5th UF Water Institute Symposium Abstract

Submitter's Name Nathan Holt
Session Name Water Use in Agriculture
Author(s) Nathan Holt,  UF-IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center (Presenting Author)
  Sanjay Shukla,  University of Florida
  Kira Hansen, University of Florida
  Designing Bed Geometries for Sustainable Vegetable Production
  Raised-bed plasticulture is used worldwide for growing high-value crops, especially vegetables. This high-input, intensive system must become more efficient to meet food demands while reducing its environmental footprint. Futuristic tall and narrow compact beds were designed with an aim to transform the plasticulture system by increasing economic and environmental sustainability. Newly-designed bed geometries that ranged from 41 to 61 cm wide and 25 to 30 cm high were evaluated against beds traditionally found in plasticulture systems, which tend to be between 76 to 91 cm wide and 10 to 20 cm high. Multiple seasons of field studies were conducted at commercial farms in Southwest Florida for fresh market tomato and eggplant production. Results indicate compact beds can be used in commercial production without sacrificing yield, while providing savings of up to $450/ha in seasonal production cost and 50% in irrigation water. Compact beds can also reduce carbon emissions by 5-10%, flood risks, and field runoff. Based on study results, multiple commercial vegetable farms representing over 1,500 ha have converted to taller and narrower bed geometries. Multi-season studies for single-row (tomato) and double-row (pepper) crops are currently underway to further assess the potential for compact bed geometries to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of plasticulture production.