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Video: High tunnel at Dilmun Hill Student Farm rolls on rails

This high tunnel at Cornell University’s Dilmun Hill Student Farm was built on rails to allow easy movement between two growing areas.

High tunnel rises at Dilmun Hill Student Farm

Reposted from Cornell Horticulture blog:

A production-scale high tunnel is rising at Dilmun Hill Student Farm, adjacent to the Cornell University campus. Once complete, it will not only extend the growing season for the farm, but also serve as an educational resource for the many classes that visit the farm.  A high tunnel production workshop series is being planned in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension that will draw on the knowledge and experience of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates across many different departments.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) staff, along with members of the Dilmun Hill Steering Committee, have been laying the groundwork at the high tunnel site since early spring, grading the land, spreading and incorporating compost, and installing the foundation. This past Wednesday afternoon, they made short work of installing the frame. (See time-lapse video.)

The high tunnel was made possible by the Toward Sustainability Foundation grant program. Undergraduate Steering Committee member and former Dilmun Hill Farm Manager Alena Hutchinson (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, ’18) secured funding for the tunnel, and worked with builder Howard Hoover of Penn Yan, N.Y., to design a custom tunnel to meet the specialized needs of small- and medium-sized growers in Upstate New York.

The tunnel will feature a solar-powered, automated sidewall system designed by Hutchinson and fellow undergraduate engineering students to make ventilating the structure easier.

Another innovative feature of the high tunnel:  It is mounted on rails, so that the tunnel can be easily moved between two different growing areas.  Along with increasing production capacity, this design has environmental benefits, such as making crop rotation possible and allowing rain to leach salt from soil, avoiding the salt build up that can be a problem with stationary high tunnels.

Detailed design plans and assembly manuals for all aspects of the tunnel will be available upon the tunnel’s completion. For questions and/or if you want to be involved in the project, contact Alena Hutchinson (amh345@cornell.edu).

Hutchinson and CUAES technician Ethan Tilebein begin rafter intallation.

Hutchinson and CUAES technician Ethan Tilebein begin rafter intallation.

Betsy Leonard, CUAES organic farm coordinator, and Glen Evans, CUAES operations director, install sidewalls.

Betsy Leonard, CUAES organic farm coordinator, and Glen Evans, CUAES operations director, install sidewalls.

Anja Timm, CUAES communications coordinator, Hutchinson and Evans work on sidewall. Note roller and rail that allow the high tunnel to be moved easily.

Anja Timm, CUAES communications coordinator, Hutchinson and Evans work on sidewall. Note roller and rail (lower right) that allow the high tunnel to be moved easily.

Tilebein, Hutchinson and Thompson Research Farm farm manager Steve McKay install rafters.

Tilebein, Hutchinson and CUAES Thompson Research Farm farm manager Steve McKay install rafters.

McKay secures ridgepole.

McKay secures ridgepoles.


Update [2017-07-29]

On June 28, while still under construction, the tunnel took it’s first trip, traveling from a fallow area to an area newly planted with tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Video: Moving a high tunnel

From the Cornell Vegetable Program.

High tunnel growers face a unique set of soil management challenges.

  • Intensive cropping minimizes opportunities for fallow periods, cover cropping and other techniques for maintaining soil health and fertility.
  • The plastic covering prevents rain from leaching the profile, leading to excess salts and alkalinity.

By choosing a moveable tunnel design, like the one in this video, a grower can grow a protected crop continuously while allowing for fallow periods, cover cropping and movement of excess salts through the soil profile. Moveable tunnels can be moved laterally (as shown) or pulled lengthwise to cover an already established crop (ie. move the tunnel from summer tomatoes over fall greens).

Cornell Vegetable Program Delivers 46% Net Increase for Cooperating High Tunnels

high-tunnel-tomatoes-basketsx400From Cornell Vegetable Program Highlights (January – March 2016):

The CVP recently completed a NYFVI sponsored project examining nutrient management for high tunnel crops. Vegetable farmers participating in this project improved their ability to manage soil and nutrients through intensive soil, water and foliar analyses and then implemented CVP Best Management Practices.

The project team conducted 35 educational outreach events reaching over 1,100 growers with 24 farms cooperating on intensive sampling. 15 farms that provided economic data, documented an average net high tunnel income increase of $4,931.88, or 46%. Tunnel area increased by 16%, representing new capital investment of $32,050 in 12,820 square feet of high tunnel space erected during the project period.

Participating growers reported at the end of the project that they will erect an additional 41,156 square feet of tunnel space within the next two years, an investment of over $100,000. Continued funding has been sought from NYFVI, SCBG and the Towards Sustainability Foundation.

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