Mary Ann Van Osdell, Hanna, Hanna Y. | 1/4/2011 1:15:38 AM
SHREVEPORT, La. – Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse has many benefits, an LSU AgCenter researcher told people attending an adult learning series at Sci-Port Discovery Center April 15.
H.Y. Hanna manages four 30-by-96-foot greenhouses, growing 600 plants in each house, at the LSU AgCenter Red River Research Station in Bossier City.
“We can produce 60 pounds of tomatoes per plant,” Hanna said, adding that agriculture “under cover” improves product quality, sanitation and shelf life.
“There is no debris,” he said. “Everything is clean – no rain splash, fungus or bacteria from the ground.”
Other benefits are less pesticide and water use and the ability to produce off-season, he said.
Hanna said 85 percent of vegetables in Canada are produced in greenhouses.
The LSU AgCenter researcher said he tests tomato varieties for yield, fruit weight, quality and shelf life and measures sugar and acid levels.
Hanna said greenhouse tomatoes can be grown in three media – perlite, pine bark and rock wool. He grows tomatoes in perlite.
“I bought it in 1996 and am still using it,” he said.
The crew at the Red River Research Station uses a heavy-duty nozzle mounted on the steel wand of a hot-water pressure washer to stir and disinfect the perlite, Hanna explained.
Research has found the cost of heating a greenhouse during cooler periods can be reduced with “bottom heating” using diesel fuel rather than suspended heaters using natural gas, Hanna said. Roots need a higher temperature than vines, he explained.
Growing plants under light-emitting diodes is the future of the greenhouse industry, Hanna said. “If this becomes a reality, you can get the same amount of yield in January-February as you do in April.”
Hanna said grafting – joining two varieties together to make one plant – can improve yield by 20 percent.
“Tomato flowers need to be pollinated,” Hanna said. “The agent is a bumblebee. They are at work all the time.”
Along with tomatoes, Hanna said other crops that can be grown in a greenhouse include cucumbers, zucchini, cantaloupes and eggplants.
Mary Ann Van Osdell
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture