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Conference Name The Use of High Tunnels and Crop Insurance to Manage Risk in Specialty Crop Production

Annette Wszelaki


High tunnels can be a cost effective management option for reducing weather-related risks associated with growing specialty crops. The fixed costs associated with installing a high tunnel are declining, enabling more farmers to access this technology. High tunnels are unheated, single-layer plastic-covered structures that provide an intermediate level of environmental protection and control compared to open field conditions and heated greenhouses.
There are two main ways that high tunnels effectively lower risk to profitability for specialty crop production: (1) the tunnel can block heavy winds and rain, and decrease solar radiation thus mitigating crop sunburn; and, (2) the temperature inside the tunnel is greater than outside, enabling the grower to plant earlier or grow crops that might not otherwise be suitable based on accumulated heat units. We will present results from our experiments on tomatoes, strawberries, and lettuce under high tunnel production in three diverse summer climates: Mount Vernon, WA; Lubbock, TX; and Knoxville, TN. These experiments compare yields, quality, and timing differences between growing crops with and without a high tunnel at each location. This paper will evaluate the effectiveness of risk management strategies that use high tunnels and/or federal crop insurance. The results from our study are intended to aid high tunnel producers in drafting optimal risk management strategies.