OSCII Activity B.13

Using high tunnels to produce high-value organic vegetable and nutraceutical crops in Canadian climates

Activity summary

High tunnel technologies have been investigated and used in different regions for fruits and vegetable production with success in Asia, the Mediterranean and the United States. Since different regions vary according to climate conditions and market opportunities, high tunnel technologies are best tested and demonstrated at a regional level. This project is intended to investigate and demonstrate the use of high tunnel technologies to produce high-value organic vegetable and nutraceutical crops in Canadian climates. The uniqueness and innovativeness of this project is not only due to the fact that the research will be regionally specific, but also in that it will investigate ancillary technologies and protocols aimed at increasing productivity and profitability by reducing pest pressures, and producing high value vegetable and nutraceutical crops, especially during the most profitable shoulder seasons

Fresh vegetables, especially high-value crops such as cherry tomatoes and pea shoots, are more expensive in the spring and late autumn when the weather is cold and field production is not possible. If high tunnel technologies are feasible in Canadian climates for this type of vegetable production, then both organic and conventional farmers can access these premium markets.

Bitter melon is not only a popular vegetable for many cultural groups in Canadian urban centres, including the Greater Toronto area, but is also beneficial for patients with type II diabetes. There is a huge market for bitter melon, and the majority of bitter melon is imported. Many diabetes patients are seeking local, organically produced bitter melon; however, currently no such product is available in Canada. Our research may provide the means for organic and non-organic farmers to use high tunnel technologies to capture this market, enhance profits and set precedents for similar crops. 

Pest pressure, heat and drought stresses in summer months are some of the major limitations for field organic vegetable production. Insect nets and shading materials have the potential of improving growing conditions and increasing crop yields.

This project will conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis of high tunnel technologies in organic vegetable and nutraceutical crop production. It will provide some basic scientific data for growers to aid in making decisions regarding whether and how to use high tunnel technologies in Ontario.  Graduate students will be trained during this project to serve the Canadian organic industry.

Materials and results to date

Activity researchers

Name Affiliation
Youbin Zheng, Activity Leader University of Guelph
Evan Elford Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
Martha Gay Scroggins University of Guelph
Dave Llewellyn University of Guelph
Ralph Martin University of Guelph
Mary Ruth McDonald University of Guelph
Rene Van Acker University of Guelph