Connecting Chefs with Local Farmers with Season Extension High Tunnels
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Robert Williams, a chef turned graduate student, knows first-hand the local crops restaurants crave for their culinary delights. Now the researcher with Louisiana State University is hoping that his work will help farmers meet the demand.
Williams, with LSU’s School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences, has received a two-year $10,000 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Graduate Student Grant to study the season extension of lettuce, parsley and cilantro in high tunnels.
“Greens like lettuce, parsley and cilantro are culinary herbs and staples for restaurants, so there is a high demand for the crops,” said Williams. “Because of that, they can be potential high dollar items for local farmers.”
In his project, “Effects of High Tunnels on Lettuce, Parsley and Cilantro in the Deep South,” Williams will compare the production performance of the crops raised in high tunnels to open field plantings. He hopes that the results will show a higher yield in high tunnels compared to the field, as well as a successful enough production to extend the season.
“I’m hypothesizing that I’ll get an earlier harvest in the high tunnels than in the fields, but I’m also hoping that the high tunnels will allow me to extend the season beyond the field harvest,” said Williams. “Basically, I’m looking at a November-to-March production time frame in the high tunnels.”
In addition, said Williams, because of the environmental control a high tunnel offers, small-to-medium-sized producers should see reduced input costs due to a reduction in fertilizer use, less leaching from excessive rainfall, and reduced insect pressure.
If successful, said Williams, it could lead to future research that could provide farmers the ability to grow the crops year-round. “In the future, it would be interesting to investigate the influence of high tunnels with shade cloth and the possibility of year-round production,” said Williams.
High tunnel production in Louisiana is an up-and-coming technology. For now, high tunnel production is limited to such crops as tomatoes and berries.
Refer to SARE’s project database for information on the project (GS11-103) as the research progresses.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.