Top 10 High Tunnel Benefits

When outdoor cultivators are looking for ways to upgrade their operation, there are a number of growing structures to choose from that can provide a potential solution. Still, not every structure will be the right fit, so it’s important for them to understand the different types and the unique benefits they offer.

While most operations will likely debate a high tunnel vs greenhouse for growing crops, they should first analyze the needs of their business, then decide which option best suits their budget and production goals. Although greenhouses are ideal for year-round production and gaining precision control over a growing environment, high tunnels are a simpler, more cost-effective choice for outdoor operations wanting to improve their bottom line.

As operations consider their next steps, they can reference the high tunnel benefits listed below, and then make a more informed decision regarding their project. In the end, they should be able to give their business the boost they’re looking for, yielding additional high-quality harvests and increasing profits year over year.

What Is A High Tunnel?

High tunnels, often referred to as a hoop house or high tunnel greenhouse, are structures made of a pipe frame that is typically covered with a single-layer greenhouse poly film. They are passive solar structures that protect plants, and there are a variety of benefits that come with owning this type of structure.

Inside of a high tunnel, crops are often grown directly in the ground. However, growers can also utilize other setups within their structure, like raised beds or potted systems. No matter the growing method, operations should be able to bolster crop production and increase profit potential in no time at all.

crops harvested in high tunnel

Here are the top ten high tunnel benefits:

1. Season Extension

A high tunnel greenhouse allows operations to extend the growing season, producing in-ground crops for a longer period each year. These structures help protect plants amidst extreme heat, cold temperatures, frost, snow and overly rainy seasons.

Using durable steel-tube construction and various covering materials, like poly film or shade cloth, operations can start growing in early spring, produce high-quality crops right through summer and then gain an extra harvest later in the fall.

2. Increased Yields

In addition to generating more crops throughout the year, growers should also be able to use a high tunnel to make their yields larger and higher in quality.

Many studies have proven that, compared to an open-field setting, high tunnels provide an improved growing environment where crops can grow more vigorously. The structures offer greater control over essential inputs, like water, fertilizer and temperature, as well as protection from harsh weather that can reduce crop loss. Subsequently, growers can start to produce in-ground crops that are comparable to greenhouse plants.

Outside of the structure itself, a high tunnel greenhouse can also be used to optimize production on the rest of an operation’s fertile land. Growers can take advantage of seed propagation, protecting seedlings before they are transferred to outdoor rows and produced outside of their structure. By getting a jump on propagation early in the year, growers can be ready to plant their seedlings as soon as the weather allows.

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3. Reasonable Price, Quick Return On Investment

Since GrowSpan High Tunnels are manufactured in-house, they are able to be economically priced. Despite the reasonable price, they are still strong and ultra-dependable.

These structures are built from 14 gauge, American-made steel, and they have been triple-galvanized to ensure corrosion resistance. The economical price, combined with the their superior functionality, allows growers to get a quick return on their investment. GrowSpan High Tunnels can reap payback with most crops in just two to three years.

4. Potential Funding

To complement their budget-friendly nature, high tunnels also provide growers with the ability to gain government funding. This can be done through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) EQIP Grant, which gives operations financial support in exchange for integrating conservation into their working lands.

GrowSpan helps farmers and gardeners take advantage of the EQIP Grant, or the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, by forwarding the upfront payment to the NRCS on their behalf. This way, growers who don’t have the funds initially can get their structure sooner, and don’t need to wait to be reimbursed by the NRCS after their high tunnel is approved.

5. Straightforward Construction

High tunnel benefits also pertain to their construction. They are easy to build and can typically be erected with just a couple people.

These high tunnels come with instructions, and there are a number of how-to videos on GrowSpan’s YouTube channel. Greenhouse Specialists are also available to help with any troubleshooting.

Inside A High Tunnel
Plants Growing In High Tunnel

6. Easy To Relocate

A movable high tunnel is a valuable tool for any grower, as it provides them with a durable, permanent structure that can also be relocated as needed. Fortunately, most high tunnel greenhouses are very simple to assemble and disassemble.

They usually only require unbolting the rafters from the ground posts, removing the cover and moving the structure to a new location. The ground posts can be reused, but it is often times easier to order new ones. Once the structure has been relocated, install the ground posts, bolt on the rafters and put the poly covering back on.

7. Simple To Expand

Lengthwise, GrowSpan high tunnels can be extended infinitely with little complication. This allows the structure to adapt to each operation’s specific needs. As their business grows, so can the structure.

Similarly, because of their economical price and ability to yield a quick return on investment, growers are often able to bring more structures into their operation after a short period of time. Using those improved profit margins to add a second high tunnel greenhouse can be the perfect way of expanding an already successful operation.

8. EASY TO VENTILATE

In a high tunnel or hoop house, growers benefit from convenient air circulation, without having to install extensive ventilation systems. Most GrowSpan high tunnels include either Roll-Up or Drop-Down Sides, both of which ensure easy manual ventilation for superior climate control.

The main advantage of Drop-Down Sides is where the air comes into the hoop house, and the temperature of the air. The air enters the structure above the plants, and as the air becomes warm, it rises. The plants themselves are not exposed to cold air.

Roll-Up Sides are a little easier to maintain, and last longer because they are rolled up with a hand crank, keeping them off the ground and out of the way. Since Drop-Down Sides are on the ground when they are in the down position, they tend to collect water and get dirty. The main disadvantage of Roll-Up Sides is that early in the morning, when the tunnel is opened, cold air comes in at the plant level.

High tunnel side

9. Reduced Need For Pesticides

The protected environment in the high tunnel also leads to a reduced occurrence of insect and mite pests. Additionally, it creates a less hospitable environment for diseases, reducing the occurrence of outbreaks. This allows growers to limit their dependence on pesticides and other chemicals.

10. Allows For Crop Diversity

GrowSpan High Tunnels have been used all over the country, and the diversity of crops seems endless. They allow growers to experiment with early varieties and can also allow for multiple crop rotations within the growing season. Operations have found success cultivating a variety of crops, including leafy greens, vegetables, blueberries, cherries, grapes and much more.

High tunnel benefits are wide in scope and implementing one can be a great addition to just about any operation. Whether it’s a small retail business growing local produce, or a commercial-scale production facility, these structures help growers maximize every square foot of their land.

To learn more about high tunnel benefits or to get your own high tunnel system, call or REQUEST A QUOTE today.

This post was originally published in August, 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

      

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