December 16, 2009

Specialists from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture were among those who taught Western Kentucky vegetable producers how to increase their marketability and improve the overall management of their greenhouse operations during the Greenhouse Production Meeting at the Fairview Produce Auction.

The Christian County office of UK's Cooperative Extension Service hosted the daylong event. 

Occurring annually, the meeting offers the area's greenhouse producers, many of whom are Amish or Mennonite, access to education information they would not otherwise have due to their limited use of technology, said Kelly Jackson, Christian County extension horticulture agent.   

While many of the growers produce traditional field crops, several of them have added greenhouses and high tunnels to their operations in the past few years.

"Using greenhouses and high tunnels helps extend the growing season for our producers," Jackson said. "Greenhouse production also gives them the option to sell products in the offseason."

As a small farms program assistant with Kentucky State University, Harold Eli works directly with many of the county's vegetable growers and echoed the meeting's educational benefits.

"They're always looking for new crops to add and battling diseases and insects," he said. "With greenhouse production growing, many of the newer farmers aren't as familiar with greenhouse management strategies."

UK entomologist Jen White talked with participants about greenhouse insects and developing a sustainable management plan for controlling insects. She mentioned several different management strategies for insect control.

"Greenhouse insects tend to be small and reproduce fast, so you can have a problem before you even know it," she said. "The method of control will depend on the type of insect, knowledge of your system and how early the problem is found."

Rebecca Schnelle, UK assistant professor of floriculture and greenhouse crops, discussed how growers could expand their product lines by incorporating perennials.

"Perennials can help growers expand their product lines and distinguish themselves from other producers by selling something others do not have," she said. "Perennials may also fetch a higher price than annuals because consumers see the value of their longevity."

Schnelle shared her first-year results from a three-year study on annualized perennials, tips for budgeting and talked about selecting noninvasive varieties that are hardy in Kentucky.

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