AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - To help farmers conserve water, researchers from the Texas A&M AgriLife have introduced a different method of growing crops.
Researchers are growing tomato plants inside high tunnels which are expected to conserve water. The project is new to our area and Amarillo will be one of the four high tunnel centers in Texas.
Researchers will study every angle of the tomato tunnel from the plant itself to the type of insects, small wild life and diseases it may draw.
Right now the team is working with two type of irrigation systems and say one system looks very promising.
"It could totally revolutionize vegetable production and actually a lot of other crops that are grown in the Panhandle," said Charlie Rush, a professor of Plant Pathology. "It would eliminate the need for irrigation scheduling and it would give plants water only when they needed instead of farmers having to figure out of how much water is optimum."
The teams says they have faced infrastructure issues along with the disappearance of more than 300 plants when the project was first beginning.
"We had 320 tomatoes disappear totally in three days," Rush said. "The rabbits came up and totally cleaned them out but we are getting everything under control now, like most research projects we have start up issues."
The purpose of the tunnels will be to extend the season both early and late of the crop, conserve water and provide the crop with a better environment.
A member from the team who has worked with these types of tunnels for 7 years explains how the results affect labor.
"Most growers experience an increase in labor because the crops are growing so much better so labor issues may be a concern," Extension Horticulturist Russell Wallace said. "I know with tomatoes we've had tomatoes that are 8 feet tall and so the labor cost can potentially increase in a high tunnel."
The Texas A&M AgriLife Center will be hosting a free Summer Crops Field day August 10 where tours of the tomatoes tunnels along with other ongoing projects will be given.