Using high tunnels to protect plants

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Updated: 3/18/2014 1:36 pm
No doubt that cotton is king in West Texas, but there are other crops that can grow in our region.

Russ Wallace, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension's High Plains Vegetable Specialist, says due to the high winds, vegetables and berries need a little extra protection.

"We have a lot of wind and dust and that can cause some damage to our produce," Wallace said. "People can keep their plants safe by protecting them from the wind using wind breaks or tunnels. Some of the windbreaks that people can use include planting sorghum or wheat next to your field or interplant it between the rows in your field so that will basically block the wind, cause the wind to go up and over the plants."

High tunnels are another way to protect crops from high winds.

"There's a lot more interest in high tunnels to help protect the vegetables because a lot of people get frustrated," Wallace said. "They put their vegetables out, then along comes just one single day of a high wind that can ruin a vegetable crop."

A crop that is thriving in one of these high tunnels at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in lubbock is strawberries. Inside the high tunnels, Wallace grows strawberries as part of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative, a project funded by the Walmart Foundation and administered through the University of Arkansas.

"What we have found out is that initially was when we first planted, we followed the protocol of one of our initial trials, planted our strawberries in the Spring," Wallace said. "We got production for about a week and then it got too hot and the plants started to die off. So we moved to Fall planting and overwintering, and that worked perfectly for us. We're looking at evaluating yields as well."

Wallace says depending on the variety of strawberries, some of these plants produce two and a half pounds of fruit.

"Growers are looking for these kind of alternative crops that they can make more money with," he said.

If you're interested in building a high tunnel, Wallace says there are cost-share programs available through the NRCS. For more information about applying for the program, click here.
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