Dr. Lewis Jett, former MU Extension Vegetable Crop specialist returned to Missouri to talk to growers at the North Missouri Produce Auction annual meeting in Jamesport. While in Missouri he did vegetable variety trials and work with high tunnel production. Dr. Jett left Missouri in 2007 and returned to his home state of West Virginia and is the State Extension Vegetable Crop Specialist at West Virginia University.
His research there is similar to what he was doing while here, and he shared some of what he has been doing and encouraged growers to think about expanding their production and marketing into the winter months.
The title of his presentation was High Tunnel Salad Greens, Cukes, Blackberries and Other Profitable Crops. Cucumbers were the first crop he discussed. There is a window for marketing cucumbers in the fall/winter when the prices are at their highest. The plants in the high tunnel must be trellised. Two methods of trellising were discussed. The most commonly used trellis system is the single string method of using one string per plant to train the plant up to an overhead wire. The other method is to use a mesh wire or netting method of training the plants. They are using high-density production in the tunnel with 12" between the plants and each plant is pruned to one stem (lateral). From the trials he conducted, the recommendation is to use parthenocarpic varieties of cucumbers. These varieties produce fruit without pollination. See Table 1 for the results from Dr. Jett's cucumber variety trial.
He then discussed the vegetable crops that are being grown for Nov.-Dec. or Feb.-March harvest. They are growing salad greens and winter root crops. Some of the cold crops such as kale and mustards are being grown in single poly, unheated tunnels. Other cool crops such as lettuces and carrots are grown in high tunnels with low tunnels for added protection. Growers in West Virginia are producing these crops and Dr. Jett believes there is potential to grow these crops in Missouri. He encouraged growers to research their potential and he also encouraged the auction managers to offer some winter auctions to market these crops.
Small fruit is another crop with potential for the late season. They are harvesting berries from the last of August into the first part of November. Strawberry and raspberry production has been good. They are getting excellent production from their blackberries. Some of their growers are direct marketing but they are also having some late season auctions to market the crops. He suggested growers take a look at small fruits and considering trying them on their farm.
The NW Missouri growers had several questions for Dr. Jett and were glad he made the trip back to Missouri for their meeting. You can find high tunnel information by Dr. Jett on the West Virginia University web site. He can be reached by phone 304-293-2634 or email Lewis.Jett@mail.wvu.edu
REVISED: November 30, 2015