hoop houses

Bill Shoemaker wshoemak at inil.com
Fri Dec 7 08:53:15 EST 2001

I think it is something to be concerned about long-term. Whenever you irrigate you allow free moisture in the soil, which dissolves natural salts. As evaporation occurs ( and tunnels promote evaporation), the evaporating water leaves these salts on the surface of the soil. Eventually, they build up to toxic levels. This is the same process that plagues agriculture in arid environments. The reason it isn't a problem in non-arid environments is that rain will redissolve the salts and wash them back down into the soil, in other words, leaching them out. 

I think we will end up having to address this problem in tunnels because irrigation is essential. This is one reason I like Eliot Coleman's transportable tunnels. He simply slides them from one site to another. There is no opportunity for salt build up. Another possible solution is overhead irrigation, but it would be necessary to overirrigate in the long term to ensure the salts are washed down.  You might want to try running enough rainbird sprinklers in there to flood it once or twice a year. This would also ensure that you have a good soil moisture profile before the growing season starts.

Bill Shoemaker
Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
Univ of Illinois - St Charles Hort Research Center

    I've been using one of my hoop houses for 4 years and am starting to be worried about the salinity levels from continual irrigation. Other than taking the plastic off and leaving it off for a year - any ideas? Maybe I'm just worrying about nothing?
    Robbins Hail
    Bear Creek Farms
    Osceola, MO

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