Maximize Success with Summertime High Tunnel Crops by Enhancing Soil Conditions Fall to Spring

The April 29, 2023 addition of the OSU Fruit, Vegetable, and Specialty Crop News included a short video summarizing challenges associated with maintaining the productivity of soils in high tunnels (see This article focuses on specific examples of those challenges and steps that can be taken to address them from fall to spring.

So, tomato harvest and other chores are complete, and the high tunnel may be taken out of production until next spring. What can be done fall to spring to help maintain or improve high tunnel soil productivity before the next cash crop is established?

First, consider how productivity and profit potential may be lost if nothing is done. Many high tunnels contain tomatoes soon before they are taken out of production in the fall and, chances are, the same high tunnels contained tomatoes for at least one season, if not multiple seasons, before that. Importantly:
a) most core stand establishment, fertilizer/input application, irrigation, and other cultural management practices occur in the same places in the high tunnel each season;
b) fertilizer use can be high;
c) spaces between rows may be covered or uncovered and receive variable amounts of foot and equipment traffic;
d) crops remove major and minor nutrients selectively, in different amounts and ratios; and
e) water lost to evapotranspiration differs by location and depth in the high tunnel.

Combined, these factors can lead to significant variation in soil physical, chemical, and biological characteristics depending on position on the floor (crop row or between) and depth. Crop access to soils with optimal characteristics may be limited. Fertilizer may be present in excess where it does not mineralize. Salt levels may rise where evapotranspiration rates are greatest relative to water supply. Compaction may develop. And, beneficial soil microbial activity may decline or cease due to these conditions and/or a lack of water.

Second, take one or more steps to help correct or limit the development of these and other unwanted soil conditions. For example:

1. Mix soil comprising the footprint of the high tunnel. Move soil past crop row-furrow, if possible, and to below rooting depth. Add organic matter (e.g., green manure, compost) and other key materials (e.g., lime) before or during the process.

2. Consider deep tillage. Past research completed at Penn State Univ suggests that occasional deep tillage in a high tunnel can be beneficial, especially when plow-pans, salt layers, or other symptoms of sub-optimal soil status develop.

3. Regardless of approach, test soil before and after mixing and other interventions, keeping samples separate when submitting them for analysis (e.g., see Soil test reports from samples taken from the same locations (in and between crop rows) before and after mixing and other steps can be informative.

4. Establish and incorporate a suitable green manure and/or subsoiling cover crop(s) that can perform some of the same functions as machinery and provide many other benefits. Resources for selecting cover crops for high tunnels include: a), b), c), and d)

5. Flood the high tunnel slowly. Move water through the profile carefully to dissolve and disperse salts and help mineralize and increase the future availability of remaining fertilizer without contributing to runoff or unwanted leaching. Moist soils may also remain more biologically active, and mix and open pores by freeze-thaw action, providing other benefits. Some of the same benefits of purposeful fallow period irrigation can be achieved by removing the high tunnel cover to allow precipitation and natural freeze-thaw cycles to work for you.

Please contact Matt Kleinhenz (; 330.263.3810) with questions or for more information.

Just in Time for Halloween…2023 Pumpkin & Squash Trial Results!

One of the demonstration trials designed for the annual Pumpkin Field Day held for growers at the Western Agricultural Research Station in South Charleston, OH is a pumpkin and squash hybrid trial. There are two main purposes of the trial, 1) to allow growers to see firsthand the foliage and fruit (color, size, rind, handle, fruit set, etc.) of both commercially available and some experimental hybrids for potential inclusion on their farm in future seasons and 2) to reinforce the use of Powdery mildew tolerant or resistant hybrids as a key pest management practice which can affect fungicide selection, canopy cover, fruit quality and marketability.

2023 Pumpkin and Squash Group Photo.

The 2023 trial was extremely challenging to conduct at the station, as mice and voles ate over 80% of the planted seeds and transplants. Having a range of none to only a few surviving plants of the 20 hybrid entries after multiple rounds of reseeding and transplanting, a normal trial with yield results could not be conducted due to missing and reduced stand populations.

For the record, here are the trial details. The trial was mainly transplanted with some direct seeding on May 25-26. A spring oats cover crop was drilled on March 21 and terminated by applying glyphosate (32oz/A) from a shielded sprayer in specific trial areas, otherwise the field was not tilled. The lack of tillage and addition of spring oat cover crop plus droughty spring conditions were likely significant factors in the large vertebrate population in the field resulting in reduced stand. For weed control, a burndown and preemerge herbicide (glyphosate 32oz/A + Strategy 4pt/A + Dual 1.3pt/A) was applied on May 28. Soil tests revealed sufficient P and K levels, so only 70lb N (28-0-0) was sidedressed on June 20. Plots were originally 60’ long, planted on 15’ centers with in-row spacing of 3.5’. A recommended fungicide program was followed starting with first detection of powdery mildew on July 31.

Despite the huge impact mice and voles had on the trial, below is what was salvaged from the trial in terms of fruit size and additional comments but no yield calculations were possible. Looking forward to a “normal” trial next year. If you have comments about the trial or hybrids you would like to see included in the trial in 2024, send me an email at

2023 pumpkin and squash hybrid trial results.

Looking for Pumpkin Pest and Production Woes


Right now growers are in the final week or two of peak pumpkin sales and events. With production and pest management challenges fresh in your mind, we ask you to consider helping us document your current needs. Ohio State University researchers have been invited to collaborate with other states from the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast on a project to help solve key identified road blocks to production and pest management.

We plan to have a multidisciplinary team of horticulturists, plant pathologists, entomologists, wildlife specialists and extension folks working on this project. Outputs will be focused on applied research trials to solve known issues and produce newsletter articles, factsheets, videos and presentations where progress will be shared.

Please take a few minutes to identify your biggest production and pest management challenges so we can make Ohio needs well represented in the upcoming grant and future project. A summary of the survey results will be posted in VegNet for anyone to review.

Please click the link below to participate; responses will be anonymous and not identified to any grower. Thank you for your time and input.


OSU Extension Bi-Weekly Fruit & Vegetable Report – October 17th, 2023

The OSU Extension Fruit & Vegetable Report is written/published collectively by OSU Extension staff across the state. 

Biological Soil Health

When it comes to supporting healthy soils, the physical and chemical aspects of soil quality are often highlighted. However, the importance of biological activity and diversity, and how it influences soil structure and chemical properties (pH, electrical conductivity, etc.), is becoming increasingly appreciated in modern farming. As we discover more about the different microbe-microbe and microbe-plant interactions unfolding in the soil habitat, we can create better farming practices that optimize crop health and soil quality.

Three areas of soil health: physical, chemical, and biological. Image courtesy of University of Massachusetts. 

The source of and final destination of all soil life is soil organic matter (SOM). SOM consists of biological material in the soil, derived from plants, fungi, animals, and other organisms, that are in various stages of decomposition. Certain forms of SOM break down quickly and provide nutrients for crop use, others are more stable (i.e. inaccessible to microbial decay) and contribute to aggregate stability and tilth. A SOM content of 5% in mineral soils is considered high; in muck soils, SOM can be as high as 80%. Conservation ag practices like reduced tillage and cover cropping are used to support high levels of SOM for improved nutrient cycling, soil structure, and cation exchange capacity. 

The food webs that produce SOM are characterized by an astonishing diversity of soil life made up of bacteria, fungi, archaea, nematodes, protozoa, and other microfauna, as well as the larger organisms like springtails and earthworms higher up the food chain. These organisms not only drive nutrient cycling through consuming and contributing to SOM, but can influence crop health through more specialized relationships. Plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria that interact with plant roots can boost crop productivity by producing hormones, fixing atmospheric N, solubilizing P for increased availability, and inducing plant resistance to pathogens. The growing biologicals industry (biopesticides, biofertilizers, and biostimulants) is based on the premise that certain organisms benefit crop health through either direct interactions or interactions with other soil life. 

Keeping in mind how soil biodiversity and activity affect soil health through the lens of SOM and interactions between organisms can help us make decisions that support crops by maintaining a thriving, balanced soil habitat.

Examples of soil organisms at different scales – Microfauna: Azospirillium soil bacteria (top), Mesofauna: tardigrade (middle), Macrofauna: earthworm (bottom). Photos courtesy of Science Source (top), National Geographic (middle), Dan Brekke – Flickr (bottom).

Crop Updates



Plectosporium leaf blight is being detected. Continue to watch for aphids, cucumber beetles and squash bugs. Significant damage was detected within the last week in harvested pumpkins due to large populations of cucumber beetles. Aphids can still be found in green foliage, and may be spotted via large accumulations of honey dew beneath healthy foliage.

Cucumber beetles feeding on harvested pumpkins. Photo by Frank Becker, OSU Extension.

Cole Crops

Alternaria leaf spot is being observed in brassicas. This pathogen is supported by warm, wet conditions. Cultural practices for reducing alternaria pressure include increasing crop spacing for improved airflow, crop rotation, tilling under crop residue after harvest and controlling brassica weeds (shepherd’s purse, wild mustard, wild radish, yellow rocket, etc.)  to decrease disease inoculum. Treating seed with hot water prior to planting may also help  to decrease prevalence of this seed-borne pathogen. Consult the Midwest Vegetable Guide for fungicide options in Brassicas.


Hoop house tomatoes are nearing the end. Powdery mildew, bacterial diseases, aphids, and other pests are all being observed under plastic. Late blight and early blight are prevalent in remaining field tomatoes. 

Anthracnose is continuing to be an issue on peppers and tomatoes. Infested fruits rapidly decline in quality and are unmarketable. Lesions are typically observed as sunken, round lesions on the fruit. At times you may also be able to see the salmon colored spores within the lesion on the fruit. 

Anthracnose on peppers. Photo by Frank Becker, OSU Extension. 


Many orchards are nearing completion of harvest and pest monitoring traps are being taken down for the season. As tree fruits are harvested and leaves begin to fall, it may be a good opportunity to take a closer look at your trees and scout the trunk and branches for presence or evidence of insect pests such as scale and borers. Scouting for these pests now can help you make adjustments to your integrated pest management program.

October Small Fruit Updates

Dr. Gary Gao, Professor and Small Fruit Specialist, CFAES South Centers. The Ohio State University

Update on Long Cane Raspberry Project:

We are only getting a few straggling raspberries from our long cane raspberry trial at OSU South Centers in Piketon during the week of October 6, 2023. There were only enough for Gary to snack on. Pictured in the first photo is Kweli®. As you can tell from the picture, fruit color is still looking quite nice. Kweli® is an everbearing variety that is capable of producing two crops inside a high tunnel and out in the open field. Follow this link for more information on the variety:

We are still fine-tuning the method of growing long cane Kweli®. We just wrapped up our 2021-2023 Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) funded by Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA). There is a lot more to learn about this highly innovative production method. Fortunately, we received another SCBG from ODA to do just that!

Kweli® fruits. Photo by Dr. Gary Gao, The Ohio State University.

Gary was able to find several Tulameen raspberries from our long cane raspberry trial plot. This is definitely too late for the Tulameen harvest since it is a summer-bearing variety which does not produce fruits on primocanes. It was still neat to check them out. Earlier in the season, we harvested a lot of beautiful Tulameen fruits. Some of our grower cooperators were able to sell them for $9 per pint in a Columbus farmer’s market. Raspberry bushes in a long cane production system can produce 22,000 lbs. per acre! Tulameen is well suited for long cane raspberry production and is well known for its large fruit size and excellent taste! Follow this link –’Tulameen’_red_raspberry – for more information on Tulameen variety.

Tulameen fruits picked in October from our long cane raspberry trial. Photo by Dr. Gary Gao, The Ohio State University.

Late Leaf Rust on Raspberries:

Gary noticed that some of the raspberry bushes in their raspberry trial had late leaf rust. Late leaf rust on raspberry is a fungal disease. Follow link –,rust%20fungus%20is%20not%20systemic. -for more information on symptoms and management of this disease. Do not confuse this disease with orange rust of brambles. Fortunately, red raspberries are resistant to orange rust.

Late leaf rust on raspberries. Photo by Dr. Gary Gao, The Ohio State University.

Fall is for Figs in Ohio!

Even though fall is typically for apples, mums, and pumpkins, it is also for figs – well hardy figs for that matter. Gary has been picking hardy figs from their fig planting at OSU South Centers in Piketon from early September to now. The figs will keep ripening until frost. A high tunnel will extend the harvest season.  Our figs were from another Ohio Specialty Crop Block Grant funded by ODA a few years ago. The varieties in our trial are Brown Turkey, Hardy Chicago, and Olympian. Brown Turkey and Chicago Hardy performed the best in our trial. Follow this link for more information.

OSU hardy fig trial. Photo by Dr. Gary Gao, The Ohio State University.

Brown Turkey figs from the hardy fig trial at OSU South Centers in Piketon. Photo by Dr. Gary Gao, The Ohio State University.

Berry Production Workshops Presented by OSU Extension in Medina County

I will be going to Medina County on Friday, October 27 to give two talks, one on blueberries and one on raspberries. Ms. Ashley Kulhanek, the Ag. and Natural Resource Educator, is organizing the program. I will show gardeners and growers how to grow blueberries and raspberries. Please call OSU Extension in Medina County at 330-725-4911 for more information and to RSVP!

This is our last bi-weekly report for the 2023 season. Thank you for reading and please feel free to direct any feedback on the report series to Chris Galbraith at

Upcoming Events

December 5 – 7, Grand Rapids, MI, Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, & Farm Market Expo 

January 15 – 16, Columbus, OH, 2024 Ohio Produce Network

February 15 – 17, Newark, OH, 2024 Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) Conference


Planning for the Future of Your Farm Workshops

Zoom Webinar Workshop (6:30 – 8:00 p.m.)

  • February 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2024

 In-Person Workshop Locations (9:00 to 4:00 p.m.)

  • Southern State Community College – Mt. Orab Campus: November 29, 2023 (Brown County)
  • Celina, Ohio: December 7, 2023 (Mercer County)
  • Lisbon, Ohio:  January 19, 2024 (Columbiana County)
  • Urbana, Ohio: January 26, 2024 (Champaign County)
  • Tiffin, Ohio: February 2, 2024 (Seneca County)

Instructors: David Marrison, OSU Extension Farm Management Field Specialist and Robert Moore, Attorney with the OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program

We encourage to help promote the on-line workshop as well as any of the regional workshops which are near your producers.

Attached is the promo card which we will be distributing at FSR next week.

Later this year, we will start taking requests for workshops for the fall of 2024 and winter of 2025.

Thanks to the counties who stepped forward to host a workshop this year

More Information at:

Ohio Regional Tick Symposium: Tackling Tick Range Expansion

You’re Invited

… … …

– WHEN –
Thursday, October 12, 2023
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

The Ohio State University
Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center

2201 Fred Taylor Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43210

We are delighted to announce that registration is NOW OPEN for the Ohio Regional Tick Symposium on Thursday, October 12th. Click here for registration details >>

This one-day symposium will bring researchers, public health officials, health practitioners, and pest management specialists together to facilitate conversations and share ongoing research on ticks and tick-related diseases in our region. For more information about the symposium, including the program, venue, and list of speakers, please see our website >>

Reserve your spot soon – registration is limited!

If you have any questions or would like additional information about the conference, please contact We look forward to seeing you in October!



This symposium is made possible by our generous sponsors:

Internal Sponsors (Ohio State)
Infectious Diseases Institute- Ecology, Epidemiology, and Population Health
Infectious Diseases Institute
College of Veterinary Medicine
College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences
College of Nursing
Department of Microbiology
College of Public Health

External Sponsors