A Practical Guide to Understanding and Implementing Micro-irrigation in High Tunnels


High tunnels can be a great resource for farmers. The season extension capabilities provided by high tunnels can open up new opportunities and price premiums in the local marketplace. However, producing in high tunnels is different from field production and can be difficult to master.

Although plants have the same water needs in both field and high tunnel production, irrigation requirements are very different. Due to the lack of rain fall, high tunnels require greater irrigation amounts. These irrigation amounts can be tailored to a crops water needs that change throughout its growth cycle. This controlled irrigation is what sets high tunnel production apart from field production in regards to matching crops and water needs.

Micro-irrigation can be defined as any irrigation system that frequently dispenses water in small amounts. This irrigation is often used on small farms and works well in vegetable production. Micro-irrigation helps to maximize high tunnel production through specialized watering schedules. Developing micro-irrigation plans in high tunnels can be affected by soil type and texture, plant water needs, micro-climate considerations, and the type of micro-irrigation system employed. This handbook will provide a practical process to establish irrigation practices for various crops to be grown in a high tunnel.


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This publication was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant Program through agreements 15-SCBGP-NC-0003 and 15-SCBGP-SC-0013. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA. Funding was administered by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

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