sponsored by the New York Farm Viability Institute
Judson Reid, Principal Investigator
Cornell Vegetable Program

In a nutshell, Reid found the addition of hanging baskets of petunias in a high tunnel over tomatoes to be marginally more profitable than tomatoes alone. (Reduced tomato yields from shading largely offset the profits from the petunias.) There is also increased risk of spread of insects and diseases between the flowers and vegetables.

Reid cautions not to draw too many firm conclusions from a single trial. He writes, “The Cornell Vegetable Program will continue to evaluate hanging baskets in high tunnels. Could a lower density of baskets be grown without affecting tomato yield? This question will be answered in a NESARE funded trial in 2010. Multiple combinations of petunias and other cold tolerant flower species will be evaluated for economic performance.”

Read the whole report.

NY High Tunnel Conference December 8

 A wide variety of tunnel topics will be covered at this workshop Tuesday, December 8 at the  Woodcrest Community, 2032 Route 213, Rifton, NY.  Come hear updates from the CU tunnel team on their projects, funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute.

  • High Tunnel Vegetables, Berries and Cut Flowers
  • Winter Spinach Production
  • Budgeting
  • Farm tour of winter greens high tunnels!

Click here for details:

Call Teresa Rusinek at 845-340-3990 or email 





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