Evaluating the Rotation of Tomato with Fresh-cut Flowers in a High Tunnel System for Improved Pest, Disease, and Soil Management

Grants and Contracts Details


High tunnels have the potential to provide growers with the ability to extend the growing season and to moderate the environment with respect to precipitation and temperature. This can translate to increased income from increased marketable yields and improved produce quality. Approximately 1,000 high tunnels have been installed in the state of Kentucky (KY) since the inception of the High Tunnel System Initiative within the Natural Resource Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program in 2012. High tunnels play an important role in the local food system of KY. However, high tunnel production is nuanced and growers face unique production challenges from diseases and insect pests compared to open-field production. Managing the soil in a high tunnel has also been shown to be a challenge for growers. The lack of weathering and precipitation compared to open field production results in increased risk of soil salinity from over-application of fertilizer. Systems that fail to rotate are at higher risk for buildup of pests and pathogens. High tunnel growers need a high-value crop that can be planted after tomato season to serve as a rotation during the tomato off-season. Most growers are unwilling to replace the tomato crop because of the high profits, but they are willing to follow with a cooler season crop. In KY high tunnels, tomato production terminates in August or September. Ideally, the rotational crop would not require the same infrastructure (trellising materials, clips, twine, etc.) or resources as tomato. This crop would also not share the same pests or diseases as tomato, thereby serving to break the lifecycle of the pest or pathogen. Fresh-cut annual flowers may be a viable option for rotation with tomato in high tunnels. Compared to tomato, Asteraceae or Amaranth flowers are less nutrient demanding. Most fresh-cut flowers are considered to have low to medium fertility requirements. Flowers may provide a physical and temporal break from the disease and pests that can often cause issues in high tunnel tomato production. The objectives of this project are: 1. Determine whether the disease and pest life cycles persist or whether new pests and diseases emerge when following tomato with cut flowers. 2. Determine the fertilizer use and requirements for cut flower in high tunnels in Kentucky. 3. Determine whether adding cut flowers to a high tunnel system can help alleviate soil salinity risks. 4. Determine economic viability of adding cut flowers to a high tunnel tomato rotation. 5. Develop new grower recommendations and a budget for cut flower production in a high tunnel system.
Effective start/end date3/1/202/28/21


  • North Carolina State University: $30,000.00


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