Greenhouses are framed or inflated structures covered with transparent or translucent material large enough to grow crops under partial or fully controlled environmental conditions to get optimum growth and productivity.
Factors to consider before starting greenhouse farming.
Dig deep and wide for information about the pros and cons of setting up a greenhouse before breaking the ground.
- Choose the crop wisely.
Look for high yielding seeds that are resistant to pests and diseases. Choose a crop that has ready market.
- Cost of setting up the greenhouse.
Can be wooden or metallic. Metallic greenhouses are always more expensive than wooden greenhouses. Additional costs involved are: water tank, drip lines, polythene covering, installation and other inputs like fertilizers, seeds etc.
- Source of water
Should be available and sufficient to sustain drip irrigation in and out of the season.
- Customer support.
Support will come from attending trainings, farm visits & tours and agronomists. This will help you gather fresh ideas for crop, pests and disease management.
- Soil test,
To determine your soil fertility. This will help you know the right fertilizers to be applied hence saving on the cost of buying unnecessary fertilizers.
Before you grow, know where, when and to whom you will sell your produce. Don’t start growing your crops blindly; otherwise you may end up being frustrated.
You should ensure that your greenhouse is secured all the times. Don’t just allow people to enter into the greenhouse to prevent the external pathogens carried by people to attack your cops.
Production tips for greenhouse production.
- Avoid too much nitrogen application i.e. CAN fertilizer especially during flowering stage. Too high or too low nitrogen levels causes flower drops or blossom drops resulting in poor or no fruiting.
- Develop a pollination plan.
As soon as there are yellow flowers popping open, it’s time to get in there mechanically and transfer some pollen by slightly disturbing or shaking the plants. Tomatoes can also self- pollinate. Also open side curtains for wind to aid pollination.
- Open the side curtains during the day to lower the temperature in the greenhouse. This will allow wind circulation in the greenhouse to facilitate pollination.
- Good aeration
Is obtained by opening the side curtains (roll-ups) to prevent the occurrence of fungal diseases e.g. Downy mildew.
- Avoid too much dust in the greenhouse.
This should be discouraged completely for it creates a conducive environment for red spider mites.
- Records of the spray program should be kept for easy follow-up and future reference.
- A similar product of a pesticide should not be sprayed for more than two consecutive sprays. The reason being some pests e.g. thrips and whiteflies tend to develop resistant antibodies to some chemicals frequently sprayed on them.
- Use certified seeds which are high yielding and resistant to pests and diseases.
- Get a grip on pests.
Learn to identify the most common insects and diseases that may invade your crop. At a minimum, learn what whiteflies, aphids, thrips, leaf miners and mites look like.
- As for diseases, familiarize yourself with botrytis, powdery mildew, Downy mildew (grey mould), early blight etc. and know their signs and symptoms.
- Assess your irrigation plan.
As plants grow, their leaf area increases, transpiration goes up, and they will need more water.
- Take notes.
Keep a log book of all important details so you can refer back to it later and compare the current situation to what has happened in the past. Keep records of spray, water usage, fertilizer, Ph of soil (Measure of Acidity and Alkalinity), EC of soil (measure of the amount of salts) , pests, diseases and other important problems observed.
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