Published 01/10/2012

New Improvements

How a Florida tomato producer creates a tunnel “attic” to reduce heat and improve growing zone

Field-grown winter vegetables have long thrived in Florida’s high sun and temperatures. Consumers demand quality, and retailers want consistency. Growers want these and high yields, which are all improved with crop protection.

While some of this demand is filled with increasing production in greenhouses, there is also a trend toward growing under passive tunnels. But as any producer with tunnels soon learns, the heat is a double-edged sword, and summer growing becomes impossible.

Veteran Florida field grower William “Skeeter” Bethea, crop specialist- tomato and pepper for the East Coast for seed breeder Enza Zaden, saw the overheating problem and started working on solutions that could extend the effective growing season both by finishing later into the spring and starting earlier for fall production.

Bethea was determined to develop a profitable and productive system for growing short cycle indeterminate tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

To do that, he needed to build an attic in his tunnels.

Climate challenged
Enza Zaden specializes in hybrid vegetable seeds that are developed through intense breeding and research programs located in 26 different countries.

Its Florida location is situated in Myakka City, nearly at sea level about 25 miles east of the Sarasota coast on the Gulf of Mexico. While it offers a near-ideal climate, it also presents a full complement of interesting and intersecting challenges.

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