Consumer demands for fresh, locally-grown food that is produced in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner have increased greatly in the high desert environment of Nevada. Consumers are willing to pay premium prices for produce delivered at the height of freshness, and farmers have responded to this demand by an explosion of hoophouse construction during the last four years.
Existing guidance for hoophouse construction has been useful, but high winds in desert environments have caused several structural failures, and guidance for which products are appropriate for hoophouse production in high desert environments is inadequate, particularly during off-season months when demand for fresh produce is especially high. Furthermore, although hoophouse production is reputed to improve agricultural sustainability over field production, little data exist to confirm the claims for high desert environments.
Our project will document water use efficiencies of vegetable production at the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station Valley Road Field Laboratory and at the High Desert Farming Initiative by production season; experimentally manipulate water stress, mechanical stress, and light stress to determine interrelationships among plant growth conditions and bioactive nutritional content to improve product taste and quality; and monitor pest and disease problems.
Our program will deliver guidelines for producers to optimize vegetable production in high desert environments and peer-reviewed, research-based manuscripts that document sustainable and successful hoophouse production systems.
Our project involves experienced academic researchers, educators, and extension specialists who will actively collaborate with successful producers. Because many farmers and ranchers in Nevada are looking for ways to diversity their operations, our results potentially may impact nearly all the over 3000 principal farms and almost 5000 operators in Nevada plus additional farms in surrounding states with high desert environments.