With the help of RAREC farm crew and funding through RCE leadership, Tim Waller (Cumberland, Nursery Crops) has been diligently working to bring four Quonset-style high tunnels back into production for nursery and ornamental related research and demonstrations.
Initially, the high tunnels required partial demolition, new flooring, hip and foot boards, wiggle-wire channels, 6mil plastic covering, shade-cloths, and electrical cleanup in addition to the house specific irrigation manifolds and emitter systems, climatic monitoring systems, and experimental design layouts with containers of various sizes. The high tunnels are principally designed to be dynamic and flexible, mirroring the role of a Rutgers Cooperative Extension agent.
Two of the four high tunnels are currently in use, with one each flagged for nursery and ornamental plant pathology, entomology, plant physiology/propagation, and headhouse use. This summer there are multiple trials related to fungicide efficacy towards Phytophthora and other root diseases utilizing economically important conifer varieties. Two corresponding trials are housed in the greenhouse bays of RAREC. Also, 15 conifer varieties are being grown to outplant a Christmas tree demonstration area early next spring. This will provide an area for growers to observe growth habits, year over year maturity, and ultimately final presentation of trees.
In addition, economically important new-use native plants and key nursery standards will be outplanted to provide opportunities for trials and grower demonstrations. In prior seasons research on nutrient deficiencies of ornamental grasses, herbicide drift effects on Chrysanthemums, insecticide regimes towards Redheaded flea beetle, and Phytophthora symptom monitoring have been conducted.
Plans also include the development of a container comparison (standard, pot in pot, air-pruning) and an irrigation emitter demonstration area that will allow growers to view multiple brands and dispersal patterns while research is being conducted on cost-benefit in terms of efficacy, harvest timing, and potential impacts on plant pests and diseases.