Julie Grossman in a high tunnel.

A Multi-Regional Approach for Sustained Soil Health in Organic High Tunnels: Nutrient Management, Economics, and Educational Programming

Principal Investigator

Julie Grossman

Department and College

Department of Horticultural Science in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Project Number

21-G09

Funding Type

NIFA Grant, Non-Formula

Partnering States and Organizations

  • University of Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Maine

Project Start and End Date

September 1, 2016-August 31, 2020

Project Summary

Season-extending high tunnel production has been expanding rapidly across the U.S., offering organic growers an exciting new option for production. High-tunnel production is characterized by increased productivity, but due to intense cultivation strategies, high tunnels pose many challenges for sustainability, soil health, and environmental quality. The long term goal for this integrated project (Research, Education), based on extensive feedback from growers, is to develop a comprehensive and economically viable model to address soil health issues in high tunnels across a wide geographic reach, resulting in increased adoption of practices such as legume cover crop incorporation that promotes sustainable management of organic high tunnels and financial stability for farmers.

We propose to evaluate a range of farmer-selected rotations in three distinct regions ranging from the far north to the south, build a predictive understanding of soil quality management and economics of season extension, and facilitate knowledge exchange via University coursework, organic information clearinghouses (hightunnels.org, eOrganic), and community partners (NGOs), with a focused emphasis on limited-resource farmers and historically underrepresented groups. We will develop three organic agriculture course modules, a hands-on short course addressing issues and applicability of high tunnels for limited-resource growers, a mobile nutrient management phone app, and a webinar series. We will also work closely with NRCS' new Division of Soil Health to connect to existing resources, network farmers, and expand resources via our project results. Our project is designed to have far-reaching implications for how farmers manage their high tunnels for optimal soil health and economic returns.